On Lists

For the Flickr Pool I created in conjunction with the Walker Art Center, the first assignment was a sort of photographic treasure hunt. The subjects of the hunt are: Pilots, Amateur Paintings, Unusually Tall People, Museum Guards, Sleeping Children, Neighborhood Bars, Supermarket Cashiers, Sheep, Sedans, Suitcases.

This list was derived from my business card circa 2002. This was the card I used while I was photographing Sleeping by the Mississippi (and is reproduced in the Walker’s exhibition catalogue).

As I said in the introduction to the Flickr assignment, I like these lists because they are excuse to get out the door. But the reason I used the list on my business card is because it explains my photographic practice. I don’t want to just photograph Weimreimers. I want my subject to be, as Robert Frank put it in his 1954 Guggenheim Fellowship proposal, ‘broad’ and ‘voluminous’.

For the record, Frank himself was a list maker:

If you wanna take a crack at my list, come join the Flickr Pool. We’re taking submissions until September 27th. Happy Hunting…

14 Replies to “On Lists”

  1. Hi Alec,

    I’ve always loved that list by Robert Frank – it’s like a perfect Beat poem! And I always wonder how much of it might belong to that other great list maker (and photographer!) Walker Evans who had a hand in rewriting Frank’s application.

    In Unclassified – A Walker Evans Anthology the editors note that “many elements, such as the role of the photographer as archivist, classifying and cataloguing his photographs in the field, did not appear in Frank’s first draft”. It would be fascinating to see Frank’s original draft, annotated by Evans, contained in the Walker Evans Archive…



    p.s. love the blog btw…

  2. Right on Frank!

    I have dedicated my life to photographing Weimreimers and have never regretted it. I did once to my shame take a stray shot of a schnauzer, but I have always tried since to make up for that moment of weakness.
    A pox on those Alec lists that lead you into random wanderings, stay focused instead on the one prize worth having, the Weimreimer.

    Enough said.

    1. That’s a damn fine list but I think my all-time favourite Walker Evans list is this 1934 one from his letter to Ernestine Evans (if only for the ending!) –

      People, all classes, surrounded by bunches of the new down-and-out.
      Automobiles and the automobile landscape.
      Architecture, American urban taste, commerce, small scale, large scale, the city street atmosphere, the street smell, the hateful stuff, women’s clubs, fake culture, bad education, religion in decay.
      The movies.
      Evidence of what the people of the city read, eat, see for amusement, do for relaxation and not get it.
      A lot else, you see what I mean.



  3. I had been looking for Frank’s application online recently. Thanks for posting. The idea of a list is a great way to “get out the door” and be productive, broad as it may be. Like a miniature, vague project plan. Ideally, you’ll create something cohesive within a context of a city or region, and if nothing else, you can check something off the list, which feels pretty good. Maybe an item reveals itself as an intriguing subject. Otherwise, just move on.

  4. Evans at work is a great book !

    By the way, Alec, I find your lists funny and uncanny. Are they always so ?

    I would like to know when it is that you draw them, if you draw them with an idea about the project or if they are more random.

    As you know, many documentary photographers make lists but theirs seem more common and more “in keeping” with the subject.

    thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *