Jürgen Bergbauer: Le Chiffonnier

The 19th century flea market (marche aux puces) was originally a place were servants sold discarded and flea-infested clothing from their masters to poor people. The ragpicker (le chiffonnier) tried to make a living by rummaging through refuse in the streets to collect material for salvage. Today the social implications are more ambiguous. On the hunt for things with a past (and a soul) flea markets attract a diverse clientele. Re-valuating props from past lives became an expression of individuality and a sense for sustainability. Over a period of 11 years, Bergbauer photographically collected “image rags” and “object scraps” at flea markets in 11 European countries. He was particularly attracted to art reproductions. For a moment the long-gone aura of “pictures of pictures” seems to be recharged by being unconsciously staged. In the immediate vicinity of reproduced “masterpieces”, almost everything turns into an equally seductive sensation. For the concept and design of this book, two particular publications have been inspirational: ‘Le Musée Imaginaire’ (1947) by André Malraux, and the ‘Xerox Book’ (1968) by Seth Siegelaub