Copyright © 2002, Photographic Resource Center, Inc.

Joseph Heidecker finds vintage portraits at flea markets and estate sales to which he adds a variety of unexpected elements having domestic associations. These once-known persons have lost their identity upon entering the market, and, through a sort of subversive method of handwork turned on its head, he assigns them a new one. The act seems all the more personal in the 19th century cabinet cards that bear handwriting of the family or the stamp of a studio. The photographs (and people) become raw materials and take on a new life as a sort of rude ready-made assemblage.

His touch straddles high and folk art, the efforts appear at first raw in their intention—likened to a child taking a crayon to a picture or a jilted lover cutting a person from a snapshot—but exquisite in their execution, resembling the delicate addition of paint to a cased portrait or tintype. In one of his enlarged, altered snapshots, he covers the body of a trumpet player with various objects, almost the result of a synaesthetic effect. In another, person and surface is obliterated through the use of bleach and the addition of a new visage. The trace of the author is challenged and amended by Heidecker’s reclamation. The portrait becomes a muse for its eventual transformation as well as a means for the artist to enact playful, post-modern defiance.

Heidecker is represented by Ricco/ Maresca Galley, New York, where he was recently awarded his first solo show. His work is included in the collection of the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film and has been published in the New Yorker and Details magazine.


Artist Statement
I am intrigued by the way society influences our construction of "self”. The high-tech culture and multi-media world creates ideas about our sense of identity.

I use the technology of photography (found figurative photos), juxtaposing that with hand manipulated ideas to explore the revealing and concealing nature in people, constructing different “masks.” I like to use discarded, found materials, things that seem useless, from flea markets and thrift shops to help provide another layer of mystery.

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CAPTION: Joseph Heidecker (Belport, NY), Untitled, (Child with rocks on face), 2004, “Hardy, 493 Washington St, Boston,” Mixed media 19th Cabinet Card with various additions, Approx. 6 1/4 x 4 1/4 inches, Initialed and dated on verso, Courtesy of the artist and Ricco/Maresca Gallery. Heidecker was recently awarded his first solo show at Ricco/Maresca. His work is included in the collection of the George Eastman House and has been published in the New Yorker and Details magazine.

Joseph Heidecker