I collect old photographs from flea markets, antique and junk shops, and draw from them. They are often family snapshots, from the 1920s through the 1970s, or studio portraits from the last quarter of the 19th century. I find it strange these documents are for sale as part of a consumer marketplace, instead of being in albums on bookshelves in the homes of the families of those in the photos. I find myself at the intersection between a fascinated voyeurism and a determination to know these documents as well as humanly possible in order to give them a new, longer life.
All of my work comes from these collected photos and the drawings I do based on them. I create about one drawing every weekday, drawn freehand while looking at one of the photographs I've collected (and post said drawing on my blog). I sift through my archive of drawings to determine which linework I want to use as the subject in a particular painting, print or mixed media piece. The process of choosing a drawing to expand upon is much like choosing a photograph from a pile of hundreds of vintage snapshots.
To Be Kept was an exhibit I had this past winter at Accola Griefen Gallery (NYC). It was my third solo show, and my first in a commercial gallery. To Be Kept (the book) started out as an extended catalog, but has turned into a full monograph that extends beyond the scope of the show. I've spent the better part of the last eight months putting the book together, and it's now ready to go to press. The book starts out with an introductory essay, then moves to images of all the paintings and mixed media pieces that were in the exhibit, with basic information and some extra notes, then there is work that was in the gallery office while the show was up, images of pieces I consider to be a part of the same series that have not been exhibited as well as studio and installation photographs, and an appendix which catalogs the sources for the paper in the collages, complete with illustrated diagrams.
While I have done a lot of design work, this is the first extensive multi-page publication I’ve designed with the intent of commercially printing. As a bibliophile and bookbinder this book making process has been quite exciting. In the midst of this process I decided to start my own press, Captain Sears Press, which will focus on visual essays and art books that are printed locally with green practices, aimed at creating clean, utilitarian design with a touch of quirk.
To Be Kept includes a five page introduction by my friend Spiky. He's a fantastic writer, and his essay does an amazing job of setting the tone for the book. Here's an excerpt from the intro: “Everyone in Lauren Simkin Berke’s portraits is a stranger. The rescued snapshots from dusty family albums, pictures from a backyard or beach vacation, the formal family portraits: they are squinting into the sun, or looking candidly into the lens, familiar somehow in their casualness, anonymous but relaxed under the friendly gaze of the snapshot camera, somehow more available to us than the carefully posed, aestheticized bodies of formal portraiture. Their names and stories are lost to us, and we are left with their extraordinary faces, antiquated hairdos, their rumpled dinner jackets and winged eyeglasses."
I want this book to exist as a record of this particular body of work, but also as way to broaden the impact of those in the photographs I’ve collected. I'm offering rewards that include stickers, postcards, zines, tote bags, an opportunity to collaborate with me in an exquisite corpse drawing, custom portraits, a year of mail art sent monthly, framed original etchings, a few pairs of handpainted skateboard decks and an original 18" painting on canvas. All rewards at $40 and up include a copy of the book, and at $65 and up the books will be inscribed.
Your support will go directly to the printing cost of the first run of the book as well as creating and shipping the rewards. I'll be outsourcing the printing of the stickers and postcards, but will be screenprinting the totes myself, as well as making the thank you cards, buttons and all the custom items and mail art. The zines, decks, etchings and painting are already made, and I made them all myself. To Be Kept will be an 88 page full color book, 4.5 in. wide x 6 in. high and perfect bound (paperback). I will be having the book printed locally at Rolling Press in Brooklyn, in an edition of 500 copies.
I hope you are as excited about the To Be Kept book as I am.
Thanks for your support,
p.s. To see more of my work, visit my website.
p.p.s. For those of you grammar sticklers out there, I would like you to know I'm aware there is a grammatically incorrect phrase in the video; where I clearly should have said "my inkjet printer and I" I said "me and my inkjet printer," and for this I am terribly sorry.
- (30 days)