The power of the snapshot

Michal Nanoru's latest exhibition celebrates the raw intimacy of the snapshot ft. works by Nobuyoshi Araki, Nan Goldin and Larry Clark

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Only the Good Ones
Stephen Shore

The snapshot: spontaneous, un-affected and often out-of-focus. It is a style that has long-fascinated Czech curator Michal Nanoru. His celebration of the snapshot, Only The Good Ones goes on show later this week at Galerie Rudolfinum. A celebration of one of the most intimate forms of photography going, the exhibition is a fascinating who's who of photography featuring many Dazed favourites including Nan Goldin, Walter Pfeiffer and Corinne Day

Here, Dazed talks to Michal about the show and the inherently punk essence of snapshots.

Dazed Digital: What is it about the snapshot that fascinates you?

Michal Nanoru: I think the snapshot is the punk rock of photography. Just like punk rock, the snapshot transpires through a basic understanding of how to operate an instrument, and it uses its obsolescence as a guarantee that its values are based in experience and emotion. I always liked the fact that you can do so much with so little. The vibrancy, the immediacy, the personal quality, the arrogance of that I-couldn’t-care-less attitude. And the more I know snapshots the more it fascinates me what a beautiful swindle this all is.

DD: Why the title 'Only The Good Ones'?

Michal Nanoru: Back in the '90s, whenever I took a film to the store to have the pictures developed, I usually went through the same ritual. As the clerk put the roll in the envelope, they put the details down on the flap: Name? Four by sixes? Glossy or matte? All the pictures or only the good ones? “Only the good ones” normally meant the ones in which the main subject was in focus, ones that even managed to feature some sort of main subject, in which the main subject wasn’t the photographer’s huge pink thumb or that weren’t just the blank first frames from loading the camera. I always wanted all of the pictures. Not just because the unexpected effects were precisely what interested me, but mainly because I always wondered how the person working at the lab decided which photos were good enough for me and which ones weren’t. This exhibition is essentially a continuation of this. “Only the good ones” are in it, ones selected for the context of the gallery, not by someone at a photo lab. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that they often feature unexpected effects – in terms of form and especially content.

Only the Good Ones
Larry Clark

DD: Who are your favourite photographers featured in this exhibition?

Michal Nanoru: This is the ultimate collection of my favourite photographers. The snapshot is a family photograph and I like to think of the show as of a family album of interlinked communities, in which everyone meets in colophons, invitations and mutual portraits. There is a point in the show, where you can see photos taken by Tim Barber, a photo of him by Ryan McGinley, Dash Snow’s Polaroid of McGinley, Jerry Hsu’s photo of McGinley and Snow photographed by McGinley. Elsewhere there’s William Eggleston shot by Jürgen Teller... So selecting favourites is a kind of Sophie’s choice for me. But I love the works of Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, Stephen Shore, Jacob Holdt, Jürgen Teller, Ari Marcopoulos, JH Engström or Alec Soth. During the show’s preparation I definitely got much closer to Henry Wessel and Dash Snow as artists. And once I used William Eggleston’s classic book William Eggleston’s Guide as an actual guide for travel in the American South so I undoubtedly have a soft spot for his works.    

DD: You say that the snapshot has the intimacy of a diary – do you think Instagram holds that same intimacy or does it have less impact?

Michal Nanoru: It really depends on who’s holding the camera. Not every snapshot has the intimacy of a diary and not every diary is intimate or even interesting. But the difference is, that while with most of the diaries you can suspect that the author writes it with someone else in mind, or at least stylises themselves for themself, with Instagram this is taken for granted – it is a performance from the start.

DD: Any upcoming projects or plans?

Michal Nanoru: I’ve been collecting interviews with photographers for couple of years now so I’d like to add couple of more and publish it in a book form. I think we live in a very interesting time for photography.

Only The Good Ones runs January 24 - April 6 at Galerie Rudolfinum

Only The Good Ones opens Jan 24 and runs until April 6 at Galerie Rudolfinum

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