No one in Erik Kessels’ latest book has a face. They have arms, sure; legs too — but absolutely no recognizable facial features. Why? In Almost Every Picture 14 is a work consisting almost entirely of scans of Polaroid pictures, ones that have huge circular holes punched right through their centers.
The images are the handiwork of a commercial photographer who worked on the beaches of Portugal in the 1980s. “He had a clipper,” Kessles says, “and he would clip a hole in the Polaroid and with the piece he removed he would make badges for the people on the beach.” When he’d finished selling, he adds, the lensman would discard the remains into a trash can. These were later discovered, and stored, by designer Toon Michiels who went on to collaborate with Kessels on the book.
This 14th edition of In Almost Every Picture is the most recent in the series Kessels has been producing since 2002. It consists of collections of amateur photographs re-purposed for a broad readership. In the first iteration, we saw vacation photos from a couple in the 1950s. In the second, we met an unnamed taxi cab passenger who has traveled across much of Europe. Later, in the eleventh, we saw a fully clothed woman half submerged in water. This is odd, offbeat work that is somehow obscure and everyday at once.
“An amateur is just someone who dares to make mistakes,” Kessels says. “Everything nowadays is pointing to perfection. The cameras on our phones, they make better picture than reality. They can document the darkest dark and the lightest light, things that we don’t even see with our eyes — which is great. But on the other hand, I like the flaws and the mistakes and the imperfection [with] amateur imagery”
Erik Kessels is a Dutch curator and editor. He is a founder of the advertising agency KesselsKramer. In Almost Every Picture is available now.
Richard Conway is reporter/producer for TIME LightBox