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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

My Latest Acquisition

Some readers may not know this, but my wife and I collect on a small scale. We buy a few inexpensive pieces every year, usually when I come across something that intrigues me.

I made the decision some time ago not to write about anything in the collection. As readership of the site has grown, I have wanted to avoid the appearance that I’m using it to enhance the value of works I own.

But I’m going to make an exception today for three reasons. We recently came to own a piece of art that has no commercial value. My writing about it here can have no impact on the market value of the artist’s work. And the story of how it came into our hands is interesting enough to share.

Because I’m on this extended assignment in Europe and won’t have the chance to return home for several weeks, I decided to take Mrs. FtF and the kid with me to Barcelona.

Rineke Dijkstra working PolaroidLast Wednesday when I returned from the office I noticed a black and white Polaroid on the coffee table in the living room of the apartment we’re renting. It was a portrait of the two of them sitting on the grass in the Parc de la Ciutadella which is a few blocks from where we are staying.

I asked Mrs. FtF where she got it. She was walking the baby through the park, she told me, when a woman who had been following them approached and asked if she could take their picture. Thinking that the photographer was someone accosting tourists to make a few Euro, I asked what she paid for it. Nothing, she told me. The photographer gave it to her.

I looked at the print more closely and realized that it wasn’t just a snapshot. It’s a nicely composed photograph. The two of them had been thoughtfully posed and framed.

Mrs. FtF and the photographer talked before and during the shoot, and the photographer told her that she was traveling to different cities, photographing people who use parks. She had been in New York the week before.

She took two test Polaroids of Mrs. FtF and the kid. Then it started to rain, and she decided not to finish the shoot. Her assistant gave Mrs. FtF one of the Polaroids, and they packed up their gear. End of story.

Well, almost.

Over the weekend, I picked up the map Mrs. FtF has been using to navigate around the city and noticed something written on the back page in a handwriting that I didn’t recognize. When I read the text I did a double take. It was an email address, and there was no mistaking whose it was.

I asked Mrs. FtF if the email address belonged to the person who had photographed her earlier in the week. It did. The photographer wrote it there so that Mrs. FtF could stay in touch to find out how the project was progressing.

And that’s how I came to realize that we now own an unsigned, 4x6 inch Rineke Dijkstra portrait of the wife and kid.

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