Did you see the attachment?

Eric Baker explains why he sends out a daily email to hundreds of people, full of images found online

Image-based blogs now make up a whole legion of wordless webpages that feature fasci­nating, found ephemera. Since sites like Tha Ltd’s ffffound.com launched a few years ago, more esoteric blog-based collections like butdoesitfloat.com have emerged, with hundreds more image blogs launched in 2009 from avid collectors of antiques, objects, art, photography, and graphics ephemera; anything with visual appeal and interest. Many are decidedly random collections, showing objects devoid of any notion of context or history, simply leaving the viewer with something inspiring, surreal, or beautiful to look upon. A little bit like having an enormous second-hand shop that you can trawl through, open on your desk­top. Here, designer Eric Baker explains why he searches hundreds of these web­sites and sends out a daily email, today, consisting solely of the most interesting images he finds. The best of these then feature in a weekly column on designobserver.com.

Today is an almost daily email blast of random images gathered from various websites, writes Eric Baker. It’s sent out to a group of friends and colleagues around the globe.

Why? It all began as a goof. One day I sent my good friend, Clive Piercy (a British designer living in LA), about 50 random pictures of cheese. Next I sent a batch of Windsor chairs. Then I began looking closer, or should I say broader. Things lost on the fringes, ordinary things, odd things, beautiful esoteric images, old diagrams, typo­graphy, cartography, visions of a future we know will never exist. Old advert­isements, tin cans, book covers, passports and ephemeral material in the zillions. It’s all out there.

As I went along the idea evolved, and I began looking for not the perfect poster we have seen in design books, but rather a more obscure piece in the same style, that by virtue of being ‘less known’ becomes more special.

My search was entirely random: I saw something that struck me and I would just grab the image. No attri­bution or source, just the image. I’m lazy and to me it wasn’t about being accurate or academic. It was strictly about the particular image. Random.

Each day my goal would be to find 25–35 interesting pieces. It could be a piece of furniture; or an id card from the Apollo missions; an obscure Dada postcard; or a 17th century diagram. The more diverse the better. I limited the file size to 9mb. Big, yes, but it didn’t seem to bother many folks.

By this point my today email list had grown, not huge, but manage­able. Someone would send me their address and ask to be put on the list and it was done with a Command C and Command V. No giant technology.

A fellow who used to work with me said, “Eric, this giant email you send out is a pain in the ass… it’s so big… you should do a blog.” I laughed and said “Fuck you, you’re off the list…”. The idea of doing a blog, to me was completely not the point. There are billions of blogs out here and you have to go to them to see what they are about. today was about pushing images at my friends. “Look at this!” It was my own viewpoint on randomness. But within the randomness was a kind of unintentional beauty, of odd juxta­positions and unexpected sequencing.

There is no great meaning behind today… or is there? Our cumulative histories are all out there; art, science, design, architecture, photography. The detritus of our culture. Grab a handful, look at it, ponder it and the time and the cultures it represents. But perhaps it’s just because, to me at least, all of it is so beautiful and interesting in so many different ways.

Listed below are a few of my favourite sites, but as with all things on the web, one thing leads to another and another and another. I go out and gather what others have so generously and laboriously amassed by collecting, scanning and posting. My gratitude to these people is immense.

Eric Baker is design director for The O Group in New York and an inveterate collector of books and ephemera. His weekly today column is at designobserver.com.

Baker’s favourite sources include:
assemblyman-eph.blogspot.com bibigreycat.blogspot.com accidentalmysteries.blogspot.com anambitiousprojectcollapsing.blogspot.com
bibliodyssey.blogspot.com iampeth.com/books.php
dulltooldimbulb.blogspot.com martinklasch.blogspot.com ajourneyroundmyskull.blogspot.com

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