Welcome to the Depository of Unwanted Photographs

When asked to pick out a single image they absolutely treasure, people generally don’t hesitate. A snap of their children, a Polaroid of their parents, a formal pose from precious life event, or perhaps even a photograph with the prescribed artistic balance of composition, contrast and exposure. Whether the choice is dictated by emotional memory or technical concerns, the question “What is your best photo?” is not an unusual one. But what about the question, “What is your worst photo?” To put it another way, what photograph of yours is obsolete, worthless, old news or just plain bad? Which single photograph of yours would you like to officially state on the record as unwanted?

Photoville invites you to submit one of your photos to The Depository of Unwanted Photographs, a crowdsourced archive of images and stories.

During Photoville, submissions will be rotated in and out of display for public viewing. When the festival ends, the Photoville team will compile the images and create a reference book of “Unwanted Photographs”. The debate about what is good and bad in photography is as old as the medium itself, but what are the debate’s current touchstones? If we’re looking for good photography, we’ll find plenty of suitors in photobooks, galleries and publication, but where do we find a legitimate and well-researched presentation of bad photography? Does our discussion of what is good not also rely on a shared knowledge of what is bad, unwanted and unloved? Images do not exist in a vacuum, but emerge from contexts and histories. We think that your photos and stories are as relevant as the stories in news-photo exclusives and famous documentary images — your stories are central to discussions about how we consume and use photography. Therefore, we ask that each submitted image is accompanied by 50+ words on why it is not wanted by you, and not needed in the world.

We create and circulate millions of images every week. Many of these never exist beyond digital formats; stuck in our phones or transferred to computers on their way to social media sites. We are constantly employing choices, consciously and subconsciously, to share or overlook images. If we accept the mantra that ‘we are all photographers’ then aren’t we all photo-editors too?

There might be many of your images that you could trash, but by asking you to choose only one, we hope you’ll take the opportunity to think about the proliferation of images in society and your relationship to the ever increasing number. Photoville will officially recognize your image as Unwanted with a numbered certificate and unique catalogue code. One-by-one, as the images interrelate and build the Depository, new meanings will emerge. The arbitrary definitions brought to the project by you the public will amount to a unique view. The Depository Of Unwanted Photographs is an unpredictable interrogation of quality that crucially is made by the public, not by the dominant voices of those in the media or culture industries.

Please join us.

During Photoville, we will welcome walk-in submissions at The Depository Of Unwanted Photographs container which will be equipped with a scanner and computer to download, copy and catalogue your printed photographs and digital files.