Blog

Why Collectors Treasure Vintage Photo ID Badges February 27 2017, 0 Comments


Collection of Barbara Levine/projectB.com

Vintage employee identification badges are simultaneously a memory object, advertisement, photograph and artifact of business history. They have become of great interest to collectors (especially ones that feature women) since they exemplify two important cultural traditions: the use of photographs as jewelry (mourning pins, rings and novelty pin-back buttons) and as an instrument of authority or identification (mug shots, passports and licenses).


The photo badge above, c.1945, was issued by New Departure, a Connecticut-based division of General Motors that manufactured ball bearings.



Above is a c.1955 photo id badge. The Formfit Company was established in 1917 with headquarters in Chicago as a maker of women’s “foundation garments” – mainly corsets and girdles. It was one of the largest, if not the largest manufacturers of lingerie in the world and later in the 1970s became owned by Jockey International.

Dating from long before the era of digital security cards and fingerprint readers, photo badges are both a personal keepsake and an object of cultural history, looking to us now like wearable time capsules.


Start or add to your collection - these badges available here!

questions?  email me: blevine@projectb.com

Save

Fabulous Space Age Christmas Trees! December 12 2016, 0 Comments


Collection of Barbara Levine/projectB.com


One of the reasons I love collecting and selling vintage photographs is often the photos lead me to learning about history and interesting stories. Recently, I purchased the above 1970s snapshot of a silver Christmas tree decked out in gold glass ball ornaments. In addition to my appreciation of the photo for it's unique color, I became curious about the origin of aluminum Christmas trees and decided to find out the story.

In 1959, America saw the first commercial aluminum Christmas tree manufactured by the Aluminum Specialty Company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Named the 'Evergleam', it was advertised as a ''permanent'' tree.  No more having to tie a tree to the top of the car or cleaning up falling pine needles! The Evergleam stayed forever beautiful!  Many people were introduced to aluminum trees when on the1965 television show, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Lucy sent Charlie Brown out to get a pink one for their school play.


from Seasons Gleamings:  The Art of the Aluminum Christmas Tree by J.Lindemann and J.Shimon

The new 'space age' tree consisted of shredded aluminum strips that were wrapped by hand around wire branches and then fluffed out. Each branch was then packed in a cardboard sleeve. The branches were all the same length and could be put in any one of the holes in the pole that was the trunk. The trees were easy to assemble (and advertised as light enough for women to lift) and the first trees had a folding tripod base to hold the tree trunk.


from Seasons Gleamings:  The Art of the Aluminum Christmas Tree by J.Lindemann and J.Shimon

It was warned that electric lights should not be put on the trees because of the danger of electric shock. Color wheels were sold to illuminate the trees and because branches couldn't hold much weight, ornaments were usually only glass balls. The sleek minimal trees looked very much at home in mid-century modern homes.



Unfortunately, the trees fell out of fashion in the late 1970s and were often tossed out in the trash or forgotten in attics. Now they are hip again and selling for as much as $1,000 on eBay and the subject of a museum exhibition. On view at The Wisconsin Historical Museum in Madison, is the largest display of Evergleam trees including rare pink, gold and green models. According to curator, Joe Kaplan, '...the trees are more like "sculpture" than imitations of real trees.'


photo by Mike De Sisti, Wisconsin Historical Society Museum

'Tis the season for vintage photos and aluminum Christmas trees!

Questions? email me: blevine@projectb.com


Before Facebook: A Photographic Collage of Friendship November 03 2016, 1 Comment

 

Collection of Barbara Levine / projectB.com

Photo albums can be more than collections of images; they can reflect a whole artistic sensibility. In this remarkable 1920s example, the inside back cover is a collage of faces and maker has inscribed a question—or a title—at the bottom: A "Million" Friends. Are you Among Them?. It is a (pre Facebook!) photographic map of friendship, and an invitation to find ourselves in it.

Save

Spooktacular! 16 Great Vintage Halloween Photos from the Collection of Barbara Levine October 24 2016, 1 Comment

Looking at and collecting vintage Halloween photographs is always great fun. Here are some favorites from my collection. Check out over 50 years of great costumes - Happy Halloween!


Bank robbers? Vintage photo, 1913


Which famous 1920s movie star is man on left dressed as?


Vintage Halloween photos, c.1925.
Love the Geisha (and look at carved pumpkins too)!



Bird costume, c.1930.


Great Halloween mask! Vintage photo, 1939.
Watch out, Creature from Black Lagoon (below) is in the living room!




Mr. Peanut(s), Kodacolor photo, 1955
Merman (below), c.1960



Gypsy Princesses, c. 1965
My favorite vintage Halloween photo (below), Nurse, 1967



Devil Witch! Vintage photo, 1976.

Happy Halloween! All photographs from the collection of Barbara Levine / projectB.com
Please ask permission if you want to use images.
Questions? email me: blevine@projectb.com


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Meet Sideshow Star, Koo Koo The Bird Girl! January 10 2016, 3 Comments


Koo Koo The Bird Girl,c.1930, from projectb.com Sideshow Stars Collection

Like many vintage photo and ephemera collectors, I am fascinated with images of the 'other' such as circus performers and 'freaks'. Above is a rare 1930 photograph of Koo Koo The Bird Girl. Her real name was 'Minnie Woolsey and she was born in Georgia in 1880. She was born with Virchow-Seckel syndrome, a condition also known as bird-headed dwarfism. In addition to her unusual face, she was blind, mentally handicapped, toothless, and practically hairless. The story goes that she was rescued from a a Georgia insane asylum by an huckster showman and began her stage career as "Minnie Ha-Ha". She was dressed in a phony American Indian costume and spoke jibberish to sideshow audiences. In 1932, Minnie landed a role in Tod Browning"s cult movie classic, Freaks, as Koo Koo The Bird Girl. Later, Minnie worked at Coney Island as Koo Koo, the Blind Girl from Mars. It is unknown how long Minnie performed or when she died but some claim she was still living in1960.

Koo Koo is so amazing I have made a limited edition print of this rare 1930 photograph from my collection. Check it out and add her to your collection!


CAMERA ERA Exhibition October 13 2014, 0 Comments

CAMERA ERA
Cherryhurst House
March 29 - November 10, 2014
Organized by Project B from the Collection of Barbara Levine
Catalogue available


CAMERA ERA
features photographs that reveal a special relationship with the camera. It may be a sitter striking an iconic pose, or hiding her face… or it may be camera or printing errors or maybe the photographer altering the photo by hand—the kind of photographic 'mistakes' that can now be instantly corrected, but which we love for their very human texture. In today’s digital reality, where every device is a camera and every blip, click and ping contains a picture, it is easy to forget the charisma and mystique of the physical printed photograph.

This exhibition is a collusion between vintage and contemporary technologies. Original small snapshots are shown together with archival images that have been re-photographed and digitally “remastered.” The large format prints reveal the surface wear, detail and patina of the long forgotten photographs to offer a different point of view and remind us of the power of the photograph to stop time and bring alive moments and relationships at once instantly recognizable and deeply enigmatic.

The works in CAMERA ERA invite us on a speculative journey; as anonymous images without a clear backstory, provenance or authorship, they beckon us to fill in the gaps with our own stories and suppositions. We become collaborators in an interactive game of discovery—an exercise at once aesthetic, intellectual, and simply fun.








Exhibition view. CAMERA ERA is organized by Project B for Cherryhurst House, Houston, Texas. Catalogue available. All photographs from the collection of Barbara Levine. For inquiries about the exhibition or limited edition archival ink prints, email me: blevine@projectb.com




Ansel Adams on a Coffee Can July 29 2014, 0 Comments

Imagine my surprise seeing Ansel Adams' Yosemite Valley, Winter (1959) on an old coffee can. I had to find out how this famous photograph came to be on an everyday object. In 1969, Hills Brothers Coffee in San Francisco with Adams' permission reproduced the photo on its coffee cans as a wraparound image toned in sepia. Critics and fellow photographers criticized Adams for being a crass marketer. Thousands of the three-pound cans sold nationwide in grocery stores for $2.35 each. Recently at auction, the Ansel Adams Hills Bros. Coffee Can (empty) sold for over $1,000.  And now, time for another cup of coffee!

Questions? Want to add to your collection?  email me: blevine@projectb.com


New Book: CAMERA ERA by Barbara Levine & Martin Venezky March 23 2014, 0 Comments



This new limited edition book by collector, Barbara Levine and graphic designer, Martin Venezky, is a meditation on the camera and its complicated hold on our lives. Found and staged photos, ephemera, and all sorts of unexpected relationships are brought together and set in motion by design.




The result is an expressive mysterious album and a document of our complex relationship to both the camera and the photographic images it leaves behind.








Now Available. CAMERA ERA by Barbara Levine and Martin Venezky.
First printing, limited edition of 500 copies.
All images from: Barbara Levine, projectB.com


Charlie Brown Would Have Made A Great Photographer! December 29 2013, 0 Comments


Collection of Barbara Levine/projectB.com

Since its invention nearly 175 years ago, photography has proven to be extraordinarily adaptable to popular uses. For centuries the photographer and the camera have been depicted in objects of material culture. One of my favorite examples is by cartoonist and Peanuts creator, Charles Schulz. On the cover of this 1962 Peanuts comic book, Charlie Brown tries to take a photograph of Snoopy. Good Grief Charlie Brown, you would have made a great photographer!

Want to add to your collection? Email me: blevine@projectb.com


10 Funny and Strange Vintage Christmas Photos! December 12 2013, 0 Comments


Nothing says Merry Christmas like vintage holiday photos and the stranger the better! Here are a few gems from the projectB.com collection. Enjoy!


circa 1950. Small tree, big hands and Santa mask!


c.1980. Merry Christmas Honey!


1939 Office Christmas Party!


Matching holiday dresses, 1962.


1959. Will feel trapped by Christmas forever.



1976. Macrame! I love it!


Stuffed animal and guns,c.1960.


I don't think I want to go to their house!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE!
All photos from collection of Barbara Levine/projectB.com



 


Big Dog and his Man in the Photobooth! December 01 2013, 2 Comments



Holidays Blues? Turn to Psychoanalysis! November 26 2013, 0 Comments

 
Collection of Barbara Levine/projectB.com

Psychoanalysis was published by E.C. Comics (also published MAD Magazine) in 1955. The comic featured three patients, Freddy Carter, Ellen Lyman and Mark Stone who were undergoing psychoanalysis. The analyst was the central character and only referred to as 'The Psychiatrist'. According to the editors, "This magazine is our most difficult and revolutionary creative effort thus far. Through the medium of the comic format, we will attempt to portray, graphically and dramatically, the manner in which people find peace of mind through the science of psychoanalysis." The comic was approved by the Comics Code Authority but newstands did not want to display it and the publication only lasted for a total of four issues (too bad, we could all use more humor and peace of mind!).

Happy Thanksgiving!


Finger in Your Eye November 20 2013, 2 Comments



all photos: Collection of Barbara Levine/projectB.com

We have all done it - sometime between pressing down the shutter and its closure, our finger(s) slip into the frame resulting in a picture featuring a giant phantom shape (sometimes with manicured nail) hovering over a car or building or appearing to touch the subjects in the photo. This 'accident' is especially evident in vintage snapshots when people were still getting used to cameras and before you could see what your picture would look like before you snapped it.

The ‘finger in your eye’ accident (my term of endearment for these snapshots) becomes the subject of the photograph. Because the fingertip(s) shown in the photo is the photographer’s, we become aware viscerally of the relationship between photographer, subject and camera. The resulting photos are abstract and accidentally mysterious.










Back when these photos were made, they were probably tossed aside as mistakes. Looking at them now, these seemingly banal images look strange, almost as if they are scenes from a lost mystery or science fiction story. What story would you make up about them?


All photos: Collection of Barbara Levine/projectB.com


Zoe Zobedia, The Moss-Haired Girl November 08 2013, 0 Comments


from Sideshow Stars Collection, projectB.com

Among the attractions of early 19th century American carnivals, sideshows and circuses were the so-called “Circassian Beauties,” women with extravagantly fine or mossy hair who supposedly descended from the “purest” peoples of Eurasia’s Caucasus mountains, in the little-known region of Circassia. In fact, many of these beauties were American girls who cleverly teased out and stiffened their hair and adopted exotic names invariably beginning with “Z” – Zalumma, Zribeda, Zoledod, Zeleke. Pictured here is one of P. T. Barnum’s Circassian harem, Zoe Zobedia, a moss-haired and snake charmer!

Limited edition print available exclusively on projectB.com

 


13 Vintage Photos of Scary Halloween Masks October 27 2013, 0 Comments

Photo, circa 1940s. Any guesses what they are dressed up as? Masks are great!

Circa 1930s. Love the Pumpkin head mask!

c. 1960s. Mickey Mouse with a Skull mask and is that a Bat girl with a Cinderella mask?!

Creepy Cute!

Circa 1920. Spooky masks!

Amish Halloween?!

Crazy animal mask!

Circa 1910. These are very strange masks!

This color photo from PROJECT B's rare originals store: 1970s Devil Dude in a witch mask - crazy!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

via Weird Tales, "Halloween was so much weirder back then: Creepy and Disturbing Halloween Photos"  Note: there were no credit lines in originating blog post so if any of the originals belong to your collection please let me know!

 


Mike the Cat October 25 2013, 0 Comments

 Collection of Barbara Levine / PROJECT B

"Mike the Cat", vintage photo c.1920. This devil kitty did not like getting his picture taken!

Happy Halloween!


Elephant Girl October 23 2013, 0 Comments

Collection of Barbara Levine / PROJECT B
At PROJECT B, we love unique, bizarre and beautiful anonymous photographs. To celebrate this spirit, we are featuring a special limited edition print of a haunting photograph of a little girl in a paper elephant mask. The original photograph was taken in the 1940s and our large format archival print captures every detail. Why would someone take this photograph from behind a chain link fence? The mixture of distortions, textures and stillness make this a mysterious image that conjures the work of Diane Arbus.

We have made our "Elephant Girl" print very affordable and in two ready to hang sizes! Making an elephant mask out of a paper bag? Priceless!

Behind the Scenes at PROJECT B October 18 2013, 0 Comments

Take a peek at our not yet released new editions! Every limited edition print at PROJECT B is hand embossed for authenticity.

Below, we are making large format prints of vintage color slide photos. They are included in our Divine series for an upcoming exhibition in Houston.

Our best selling print this month is Alligator Women! Talk about a conversation piece!

And finally, to keep up with all the print and photo orders we are putting our signature 'B's on heavy duty mailing tubes. We want to make sure you get your prints in perfect condition!

More behind the scenes of PROJECT B soon!

 


A Gorgeous Paper Moon (Photograph)! October 14 2013, 0 Comments

At PROJECT B we love real photo postcards and paper moons! The paper moon above is exceptional because the photographer created a souvenir of a man astride the moon floating above a city street in Saskatchwan, Canada. Anyone have a souvenir paper moon photograph like this one? 


Ode to Collecting Found Photos October 09 2013, 0 Comments

Eloquent ode to collecting found photographs. Robert Skingle, veteran dealer says "Instead of being thrown away, these photographs live on." Vintage vernacular photographs is one of the fastest growing collecting areas in art and photography.


How I Met Your Mother October 01 2013, 0 Comments

Photo by S. Eschelbach

Project B had the great opportunity to work with the set designer for the CBS TV show, "How I Met Your Mother".  Here is a look at a few of our vintage photographs hanging in the bar at the Farhampton Inn!  I never watched the show before and now I am a fan!


Dummy Mortimer Snerd September 27 2013, 0 Comments

Collection of Barbara Levine / projectB.com

A real photo postcard showing ventriloquist, actor and radio show host, Edgar Bergen (father of Candace Bergen) steering a bike or open vehicle with his dummy Mortimer Snerd, August 20, 1941 in Decatur, Michigan.

Want to add to your collection? email me blevine@projectb.com


10 Great Victorian Headless Photographs September 18 2013, 0 Comments

(via George Eastman House/Flickr) 

As soon as photography was invented, people wanted to make trick photographs. One of the most popular tricks was making 'headless' portraits. Books such as "Magic: Stage Illusions and Scientific Diversion including Trick Photography" published in 1897 contained diagrams for creating illusions such as decapitations, multiples, and spirit photographs.  The Victorian version of photoshop fun and the resulting photos are still creepy today!

(via Photo History Sussex)

 

via Is it weird?

(via PetaPixel)

Early 1800s

Complete with Blood!

(via courroiedetransmission, elisandre-librairie-oeuvre-au-noir, International Center of Photography

 

 

 


Friday Foster: Super Heroine & Fashion Photographer! September 06 2013, 0 Comments

from Barbara Levine Collection / available for purchase on Project B

The Friday Foster comic strip debuted on January 18, 1970 in the Chicago Tribune and ran until 1974. Friday Foster was a former fashion model who became an assistant to a world-famous photographer at a glamour magazine in New York City.  The strip was about her comings and goings in the jet set modeling world and she often moonlighted as a detective. Friday Foster was the first mainstream syndicated comic strip to feature a Black woman in the lead role. In 1972, Dell created a one-of-a-kind Friday Foster comic book edition (pictured above). The comic book inspired the blaxploitation film by the same name, starring Pam Grier.

 

 

 

 

 


Antique Cabinet Card Photographs September 05 2013, 0 Comments

Two women, one dressed as a man, c. 1905, John Emberson © National Media Museum / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

"Cabinet cards, such as the example above,  are photographs mounted on stiff pieces of cardboard. They were introduced in the 1860s and gradually superseded the smaller carte de visite format. The front of the card is usually printed or embossed with the photographer’s details, and the back of the cabinet card is often printed with elaborate designs. The popularity of the cabinet card waned around the turn of the century, particularly after the introduction of the photographic postcard, but they were still being produced right until the First World War."

via the National Media Museum Blog

 


Roaring Twenties Field Hockey Team! September 04 2013, 0 Comments

 

Collection of Barbara Levine / PROJECT B

No matter how old I am, the start of the Fall season always reminds me of going back to school and team sports. I was horrible at sports and often found an excuse not to participate! This 1921 photograph of a young women's field hockey team (note their bobbed flapper hairstyle!) makes me wish I had played! Our limited edition print (available in 3 sizes) of this rare photo will absolutely give you a reason to cheer! Go Girls!


Found Photos That Belong Together August 29 2013, 0 Comments

Happy Birthday, Unknown photographer. Left, Vintage Photograph, 1947. Right, Vintage Photograph, 1959. Available on ProjectB.com

Sometimes found photographs from different places and times seem to belong together. Each of these snapshots features wall papered interiors and birthday cakes. Both however, also reveal the casual presence of a possible danger - a rifle aimed point blank and lit candles on a young girl's lap.  They are each interesting images but as a diptych their subtleties are accentuated and a new story emerges about odd and menacing birthdays.


Pink Poodles Always In Fashion! August 28 2013, 0 Comments

 from the NEW Project B Collection- It's A Dogs Life

One of my favorites from our new collection featuring dogs is this over the top pink poodle! With fur dyed (probably with beet juice or food coloring), pom-poms meticulously clipped and adorned with bows, the pink poodle sends a message of Hollywood Baroque, even in Middle America. Who knows if this poodle knows or cares how he looks? He exists, as many dogs do, as an avatar of his owner…in this case, a clear fashion statement. What do you think his/her owner looks like?

(pssst..hey you, if you feed my image to your blog please credit www.projectb.com. Merci beaucoup!)

 


The Northern Lights August 25 2013, 0 Comments

Setting up a camera in the middle of a dirt road in Fairbanks, Alaska, an unknown photographer, c.1940, captures this exquisite long-exposure view of the aurora borealis—the northern lights. The awe inspired by this apparition is palpable, even now.

Available in three sizes from Project B.


Appreciating Found Photos August 14 2013, 0 Comments

image © Jane Waggoner Deschner. from the garment series (little boy, dragon), snapshots of James "Jimmy" Schelfhout, 2011

There is a growing awareness that pre-digital snapshots are quickly becoming obsolete. In view of this more is being written and considered about their cultural value (including about artists who use found photos). In the last few weeks, three note worthy articles have come out on the topic: listen to NPR's interview with Robert Jackson "Are Snapshots Dead?"; read New York Times art critic Roberta Smith's exhibition review: "Not for the Family Album: Snap Noir and Photo Brut Display Found Photos"and feast your eyes on artist Jane Waggoner Deschner's stitched photographs featured this week on John Foster's Accidental Mysteries blog.

Hooray for art and found photos!


Paul Strand on Snapshot Photography August 05 2013, 2 Comments

"...the whole concept of the snapshot has to be looked upon in a very broad sort of way.  If you want to use the word snapshot, you should not use it contemptuously. Snapshot should not be a derogatory word. The snapshot is the result of the scientific development of photography, and all developments should b welcomed and used with sensitivity. The snapshot has nothing at all to do with amateurism or casual photography. It can be used by many people for many different reasons; by amateurs and by professionals, and also by artists. There is no one answer to the question of how to photograph. There are many ways, and there are many ways to use the materials that have become available."  

Paul Strand. Blind Woman, 1916. Excerpted from 1974 article on Snapshots in Aperture Magazine


Lee Friedlander on Snapshot Photographs August 03 2013, 0 Comments

"It's a swell word (snapshot) I've always liked. It probably came about because it describes a basic fact of photography. Whether the practitioner uses small, medium or large format equipment, or whether his concerns and interests are botanical, animal or folks, landscape or street life, etc., the only relevance is the photograph itself. The pleasures of good photographs are the pleasures of good photographs, whatever the particulars of their makeup."

Lee Friedlander. Excerpt from a 1974 article on snapshots in Aperture magazine


Vernacular Photography: The Art of the Found July 31 2013, 0 Comments

Courtesy ZieherSmith and Winter Works on Paper

Click on this photo for a fantastic overview of the state of vernacular photography as art and curatorial practice. A must read if you are a vernacular photography collector!

 


Hand Painted Photo Fun July 24 2013, 1 Comment

Collection of Barbara Levine / PROJECT B

With a nod to summer fun is this 1950s hand painted photograph of La Jolla beach in California. Since the beginning of photography in the 1800s, professional and amateur photographers have experimented with hand painting to make their photographs appear more realistic. Hand coloring was a time consuming process resulting in unique hand-made images. Can you imagine this photograph big and hanging on your wall? We would love to know what you think!


Mystery Diva Snapshot July 20 2013, 1 Comment

 

We review thousands of vintage photographs in the Project B archive before deciding which images would make great wall size prints. I try to imagine photographs people would want to put on their walls. I came across this 1965 snapshot and doubt anyone would choose it to go over their couch!  This photo is a mystery; are we looking at a zombie woman, a man in bad drag or an aging opera diva?!  What do you think?


Derrière Artistique July 19 2013, 0 Comments

 

As soon as we saw this 1907 French postcard, we knew we had to print it large scale. The original is small and great but we wanted to really show off the shapely buttocks bursting out of their ornate picture frame! No 3-D glasses required!  With a nod to Degas (or is it a wink?) our Derrière Artistique archival pigment print on heavyweight 100% cotton Moab paper is both classical and audacious. The rosey pink stamp (dated June 3, 1907) adds a je ne sais quoi.