ASMR4 is a small-run conversation. A conversation between 4 photographers in the form of a book. 16 page signatures.
The first volume of this experiment is a sequence taken from Adam Putnam’s film project Reclaimed Empire (Deep Edit) 2008-2016, an ongoing series comprised of over 80 fragments and short video works. The title, initially an overt nod to Warhol’s Empire, speaks less about homage, and more to the notion of a constant return to repeated subject matter - a gaze that never leaves, that stares un-blinkingly – mechanically - at the same subject. “This was my Empire, comprised of whatever was on hand in my studio, sculptural fragments, broken mirrors, architectural models and other detritus…"
The second volume features a selection of images by Victoria Sambunaris from her project Trafficking. The work addresses the petrochemical and industrial cargo trades and the effect they have on marine habitats. Sambunaris is a project-based photographer who organizes her life around annual road trips across the American West, equipped with nothing but a 5x7 wooden field camera, camping gear, and a few months supply of canned sardines and crackers. The large-scale photos of the contemporary American landscape tell a conflicted story in geographic, economic and cultural terms. The current work stems from Sambunaris’ invitation to the Galveston Artist Residency and her collaboration with National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration marine biologist Kristopher Benson in 2015. The collaboration allows a more comprehensive scientific perspective and alludes to the expansion of global markets and the intensification of consumption worldwide.
The third volume features new images by Dan Torop from his project Lone Garden, Lone Lake. Dust, weeds and other castaways make up the universe of Dan Torop’s recent work. Torop spent over a year photographing the back garden of Spoonbill Studios. While documenting seasonal changes in the slow shift of light and foliage, he has been thinking about weeds: fast-growing, fast-seeding plants that thrive in bad soil and outpace all efforts at cultivation. Alongside the garden are images of Owens Lake in California — nearly gone — drained by a Los Angeles aqueduct. What remains is perhaps the largest source of dust pollution in the country, in a valley from which so much has been displaced.
ASMR4’s fourth volume is Ordinary Matter, by photographer Katie Murray. The title Ordinary Matter, scientifically speaking, alludes to all that is seen and knowable. Making use of visual alliteration and an aesthetic rhythm the work in this volume considers the mysterious nature of familiarity. Murray’s collection of images exist somewhere between the mythic and the mundane, reflecting a reality that is both rooted in and removed from our own.
We started this series in September 2017 with v.1 Reclaimed Empire. We published quarterly, with v.4 Ordinary Matter coming out in September 2018. We held an event for the release of each volume at Spoonbill Studios (Brooklyn, NY). While the initial series served as both conversation and message, the next series focuses on the strange and forgotten. We held an event for v.5 at The Penumbra Foundation in December 2018.
ASMR4, Vol. 5 – Alfred Cook: Archival Photographs from The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library is a collection of photographs made by Alfred Cook. Cook, a footman for the Frick family, documented the rebuilding of the Frick's Manhattan residence into a library and museum. His images reveal a lexicon of strange and curious subjects: dark hallways, empty rooms, and most notably, light fixtures. The images reproduced in this book were made between 1933 and 1935.
Jennifer Krasinski interviewed Adam Putnam for Artforum. They spoke about Alfred Cook and ASMR4
ASMR4, Vol. 6 – Del Rio: Photographs and Film Stills from the life of legendary Matadora Patricia McCormick 1929-2013 presents archival images and film stills from McCormick's time as bullfighter (1951-62).
She had shunned an art career to become the Lady Bullfighter, a defiant and extraordinary path, particularly for a woman at that time. McCormick would later write, “I could keep this up all day! I am in no hurry to kill, you lovely, brave beast. But I must, before you learn how to kill me. I know you will die at the height of your courage, trying to fathom the illusive cloth that you can’t get your horns into, searching for the real enemy you would destroy.”
— Victoria Sambunaris
I was the principal editor of ASMR4, Vol. 7 – Icebergs: floating chunks of rock and snow; from the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives and the Ralph Stockman Tarr expeditions.
In 1997, I had a scheme. I would travel north. There would be no hurry. From New England into Canada, toward upper Quebec and the Hudson Bay. I would stop at rural airstrips and mosquito-ridden streams. It would take months, even years, to make my way north. I thought that there would always be a chill and sparsely peopled north into which to journey.
This journey never happened, but images have accumulated.
— Dan Torop
After a somewhat housebound hiatus, in late 2020 we concluded the series of v.5-8 with ASMR4, Vol. 8 – Clear Comfort: Photographs from the Alice Austen Archive.
Clear Comfort, Alice Austen’s family home, held within its boundaries all of the complications that a home can represent. At best, a home can be a catalyst for creativity and exploration. At worst it can prohibit, interfere, inhibit. Recognizing that, Austen turned her camera towards her home and the people with whom she shared her life.
— Katie Murray
In 2022 we inaugurated a new series fixating on the obsessive and anachronistic.
We celebrated ASMR4, Vol. 9 – Field Work: Photographs by Ilana Halperin with an event at PPOW in Decemer, 2022.
Ilana Halperin’s Field Work is a brief but comprehensive look at the artist’s collection of photographs shot over the course of 20 years and across several continents. Following her own obsession with the formation of new landmass, these photos, shot with a Holga, document the various kinds of eruptions encountered by the artist on her travels. However, seeing them all together for the first time, I would say that it is the photos themselves that are erupting… as if the small plastic camera could barely contain what it saw.
— Adam Putnam
Things moved briskly: in January of 2023 we published ASMR4, Vol. 10 – Trailcam Photographs by Bill & Tony.
Trailcam Photographs are photographs of survival.
Pilot Peak was a landmark for the Donner Party on the emigrant trail. In September 1846, they abandoned their wagons and oxen to reach Pilot Springs at the foot of Pilot Peak after a treacherous journey across the Great Salt Lake Desert, unaware of their destiny that lay ahead.
Near Pilot Peak, in the remote mountains of northeast Nevada, sits another testimony to survival. In this parched desert landscape, which receives an average of 8.27 inches of rain per year, there is a trough where animals flock to satiate their thirst.
— Vicky Sambunaris
In July, 2023 we published ASMR4, Vol. 11 – Made in U.S.A.
Kodachrome-Kodak’s twice improved answer to Americans’ insatiable appetite to catalogue every major event of one’s life: weddings, birthdays, proms, graduations, holidays, vacations, etc. As Paul Simon sang in 1973 “…makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, oh yeah.”
It makes me wonder, was it the film or was it the life?
Either way, a long-forgotten box of my family’s “sunny days” untethered from actual memories, and the people who made them, becomes a pathway to something new.
— Katie Murray
ASMR4 is available for online purchase or subscription.
ASMR4 is co-edited by Katie Murray, Adam Putnam, Vicky Sambunaris and Dan Torop.