Conversation between Isin Önol and Bernhard Cella



Isin Önol: How did you start developing this collection?
Bernhard Cella: In the eighties, when I was twelve I started collecting private photographs, which other people threw away. I found this surprising, because in my family, no one would throw photographs away. I found them at school, on the street, in garbage, sometimes inside the books, which were thrown away. I was gluing them into notebooks, which opened up spaces to reconstruct stories.

IÖ: By then, were you already aware of the fact that you were actually building a collection or was it rather a fascination?
BC: It was a pure fascination, and it still is. I was not at all aware of why I was doing it. Even my parents found weird that I was collecting photos of people that I didn’t know. Once I ran into a person at a bus stop, which I could recognize from one of the photos I had.

IÖ: Apart from collecting them, how your fascination with photographs in general started?
BC: My grand-grandfather was an artist, and at the beginning of the 20th century, he was already using photography as a tool for his painting purposes. He had his own studio to develop the photographs. He was not only taking the images in relation to his paintings, but also for documenting his living environment. Apart from the figures, he was also taking pictures of interiors and objects. My grandmother always told me the stories behind those images. 

IÖ: Collecting started very early, but I assume that classification of images was another step. When did you start categorizing these photographs?
BC: After I started studying art my perspective towards amateur photography changed. By getting educated in the field of art, I started looking differently at those images that I collected so far. I started realizing different aspects and moments in them that I simply didn’t realize before, therefore started rearranging them.

IÖ. Your categorizations of images are quite different than the conventional classifications we know, such as landscape, interior, portrait, etc. Can you tell about the process of the categorization you made so far?
BC: Failures in images, dissolving images, background settings, man and forests, armpit hair, masks, text and body, are some of the categories among tens of other categories I made. For example, I have a series of women with blond hair in front of the camera. But when I looked more carefully at them, I started becoming interested in the background of the image.

IÖ: So what is this collection about at the end?
BC: It is an archive of amateur analogue photography between 1870 and now. There are about 45000 found photographs in it. Concerning this collection, my interest is not photography as an art form, but rather the themes in the history of amateur photography. These photos were lost, forgotten or thrown away. The images now are now nameless, without connection to the people they show or the photographer who took them.

Vienna 2012



1) DISSOLVING IMAGES IÖ: What is the category we see up here?
BC: These are from the series of dissolving images. They are losing their memories. Just look at them.



2) TWO
IÖ: Now I would like to guess, but it is hard to see the common point here, what is it?
BC: Two. It’s two in one image.


IÖ: Since you mentioned your interest in background, now I am aware of the backgrounds at these pictures.
BC: This is the end of the timeline of a larger collection. The first images on this timeline, which belong to early 20th century, contain painted landscapes as the backgrounds. This follows the tradition of the 19th century painting, where they also used painting to create visual illusions at the background. But here we see the end of the line, where people only use white sheets for the background.


IÖ: Now I clearly recognize the category on this page. How many of them do you have?
BC: I don’t know, maybe more than three hundred. It’s a real phenomenon.



BC: What does this collection makes you think of?
IÖ: It is surprising that it does not link to anything else except itself! It has no other common ground than your idea of bringing the men in forest together. Almost absurd!