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Take Your Pick: Collecting Found Photographs

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By Tanya Silverman A unique election season just wrapped up at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. One thousand candidates stayed in the race from September 21, 2018, through January 12, 2020, representing the experiences of everyday people and places, bringing diverse cases from history to the fore. Ultimately, 101,276 votes were cast for a series of atypical contenders portraying typical scenes: vernacular photographs. For the exhibition “Take Your Pick: Collecting Found Photographs,” UMMA invited visitors to decide on the 250 items that will enter the museum’s permanent collection. Vintage prints of persons amid suburban backyards and bowling alleys populated a panorama amongst snapshots of objects such as city skyscrapers and indoor floral arrangements. No images were formally titled but rather numbered, in integers, #1 through #1,000. While showcasing a democratic visual medium exercised in a democratic manner, the exhibition encouraged a palpably democratic practice by providing pencils and paper ballots whereupon patrons could indicate their top 20 choices. The penultimate entrant (#999), showing an interracial couple standing on the beach, maintained the most...

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