Mystery Guitarists


Created by Marc Fischer and Public Collectors 

24 pages paperback, staple-bound, offset process, full color offset, 5.5 in X 8.5 inches
Published by Marc Fischer and Public Collectors
Chicago, IL, Public Collectors, 2019
Edition of 1000

By Marc Fischer and Public Collectors
Chicago, IL, Public Collectors, 2019

Public Collectors publication #41 dives into the worlds of unknown amateur guitarists and the online snapshot photography market. This booklet includes reproductions of 21 found snapshots and a short text on the back cover. From the back cover text:

This collection started with the photo of a man holding an electric guitar on page three. I found it at a flea market in Chicago back in 2011 and I felt like I could hear the raw amplified sound coming out of that image. I wondered, but could not know, who the guitarist is, if he is still alive, or if he made music professionally.

In 2019, I started thinking about companions for that photo and went down the rabbit hole of searching through photos on On any given day there are well over 100,000 different snapshot photos taken after 1940 listed for sale on that site. Certain sellers are responsible for the bulk of this market and many photos are offered by the same people using several different accounts. It is easy to get lost in these listings for hours, scrolling through thousands of photos that have never circulated in public before, and may never be seen again once they are purchased or the seller stops listing them. Most of the photos are described generically and dispassionately with an inventory number and no backstory. “FOUND COLOR PHOTO MAN WITH MUSTACHE SITTING IN CHAIR HOLDING GUITAR” is one of the photographs in this booklet.

These photos—mostly undated—appear to have been taken from the early 1960s to the early 2000s. My criteria for this collection is that the photo should have an element of mystery and make me want to hear the music the subject plays. I’m more interested in intimate, domestic or outdoor settings than stages. The person in the picture should be an amateur musician or someone not easily recognizable as a professional artist. I rejected many amateur photos taken at concerts, or where the guitar appears to be just a studio prop for a model to pose with. For me, the photos in this booklet show guitarists in tune with their instruments.

About the Publisher:
Public Collectors is founded upon the concern that there are many types of cultural artifacts that public libraries, museums and other institutions and archives either do not collect or do not make freely accessible. Public Collectors asks individuals that have had the luxury to amass, organize, and inventory these materials to help reverse this lack by making their collections public.

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