The Baseball Photographer Trading Cards, 1975 - Mike Mandel
135 cards originally sold in randomly sorted packs of ten, 3.5” x 2.5”
The project satirized the phenomenon of the fine art photography community being consumed by the larger art world and commercial culture. I photographed photographers as if they were baseball players and produced a set of cards that were packaged in random groups of ten, with bubble gum, so that the only way of collecting a complete set was to make a trade. I travelled around the United States visiting about 150 photographic “personalities” and had them pose for me. I carried baseball paraphernalia: caps, gloves, balls, a mask and chest protector, a bat, as well as photographic equipment, and made a 14,000 mile odyssey. Out of this experience came 134 Baseball-Photographer images. I designed a reverse side for the card which would allow for each photographer to fill in their own personal data that in a way referred to the information usually included on real baseball cards: Favorite camera, favorite developer, favorite film, height, weight, etc. I used whatever information each photographer provided me. In a sense, each of their responses provides an insight about how they each approached their participation. I had 3,000 cards made of each one: 402,000 cards plus 6,000 checklists. The cards were packaged in polyethylene bags, with bubble gum, in random groups of ten. I sold cartons of 36 packs to museums and galleries all over the country. I received press attention from Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle, and all the major print media. Thus, the cards were a media event even though they were intended to satirize the media’s impacts.