Vernacular

Vernacular photography refers to the creation of photographs, usually by amateur or unknown photographers both professional and amateur, who take everyday life and common things as subjects. Though the more commonly known definition of the word “vernacular” is a quality of being “indigenous” or “native,” the use of the word in relation to art and architecture refers more to the meaning of the following subdefinition (of vernacular architecture) from The Oxford English Dictionary: “concerned with ordinary domestic and functional buildings rather than the essentially monumental.” Examples of vernacular photographs include travel and vacation photos, family snapshots, photos of friends, class portraits, identification photographs, and photo-booth images. Vernacular photographs are types of accidental art, in that they often are unintentionally artistic.

Closely related to vernacular photography is found photography, which in one sense refers to the recovery of a lost, unclaimed, or discarded vernacular photograph or snapshot. Found photos are often found at flea markets, thrift and secondhand stores, yard sales, estate and tag sales, in dumpsters and trash cans, between the pages of books, or on streets and sidewalks.

The use of vernacular photography in the arts is almost as old as photography itself. Vernacular photography has become far more commonplace in recent years as an art technique and is now a widely accepted genre of art photography. This form of photography began to develop in the years leading up to World War II Walker Evans is attributed with being heavily influenced by this style of photography.

Vernacular photographs also have become popular with art collectors and with collectors of found photographs, some curators have begun to exhibit vernacular photography.

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