This is a collection of images found online under the search category "spooky photographs.” The project began as a daily activity, a morning exercise done before settling down to 'real' work. I chose the search category somewhat arbitrarily, but eBay was an important part of the formula because of its role as a clearinghouse amateur photographs. Over time, I was drawnto the spooky photo 'tag' itself. What were the material conditions that caused these images to be corralled together and marked as scary? What kinds of photographic conditions are present when one is compelled to present a photograph in this way? Is it who or what sits in from of the lens that is frightening? Or is it more intrinsic to the photographic process itself--the flaws, the glitches, the spookily aberrant images that cameras sometimes produce?
Moving pixels is easy and soothing. I drag the spooky pictures from eBay’s search window across my desktop and into the upload window of my website. I copy and paste the original eBay titles into the title uploader on my site. In the end, what you get is a publicity photograph of Christina Ricci alongside a photo of a boy and his “spooky hidden mother” in a Victorian tintype. No heavy lifting, and yet a whole new possibility for reading these photos is opened up.
Companies like eBay were built on corralling so-called like things for profit. From those heavily monetized and hierarchical data retrieval systems, new and unintended image-worlds spring into being. Time comes into play. These re-aggregations represent a time and space that is non linear, irregular, and infinite. These asynchnous temporalities are, of course, already present nearly everywhere on the internet.
What can these kinds of re-jiggered collections tell us about our culture and photography's role in shaping that culture? Does shaking these spooky images loose from their 'algorithmic safe house' offer any resistance to the objectives of online commerce?
$pooky Photographs for $ale$ highlights some patterns worth noting. "Spooky photographs” often contain the following:
(1) women over 50
(2) photos in which women appear without men
(3) mothers of any age
(4) 'hidden mothers' of any age
(5) people of color of any age
(6) green marker font watermarks
(7) birds of prey