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Book Review: In Almost Every Picture 10: Pig by Michael Campeau

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The 10th volume of the vernacular photography series In Almost Every Picture, edited by Erik Kessels, is printed on a pretty pink stock. It’s nearly the color of the Financial Times, but rather than conveying fickle market trends, this tome sets in print a singular, enduring obsession.

When Michael Campeau gathered his family photographs nearly 40 years ago, he noticed an unusual image from 1963. It was of his mother, bottle-feeding a piglet in the middle of Au Lutin Qui Bouffe (The Noshing Elf), a popular Montreal restaurant.

The success of a great many photo books goes beyond the quality of the photos themselves. Sequencing and book design — from layouts to paper stock — are all crucial parts of the puzzle. But it all starts with a concept. Campeau’s took shape by coincidence. In 2005, he worked with a friend who was gathering his own family photographs. Among those was a familiar image: in the same restaurant, another piglet was being bottle-fed by a customer.

The photographer placed an ad in local senior’s newspaper in search of similar photos, and his piglet obsession became a study in the piglet obesssion of others. In almost Every Picture selects over a hundred such images commissioned by restaurant proprietor Joseph B. McAbbie from 1938 to 1973. McAbbie later hired “society photographer” Jean-Paul Cuerrier to make the photographs, which Cuerrier continued to do even after the owner’s death. Cuerrier’s son told Campeau that in a single night his father might take over 250 photographs of feeding time.

The piglet and the decor are a constant, but multitudes are to be found in customers of varying ages and social background, from solo diners to couples, from a nun to a gathering of Shriners. Conflicting stories abound as to the fate of the piglets. By some accounts, the milk-fed pink delight grew up to feed elfin customers. But others tell a tale of long pig lives led on an idyllic farm. Au Lutin Qui Bouffe made thousands of piglet pictures, but many are lost. A fire closed down the Montreal landmark, and closed the door on the photo op memorialized In Almsot Every Picture. We must rebuild.

 

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About Pat Padua

Pat Padua is a writer, photographer, native Washingtonian, and Oxford comma defender. The Washington Post called him "a talented, if quirky, photographer." Pat has also contributed to the All Music Guide, Cinescene, and DCist, where he is currently senior film critic.