Joachim Schmid


Joachim Schmid


Occurence, espace d’art et d’essai contemporains
September 10 to November 7, 2015

Berlin-based artist Joachim Schmid, who has been concentrating on the recycling of vernacular photographs since the early 1980s, is a living embodiment of the visual scavenger. With the advent of the digital age, he has shifted his practice to the Internet, where he continues to ponder the future of photography in a globalized culture. In the current context of frantic and furious proliferation of images, Schmid aligns himself with fellow artists who seek to tame images and keep them in line.

His series Other People’s Photographs (2008–11) takes the form of a set of 96 self-published books, each of which contains a selection of photographs found on the Internet and classified according to specific, nonsensical, odd criteria. Schmid notes that when images lose the thread of their origins, their incontinent production leads us into utter chaos. When this happens, the artist’s mission is to restore order – or at least a possible order, accompanied by a maliciously knowing wink. This provokes confusion in the naive and complicity in connoisseurs capable of savouring a caustic parody of the “official” classificatory methodologies of historians and museums.

Each volume of Other People’s Photographs brings together diverse elements on the basis of some unifying factor – however arbitrary and absurd it may seem – and thus suggests possible ways of categorizing the world. Schmid essentially mocks the supposed coherence of a theory of the catalogue and the archive, and he recovers for post-photographic culture the encyclopedic will of D’Alembert and Diderot, mixed with the paradoxical pedagogies of Borges.


Joachim Schmid was born in 1955 in Balingen; he lives and works in Berlin. His works have been presented in solo and group exhibitions worldwide, including at Lieu d’Art et Action contemporaine de Dunkerque (2015), the Museum Folkwang in Essen (2014), the Fotomuseum Winterthur (2014), the Gagosian Gallery in New York (2013), the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne (2012), the Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea, Cinisello-Balsamo/Milan (2012), the Cleveland Museum of Art (2012), the Centre de la photographie Genève (2010), Les Rencontres d’Arles (2008), and The Photographers’ Gallery in London (2007). He published over one hundred artist books. His works can be found in prestigious public collections, such as the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, the Daelim Contemporary Art Museum in Seoul, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. He is represented by Galerie Alain Gutharc in Paris and by P420 Arte Contemporanea in Bologna.

Portrait: © Pete Boyd

Big Fish, from the series Other People’s Photographs (2008-2011)

Airline Meals, from the series Other People’s Photographs (2008-2011)

Cleavage, from the series Other People’s Photographs (2008-2011)

Interview with Joachim Schmid

General questions on the artist’s creative process

What is your artistic process? What is your starting point for creating a new work of art? What inspires you?


Which artist had the most influence on your practice and why?


Do you work on many projects at the same time?


Describe a typical day in your life as an artist.


If you were not an artist, what would you be?


We are evolving in a new visual order governed by the “dictatorship of the screen.” This new visual order is marked above all by three factors: the immateriality and transmissibility of images; their profusion and availability; and their decisive contribution to the encyclopaedifying of knowledge and communication.

Why do you use found images?

Why doesn't everybody?

How do you reinterpret and give a new meaning to found images?

It depends.

How is dissemination and circulation of images important in your work?

If the work does not leave my studio I might as well stay in bed and masturbate instead of doing work.

What is the distinction according to you between appropriationist techniques and today’s use of found images?

I don't think about this type of question.

Questions related to his work

What is the relationship between Internet and books as you take images from Internet and include them in your books?

In this case things seem to be pretty clear. The Internet is the quarry, the book is what I make of the material taken from the quarry.

Why did you decide to work with the book format?

The book form works best for many of my projects. If other forms would work better I'd choose other forms. In addition, I am interested in the library as mankind's collective project and I am happy to participate in this collective endeavour by adding a couple of books.

How do you select and archive your found images for the 96 books from Other People’s Photographs?

The project is virtually endless but I did not wish to spend the rest of my life with it. So I limited the number of books. The selection of topics is based on the idea that it should not make any sense.

What do the themes you select (airports, bread, etc.) evoke for you and how do you select them?

I selected the 96 topics that worked best, i.e. the ones for which I had a sufficient number of photographs to compose a convincing book.

What is the future of the still and moving image in contemporary art according to you?

Any attempt to predict the future of art is about as promising as predicting the trajectory of a clipped toe nail.