HELP ME Exhibition



Found Photos from the Collection of Gillian McCain

Curated by Gillian McCain & Megan Cump

Exhibition: November 4 – December 18, 2010
Opening reception: Thursday, November 4, 6 – 8pm
Panel Presentation: Tuesday, December 14, 7pm at the School of Visual Arts Amphitheater

Forgotten, discarded, orphaned, lost; stolen, bought, discovered or found; the vernacular images in HELP ME are culled from Gillian McCain’s extensive collection of photographs in formats including tin-types, cabinet cards, Polaroids, and snapshots.

With an eye for the peculiar, McCain and co-curator Megan Cump, present a selection of images that bring together criminals, patients, ghosts and other assorted misfits. In and out of touch with their surroundings, often performing human experiments, usually on the brink of disaster— these images frequently leave viewers scratching their heads and asking: exactly who is it that needs help? Is it the subject, the photographer, the viewer themselves, or some poor soul off-camera?

Shot in cheap hotel rooms, prisons, asylums, war-zones and ordinary homes, these images are often inexplicable and foreboding, but not without humor. Whether it’s a girl about to be swallowed by an amusement park whale, convicts posturing for a Polaroid to send to the folks back home, or an accident waiting to happen, these often private and always anonymous photographs haunt us with their alluring beauty and the strange poetry of the “found.”

HELP ME will be accompanied by a limited edition book available at Baxter St at CCNY.

In conjunction with HELP ME, Baxter St at CCNY presents a lecture and panel discussion about found photography at School of Visual Arts. Panelists include Luc Sante, W.M. Hunt, and Leslie Grant, and will be moderated by Megan Cump. Each will present excerpts from their collections of found photographs and related projects while addressing the resonance, subversive possibilities, and relevance of found and vernacular photography, including themes from the HELP ME exhibition. The panel will also discuss and explore the desire to uncover, comprehend, repurpose, and accumulate “orphan” images.

This panel discussion is free to Baxter St at CCNY members, SVA students, faculty and staff. General admission $5, $3 for other students with ID. The SVA Amphitheater is located at 209 East 23rd Street, between Second and Third Avenues.


Gillian McCain is the co-author (with Legs McNeil) of Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk (Grove Press), and the author of two books of poetry: Tilt and Religion. She is the former Program Coordinator for the Poetry Project at St. Marks Church, and her work has appeared in such journals as Grand Street, MoonLit, Court Green and Lingo. She is currently collaborating on a book with photographer Kate Simon; a book-length poem with poets David Trinidad and Jeffrey Conway based on Valley of the Dolls; as well as two new projects with Legs McNeil.

Megan Cump is an artist whose work has been exhibited internationally, including White Columns, Randall Scott Gallery, the Bronx Museum of Art, NY; and the Tamayo Museum, Mexico. Cump has been awarded fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, LMCC Workspace, and the Saltonstall Foundation. She received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, BA from Macalester College, and attended Skowhegan. She is currently on faculty at the International Center of Photography.

Luc Sante’s books include Low Life, Evidence, The Factory of Facts, Kill All Your Darlings, and Folk Photography, which received the 2010 Infinity Award for writing from the International Center of Photography. He teaches writing and the history of photography at Bard College.

W.M. Hunt is a champion of photography: collector, dealer, teacher, writer, etc. A book The Unseen Eye based on his collection of “magical heart stopping images of people in which their eyes cannot be seen” will be published next fall by Thames & Hudson in conjunction with a U.S. tour.

Leslie Grant is interested in the storytelling possibilities of images. Her current project, with Dutch photographer Judith van Ijken and employees of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, focuses on the theme of international collaboration. She teaches photography at Parsons The New School for Design.