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Welcome to The Photo Vault

A journey into Vernacular Photography, archives, collecting and photo books.  The Photo Vault steps into a hidden world filled with forgotten snapshots, dusty family albums, and gems of visual history to be uncovered. Join us as we embark on an exhilarating tour into the heart of collecting, curating and creating artworks with archival materials around the globe.

Our host, Lukas Birk, takes you on a voyage filled with exclusive interviews featuring renowned artists who draw inspiration from vernacular photography, collectors who have dedicated their lives to amassing incredible troves of images, and curators who curate exhibitions that bridge the gap between past and present. We will dive into obscure archives and discuss at length with those behind the making of photobooks, exhibitions and historical narratives.


Episode 10

In this episode of The Photo Vault, we discuss with Dutch artist and editor Erik Kessels why it is important to have an opinion and dislike things, as well as why it is most important that young artists get paid. Erik is a prolific book and exhibition maker, known for his narrative creation through appropriated images.

Take a look as well at Erik’s website and publishing page to gain a deeper understanding of his work and thought process.”

Enjoy the conversation:


Episode 9

Follow French editor and artist Thomas Sauvin on his journey from a Chinese language student to the collector and editor of an enormous archive that he continually augments from a dumpsite in Beijing. With his project, Beijing Silvermine, he has produced humorous and intelligent publications over the last 10 years, granting us access to a specific period in time in China. Lukas met Thomas in Paris at the Beijing Silvermine studio, and in their conversation, they unravel Thomas’ reflections on his work in the past, present, and future.

Beijing Silvermine
Thomas Sauvin Instagram


Episode 8

In this episode, we delve into a talk event on Vernacular Photography that took place in November 2023. Our host, Lukas, was one of the speakers and has encapsulated a myriad of ideas, thoughts, and practices surrounding everyday imaging that were presented during the event. The talk was organized by the Eidolon Center in Budapest, a new institution that concentrates on vernacular, archives, and everyday imagery. They create a fantastic journal that showcases artists and academics actively working in the field. In this episode you will hear ideas by artists and academics such as Joanna Zylinska,  Miklós TamásiGeoffrey Batchen, Joachim Schmid and Annebella Pollen.

Links to the podcast and event organized by the Eidolon Center


Episode 7

In this episode, we meet Thweep Rittinaphakorn, also known as Ake, in Bangkok, and explore his collection of photographs from Myanmar during the colonial era. Ake is an expert in Myanmar textiles who ventured into collecting photography and released a photobook from a very different background. His collection is fascinating and multi-layered, as he doesn’t approach his images from a pictorial point of view but rather through an examination of materiality.

Find out more about Ake on his Instagram and check out his recently released book.

Other subject mentioned: 

Media Links:


Episode 6

This episode of The Photo Vault prompts us to question the world around us by examining product packaging, which often reinforces and perpetuates stereotypical norms in various aspects of our lives.

Our guest, Annebella Pollen, a professor of Visual and Material Culture, author of numerous books, and an avid collector, delves into some of her projects, interests, and findings. 

Discover why a seemingly innocuous bikini advertisement can contribute to reinforcing stereotypes and why Annebella champions the rejects.

Links to some of her publications are provided below, along with references to further contextualize our episode.


Further links:

Books by Annebellla:


Other Links

Episode 5

In this episode, we hear thoughts, ideas, and stories from writer, critic, educator, and artist Lucy Sante. She has a fascinating history and engagement with photography, writing on photography, and collecting. She has turned some of her collections into books and tells us about how she retrieved the photographs that went into titles such as ‘Evidence.’

She also touches upon subjects such as being a bilingual writer, which made her a better writer, and how vernacular photography changed her life.

Below are links to her books and other works.

Enjoy the conversation.

Reference links:

Episode 4

In this episode of The Photo Vault, we discuss with artist, photographer, and book publisher Joachim Schmid why he is not a collector but a gatherer. We also delve deep into computer history and Joachim’s first contact with Apple computers, as well as why he likes to create low-quality photobooks, explore Flickr, and engage in gardening.

Joachim Schmid is one of the most influential artists working with found images and has been creating artwork, books, exhibitions, and text since the 1980s. His practice challenges traditional notions of authorship and ownership. Renowned for appropriating and repurposing found photographs, he transforms ordinary snapshots into profound reflections on culture and society. Through his extensive body of work, including projects like “Photogenetic Drafts” and “Other People’s Photographs,” Schmid investigates the vernacular image’s role in shaping collective memory. Embracing ambiguity, his art blurs the lines between creator and curator, provoking viewers to reconsider the inherent value and meaning within everyday photographs.

Further links:

Three Books that inspire you / Natasha Christia

In today’s Three Books that inspired you special, we hear Greek curator and writer Natasha Christia talk about the important role of literature in her work and also what inspired her in theoretical writing.

Her three recommendations are:

Episode 3

In this episode, we are meeting with Cemre Yeşil Gönenli, an Istanbul-born and -based artist, photographer, and educator. She gives us insight into her quest for finding the invisible through photography, by looking at what cannot be seen in images. Cemre also talks about the current difficult situation for artists in Turkey and why inflation makes it so challenging to run a photo bookshop. She opened FILbooks a few years ago, a photobook cafe in the heart of the city.

One of her recent books, “Hayal & Hakikat: A Handbook of Forgiveness & A Handbook of Punishment,” deals with photographs commissioned by Abdul Hamid II, the 34th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Find out in the conversation how she uses these archival materials to discuss the current political situation.

Cemre also talks about becoming a mother while trying to maintain a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and why it is important to collaborate in this lonely field of photography.

Find out more:

Cemre’s website / Her Book shop 

Books: Hayal & Hakikat: A Handbook of Forgiveness & A Handbook of Punishment   / For Birds sake  

News report

Three Books that inspire you / Erik Kessels

In our first Three Books that inspired you special we asked Dutch artist Erik Kessels about photo-books that enriched his way of thinking

The books are:

Episode 2

Inauguration of the Vernacular Social Club and REVU Magazine

In this episode, we have the great pleasure to meet with Professor Geoffrey Batchen, an expert in the history of photography. He has taught in his native Australia, the United States, and currently holds a position at Oxford in the UK as a professor of the history of art. He has curated exhibitions in renowned institutions such as the ICP in New York, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, and the Izu Photo Museum in Shizuoka, Japan.

Geoffrey is one of the popularisers of the term Vernacular Photography through his extensive writing and involvement in the field. We recorded this conversation during a conference on Vernacular Photography organised by the Eidolon Centre in Budapest.

Geoffrey talks about how to look at images, emphasising that there is no such thing as banal, and delves into the significance of smiles in photographs. He also touches on the question of where Vernacular fits in our historical narrative and discusses the dangers of assigning financial value to everyday images.

Read more about Geoffrey Batchen’s work.

Geoffrey Batchen: Forget Me Not: Photography & Remembrance

Negative/Positive A History of Photography book

Apparitions: Photography and Dissemination book

Vernacular photographies essay

Further links:

Eidolon Center Budapest

Fortpan Archive Budapest

Malick Sidibé

Episode 1

Inauguration of the Vernacular Social Club and REVU Magazine

We publish; therefore, we exist! This is our first episode of The Photo Vault. Find out what to expect from this podcast in the future, as well as how to engage with the Vernacular Social Club, your platform for Vernacular Photography, Archives, Collecting, and photo-books. In this introduction, you will hear the voices of collector, editor, and artist Jean-Marie Donat, along with his views on the Vernacular. Also, author, writer, and professor Lucy Sante will share her definition of Vernacular photography.

We also discuss REVU, the brand-new magazine that the Vernacular Social Club is releasing.

Interview with Aldous Huxley
Review of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
1939 New York World fair newsreel
Golden Gate Bridge Opening