FotoFest Exhibitions

Michael Schmelling

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In 2007, I was asked to put together an informal portfolio of images for a photo blog. I was reluctant – the experience of looking at photos online hadn’t been very satisfying yet. Online, photos kept canceling each other out; there was always a new page to link to and new photos to look at (and that’s the point of course).

My own work online was fairly repetitive – there was nothing up there that was unique to the internet, or specific to any one place or site. With that in mind, I started by putting together a group of images that hadn’t been used for anything else, and that weren’t on my own website.

I also wanted to make something that would be a response to the experience of looking at images – a conversation between photography, the internet, and myself. Since the internet is such a great repository for personal information, that conversation ended up being fairly one-sided, with the resulting work being largely self-referential.

Entitled The Week Of No Computer, I initially described the series as “an oblique autobiography, a collection of images, footnotes, and text from my life as a photographer”.

The series includes: outtakes from commercial assignments, half-ideas for photos, contact sheets cut up by photo editors, photos of other people’s photos, photos of my own photos, photos of tangential friends, photos of rental cars that were used on assignment somewhere, photos for friends that are photographers, photos from painful commercial assignments that I’d rather forget, photos of movies, scans of my photos in magazines, non-ideas, handwritten thoughts and notes, things written on other people’s photos, to-do lists, lighting tests, photos cut up at the darkroom while waiting on prints in the processor, 4x6 Fujiflex machine-print photos, polaroids, and other various ephemera.

In the process of putting this series together, I stumbled on a new way of making work for myself, a departure from going out into the world and making more-or-less documentary based projects. More than half the photos presented here are from the original The Week Of No Computer series, while the rest continue to explore that same way of working, collecting, pairing, and scanning.


Michael Schmelling is the author of three photo books, Shut Up Truth (New York: J+L Books, 2002), The Week Of No Computer (New York: TV Books, 2008), and The Plan (New York: J+L Books, 2009). Schmelling was also the principal photographer of The Wilco Book (New York: Picturebox, 2004). The Plan (New York: J+L Books, 2009) which Schmelling also designed, was a book award finalist at both Photo Espana, Madrid and Rencontres d’Arles, France in 2009. His newest book, about hip hop in Atlanta, will be published by Chronicle Books in 2010. Schmelling’s work has been included in numerous group shows internationally. He lives and works in New York.