What if, in the same way as vinyl, the
slide was to make its (big) comeback? That’s the hope of Lee Schulman, who
spends his days sorting slides, digitalising them, and most of all admiring
them through these small windows, these snapshots of life from another time and
Sit down on the sofa and get comfortable. The slideshow is about to start.
Photography and video graduate, commercials producer and founder of The Anonymous Project, Lee Schulman has amassed a collection of 850,000 slides, mainly from the United States, England and Europe. They paint a picture – a series of pictures – of society from the 1940s to the 1990s. “The slides are unique, raw objects. In 2017 I bought a batch of 500 slides for €10. I was amazed by the quality of the images, the density of the colours and this ability to capture life’s moments.” The Anonymous Project was born out of a desire to create an unpublished collection of vernacular photographs that could inform students, anthropologists or even just people curious about the lifestyles of previous decades.
Unlike a negative film, the slide film records the light directly as a positive and, once inserted into a frame, is projected by transparency. “With a slide, there’s no hiding from the truth. It’s difficult to frame it well, like you can with a Polaroid. Luck plays a role, and the result is often as imperfect as it is moving,” says Lee. This project, which uses 12,000 slides, tells a story about collective memory and humanity. “By unearthing the batches that I bought in bulk or that people would send me from all over the world, I came to the realisation that we all had the same hopes, everywhere, whether we were at a family meal, on a trip or at a party with friends.” Grouped together into topics, the slides tell us a new story: My fucking Christmas, Sweet dreams and even The lover’s box, which retraces the moments of complicity and love between an American couple. Lee and his team also respond to magazine requests, such as this 11-page supplement on Christmas, published in the Nouvel Obs. Featuring in the Guardian, the New York Times and even on the BBC, The Anonymous Project has received a great deal of international press coverage. The challenge for Lee now is to get people to acknowledge photography as an artistic discipline in its own right, with a dedicated space in museums.
Through this project, Lee also wants to convey “the intimate relationship between the subject and the photographer; the humanity that emerges from it is what separates us from animals. Sharing our experiences enriches our lives. And our need for love and laughter connects us all.” An indirect witness to intimate moments from the past, Lee is giving them a second life. Between exhibitions and book launches, he is increasingly inundated with projects. “We really like hybrid collaborations. In autumn 2019 we released a collection of books with Flammarion, bringing together and juxtaposing photos and texts written by authors who have been inspired by our images: ‘Histoire de familles’ by Justine Lévy and ‘Andrew est plus beau que toi’ by Arnaud Cathrine.” Although for a short time The Anonymous Project offered prints for sale, Lee has since decided not to continue down this path. “Kept in the right conditions, slides retain their colour intensity for decades, but the difficulty comes with trying to find a good-quality medium at a reasonable price. And I strongly believe that light is the best medium for a slide!”