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Vintage Folk Art Tintype Portraits October 08 2017, 0 Comments

Somewhere on the spectrum between folk art and photography is the unofficial category of oddly painted tintype photographs.  In the late1800s, photographers could make people's portraits using a camera and the tintype process in informal settings such as at carnivals and on boardwalks. A tintype is a positive photograph made on thin sheet of  metal coated with a dark lacquer or enamel. The cost of a tintype varied - the larger the sheet of metal the larger and more expensive the photo.

Tintypes were popular and affordable but painting was considered the more serious and valued form of portraiture. Sometimes therefore, the photographer (or an assistant) would make a large plate tin copy of the original photo and then paint on it, often embellishing by adding jewelry, eyeglasses and other details to make the photo appear more painterly and distinguished. The distortion from the small photos being enlarged combined with amateur painting and copying skills (hands were especially tricky!) resulted in some extraordinary, peculiar and haunted looking portraits!





Questions?  Contact me
All photographs from Barbara Levine / PROJECT B.  Please do not reproduce without permission (thank you!).

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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

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CAMERA COMICS: A Short-Lived Rarity From The 1940s February 09 2017, 0 Comments

A true comics rarity, only nine issues of Camera Comics were ever published by U. S. Camera Publishing Corporation, appearing between 1944 and 1946. The series featured action heroes whose exploits involved not guns or superhuman strength, but cameras. There’s Linda Lens, woman photographer – the first and only female action-adventure photographer. We meet Bob Scott, Crash Photographer, Jim Lane, Insurance Investigator, Grey Comet and others, including a teenager named Kid Click.




|The comic even included fact-based stories about famous figures in photographic history such as Eadweard Muybridge and George Eastman, and instructive articles such as how to build a darkroom, making fun photos using everyday kitchen items and tips for better picture-taking.






The short-lived series emerged when popular media like B-movies, detective novels and radio serials were awash in the drama, danger and ideology of the ongoing war in Europe and the Pacific. The booming genre of comic books was no exception, and in its imagery, storylines and even advertisements, Camera Comics gleefully conflates the action of shooting a camera with shooting a weapon. Boys too young to enlist as soldiers could fantasize about aiming their long lens out of an airplane to expose an enemy operation. “Snapshots at night mean bad days for the Japs!” screams an ad for flash photography.



Boys aren’t the only target audience, either: Camera Comics boasts its own endearing (if also patronizing) Rosie-the-Riveter egalitarianism. In Issue #4 (pictured), lifestyle photographer Linda Lens is sent to an unnamed South American country to photograph a folkloric “Festival of Color,” only to stumble—in her evening gown—onto a rebel-led coup d’etat in progress. Her photos save the day, foil the revolution and spare the life of her handsome Latin suitor—son of El Presidente. All in a day’s work for Linda Lens!




Camera Comics appeared just as photography as a hobby was becoming affordable for an ever-growing number of school-age children. Advertisers like Kodak were eager to reach this new generation of photography fans, preparing for the peacetime boom they hoped would soon arrive: “Here’s one camera you’ll want right after the war...” urges one ad.




But despite efforts to widen the comic’s appeal through the exploits of newsreel sleuths and insurance photographers, the single-topic focus of the series doomed it to a short life.









Once the war was over, so was Camera Comics. Young photo buffs would soon turn to more specialized hobby magazines, while comics lovers would soon see their action heroes transformed by the Atomic Age, or like Captain America, disappear altogether.

Want to collect CAMERA COMICS?

Questions? Email me: blevine@projectb.com










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Barbara Levine talks Photobooks and Found Photos in SPOT Magazine February 06 2017, 0 Comments

The Fall 2016 issue of SPOT magazine focused on the subject of photobooks. Executive Director of Houston Center for Photography, Ashylyn Davis and I talked books, collecting found photos and CAMERA ERA.

 



Project B and the Vernacular Photobook: An Interview with Barbara Levine

by Ashlyn Davis

AD: Barbara, tell me a little bit about your background and how you came to work with the found image and the book form.

BL: Like many people, I’ve always loved books and libraries and looking at other people’s pictures. My mother and grandmother went antiquing often (and I went with them) and the shops always had piles of old photos and photograph albums. I was bit by the collecting bug early on! I thought I was building my own little library of beautiful unusual books full of strange places, time and people. Learning about forms and visual language and appreciating photobooks followed, first as a photography student at the San Francisco Art Institute and then when I went to work at SFMOMA. I began to relate to vernacular photograph albums as objects, as visual explorations, as storytelling, and as visual concepts. I explored the idea of the photo album (from time period 1880-1930) as the first generation of photographic storytelling in my first two books, Snapshot Chronicles: Inventing The American Photo Album (2006) and Around The World: The Grand Tour in Photo Albums (2007, both Princeton Architectural Press).

AD: Let’s talk a bit about Camera Era. One of the things I love about Camera Era and many of your publications is that they reference past and future possibilities of the photobook. These vernacular images were once in someone’s personal archive, likely a family album, which is itself an elementary form of a photobook. At the same time, as the images are repurposed and reprinted, you reiterate the photograph’s potential to be endlessly reinterpreted based on context. How does thinking about context, the archive, and interpretation figure into your work?

BL: Yes, I agree with the idea that early family photograph albums were the first generation of photographic storytelling. I work primarily in the artist as editor mode and I am keenly aware most of the single images in my collection have probably been ripped out of photograph albums—they have been ripped from their intended circle—and now in my hands they invite a new appreciation and interpretation.

Because for so many years I was focused on photograph albums and have worked with both formal and personal archives, I am informed by the idea that images seen together constitute something different than those same images seen apart. At their core, archives are an effort to willfully construct a specific context that charges and enhances the meaning of its component parts. In this way, one who assembles a personal archive isn’t merely accumulating but is actually closer to being an author—an author who interleaves new meanings into the relationships between discrete images.

Context in my opinion is key. As is editing. With found images there are infinite combinations and interpretations. When creating the photobook, Camera Era, my co-author Martin Venezky and I wanted to bring together seemingly disparate images and set them in motion with careful editing and design to create a meditation on the camera and its complicated hold on our lives. We considered every aspect of the book an important part of the context including for example, the intimate size of the book and how it would feel when you held it in your hands.

AD: Yes, the tactile nature of the book is so special and creates a viewing and experiential context in and of itself. It’s also one reason, I think why we’re experiencing a surge and renewed critical interest in the photography book during a time when practically every image can be viewed online. So many decisions come into play: paper, binding, typography, layout, rhythm, and sequencing. How do you bring each book you produce a unique voice through the design decisions you have to make?

BL: As a visual artist, I am very conscious that book space is different from experiencing images framed on a wall or viewed on a backlit screen.

When making my book, Snapshot Chronicles in 2005, I wanted to make a book that not only featured the photograph albums and their images but a book that made you feel by way of its design-time, wear and tear, and the edges of the photographs and the album pages and could do so in a way that didn't make the images or the concept of the book feel nostalgic or quaint. In other words, I wanted the book to feel like an immersive experience from the moment you picked it up. I had the good fortune to meet the distinguished designer, Martin Venezky, and we have been collaborating on books and photographic collages ever since.

I am working in the vein of an artist who is also a collector and an archivist who is also a curator and Martin from the point of view of graphic designer—both of us however are interested in how seemingly typical vintage images can be edited, re-purposed, animated or simply reframed to create new associations and narratives. The fact we collaborate in a way that the images and design work so closely together is unique. In 2014, I curated the exhibition Camera Era for Cherryhurst House in Houston. In considering a printed piece, I wanted to produce a piece that would function differently than a general exhibition brochure or catalogue.

Martin and I embarked on the idea that we could create something that would be a standalone photobook as well as an object in the exhibition (in a perfect world the exhibition would have also had a small screen device so the visitor could view the found images in all three formats to experience how space and its design affects our experience of photographs). We considered every aspect of the book design part of the authorial and artistic intention to ensure the voice of the book and the vintage images in the book would feel unique, engaging and relevant to our contemporary lives.

AD: It seems that many of your projects, in design, subject matter, and concept are self-referential, like the way the images in Camera Era point back to the camera itself or demonstrate modes of seeing and not seeing. How does the book form allow you to conceptually explore the more meta inquiries into the medium?

BL: I work primarily with found and vernacular materials and the book form is ideal for conveying the visual, narrative and tactile qualities of vintage material. All my books start from my emotional response to the image(s). As a collector, I curate pictures in my collection. I work with them as raw material, almost like a photographer without a camera—and a book format is ideal for giving voice to details that for me are a part of the mystery and aura of the material Details such as the imperfections, edges, the wear and tear from handling- etc.

As soon you pick up a book, open its cover and turn a page, you are activating a story. That physicality is specific to books. With photographs there is a sense of exchange that is different from other mediums; in the early days of photography, photographs were meant to be handled- carefully slipped into ornate albums or stereviewers, or pasted on an album page, real photo postcards were sent through the mail, gorgeous albumen views of far away places and peoples were tipped on to book pages, snapshots were passed around or written or doodled upon, sometimes they were hand tinted. The keeping, looking and sharing of photographs included an interaction. Though our experience of looking at photographs has changed and broadened there is still in my opinion, an inherent exchange between maker and viewer specific to photography and photobooks elegantly and inventively capture that spirit.

AD: Since you are dealing with found photographs, how do you grapple with the intent of the original photographer? Most of these photographs, I would assume, were made strictly for private enjoyment. What does it mean to you to then re-situate them in a public domain?

BL: Early on in my collecting of vernacular photo albums and snapshots people would ask, "do you know the people in the albums?" “Have you contacted their families?" There is a prevailing sense that family photographs always stay within the family and that it is sad or an unspoken violation when old photos land in a stranger's hands.

Naturally, I don't feel this way.

The irony is not lost on me that despite the cliché of images staying within a family, now more than ever there are endless discarded and dislocated images and photograph albums (not to mention that most people's family photographs now reside on devices or in the cloud both of which will become obsolete in their own lifetime). I get many calls to please help people sort out what to do with their old family photos because they don't have space for them or the children don't know the people in the photos and they just can't bring themselves to throw them away. It is a complicated relationship and the vocabulary of photography is evolving as we speak.

There is a sea of anonymous photographs around us—vintage snapshots and the like that can be found at flea markets, in giveaway piles, on eBay etc. Most people consider them worthless but for me, if I can read the image, if there is anything distinguishing about it historically or the composition or emotion, then it is not a throwaway image. So I pull images out of the stream and examine the layers and bring seemingly disparate images together, bring them to light and hopefully in doing so come to understand the artifact nature of found images and their ripples and in doing so reveal something not seen at first glance—and the idea that my contemporary curatorial sensibility can coexist with these original expressions—sometimes in harmony with them, sometimes at a curious distance¬¬—is one of the principal pleasures of collecting and working with found photographs

I use the found photographs as raw material and think of it as a wonderful recycling, a re purposing. Snapshot collecting is personal and private collections are subjective. In my exhibitions and books, I am creating a unique interpretative dimension and I'm appreciating these once cast off images and going one step further in putting a language to that appreciation.

AD: What are you working on now? Do you have a new book coming out soon?

BL: Yes! People Knitting: A Century of Photographs published by Princeton Architectural Press comes out this Fall. I am excited about this book because I have a special fascination for the intersection of knitting and photography. Knitting has been around for centuries, but only in the last 150 years have we been able to actually photograph someone in the meditative act of knitting. And of course, I am drawn to offbeat and unlikely subjects!

To purchase your copy of CAMERA ERA.

Questions? Email me: blevine@projectb.com

Copyright 2016. Houston Center of Photography. All rights reserved.


 

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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


13 Creepy Vintage Christmas Photos! December 04 2016, 0 Comments

We love looking at other people's old photos especially funny, weird Christmas snapshots!
Do you have any vintage holiday photos like these in your family albums?


Christmas Day, 1959


Kitchen Gifts, c.1980


Rifles and Pink Plushie (are those snakeskin pants?), c.1970


Fuzzy Slippers and Gun, c.1960


Christmas Baby Dolls, 1959


The Perfect Gift, 1976


Big Hand and Small Tree, c.1945


Santa has had a little too much Botox.


Super creepy Santa.


The Weird Sixties Christmas Party


Creepy Christmas Office Party, 1939


Merry Christmas from Windsor Duke of Kent, c.1940

Happy Holidays!
Questions? Email me: blevine@projectB.com

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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.

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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


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Tiny People: Vintage Photos from Barbara Levine Collection July 19 2016, 0 Comments

One of the many pleasures of being a collector and dealer of vintage vernacular snapshot photography is looking at seemingly random images and putting them together into curatorial groupings. "Tiny People" is my ongoing series that features people who appear very small in a vast landscape. These photos are endearing and humorous (how far away was the photographer standing?!) and evoke a distinct pleasure that goes beyond their original intention or even our (ironic or nostalgic) perspective on the past.  

All of the photographs below are from the collection of Barbara Levine / PROJECT B. Inquiries welcome!













Tiny People: A Series of Vintage Snapshots From The Collection of Barbara Levine.
on view at the Catherine Couturier Gallery, October  15  Dec. 1, 2016.
Questions? Want to add these vintage photos to your unique collection? Email me!

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PROJECT B: Bottoms Up! First in exhibit series with Catherine Couturier Gallery May 13 2016, 0 Comments

Call it slapstick humor or just plain funny, looking at an old photo of someone bending over makes us laugh! Sometimes people are playing to the  camera and other times their backside is caught unaware. Here are 12 vintage photos showing laugh out loud funny rear views.

Bottoms Up is the first theme in a series of mini exhibits curated by PROJECT B in collaboration with Catherine Couturier Gallery .The exhibit is currently on view at the gallery and all the vintage photos are framed and ready to enliven your walls!














Questions? Email me


Blue Snow and The Cyanotype Photograph January 19 2016, 0 Comments


Photographer unknown. Vintage cyanotype, c.1905. Available here

Ever wonder what snowy landscapes would look like if newly fallen snow were a color other than white? In the 19th century, a photographic process known as cyanotypes became popular and images such as the one above, of Mt. Hood in Oregon, turned a winter white scene into a magical blue landscape.

The cyanotype process which produces the distinctive Prussian blue color was invented by Sir John Hershcel in 1842. He treated a light sensitive paper with an iron salt solution and found that by putting the paper in the sun the photo positive image would appear. Because the treated paper could be developed using only the sun, making cyanotype photographs were popular especially among amateur photographers. In the last few years, there has been a revival of interest in the cyanotype process and the blue photographs by both collectors and artists alike.

Looking at this c.1900 cyanotype of a single lone figure ( a fellow adventurer?) walking on the snow covered mountain, I can only imagine the warmth of the sun and the photographer trying to capture the moment. Over 100 years later, the moment indeed was captured and is as beautiful as ever.

 

 

 


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!


Rock and Roll Donuts! November 06 2015, 0 Comments

According to food writer, Julie R. Thomson of The Huffington Post, National Donut Day is celebrated both in June and in November. To celebrate take a look at this 1956 press photo issued by the Donut Institute in NYC. The photograph shows Lu Anne Warren,  a contestant for the nineteenth annual National Donut Week Queen. A highlight that year was  introducing the "new size in the hole of donuts". According to the press release, the new size was tailored to a "younger generation of dunkers influenced by the current rock and roll music craze".  Cheers to rock music, donuts and dunking!

Collection of Barbara Levine / projectB.com  Questions? email me: blevine@projectb.com


Simone de Beauvoir & Jean Paul Sarte in Photo Shooting Gallery July 20 2015, 0 Comments

Above is a photograph of the philosophers Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre taken at the Porte d' Orleans fairground in Paris in 1929. They are at a carnival attraction known as the photographic shooting gallery. Popular after World War I, the skill game required the player shoot and hit the center of a target and if they did, a camera shutter would trigger and the winner would get a photograph of him or herself (shooting the gun).  How de Beauvoir hit the target with her eyes closed is a mystery!

The analogies between shooting a gun and shooting a camera have always fascinated artists and intellectuals. The photograph above and many others including work by contemporary artists were included in the 2013 exhibition at the Photographers' Gallery, London, titled:   Shoot! Existential Photography.

 


Early 3D Photo Statuettes: Photograph, Doll & Sculpture February 16 2015, 0 Comments

 
Collection of Barbara Levine / projectb.com

I collect vernacular photography including photographic objects and vintage photo statuettes. An American invention from the Depression era, a photo statuette (also known as a “humanette”) was a lifelike figurine made from a photograph laminated onto a wooden cut-out and coated with a durable finish. Often the maker would hand color the photograph for an even more lifelike appearance.





Advertised in magazines like “Popular Mechanics” as a way to transform an ordinary snapshot into an “immortal” keepsake, these oddities are somewhere between a photo, a doll and sculpture.

Photo statuettes in many ways are the miniature cousins of life size cardboard cutouts—the kind found in American amusement parks depicting movie stars, next to which one poses as if to say, “look who I know!” Like so much photographica, these statuettes seek to transport the personal photograph from the limited sphere of private memory into a world of public display and exchange, invoking the vocabulary of advertising more than portraiture.


Collection of Barbara Levine / projectb.com



Seven Mario Lanza photo statuettes, 1941- 1950. Collection of Barbara Levine / projectb.com

Photographic accuracy and sculptural approximation can result in a very odd combination—at once lifelike and creepily lifeless. But this hasn’t stopped inventors from continuing to experiment with the form: hi-res digital photos can now be mapped onto computer-generated wireframes and sent to 3-D printers to produce lifelike photo-sculptures. It remains to be seen if these 21st century souvenir mannequins manage to solve (or exacerbate) the unsettling qualities of the genre.

Questions? email me blevine@projectb.com.


Press Photo: Woman Smokes Cigarette Through New Rubber Mattress January 04 2015, 0 Comments

A found vintage press photograph from 1947 shows a woman blowing cigarette smoke through a foam mattress. On the back, the story accompanying the photo for newspaper publication reads:

"Porous
You wouldn't try this with your mother's waffles, but model (undecipherable) Davis, blows smoke through a new foam rubber mattress to illustrate how the interconnecting air cells provide ventilation"

Can you imagine seeing this photograph in a newspaper now (and wasn't there a better way to illustrate ventilation)? Sometimes press photos raise more questions than they answer!

 

 

 


Halloween Houdini Seance October 27 2014, 0 Comments


Collection of Barbara Levine / projectB.com

Harry Houdini, one of the most famous magicians of all time, was born in 1874 and died in Detroit on October 31, 1926. Due to his popularity, soon after his death the society of American Magicians proclaimed Halloween to also be Houdini Magic Day. This photograph taken in Detroit, in 1946, shows thirteen magicians holding a midnight seance in an attempt to contact Houdini's spirit.  Their seance was considered unsuccessful but still to this day amateur and professional magicians come together on Halloween to conjure the magical ghost of Harry Houdini.


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




Highlights from "SECONDHAND" at Pier 24 September 09 2014, 0 Comments

SECONDHAND is the new exhibition at Pier 24 in San Francisco, California. It features vernacular photography collections and the work of artists who collect found photographs to "construct, edit and sequence in order to create something entirely new". The exhibition is a snapshot of how collectors and artists are discovering, displaying and using vernacular photography in exciting innovative ways to broaden the understanding of the medium and its impact on our lives.

The exhibition has many layers and I snapped a lot of photos on my iphone to document it (one of the great things about Pier 24 is that you are allowed to take photos in the exhibition). Below is Part I of highlights from the exhibition:


Views of Erik Kessels' in almost every picture




Views of installation Album Beauty by Erik Kessels




Detail, Archive of Modern Conflict, Collected Shadows


Joachim Schmid, Portrait Press Photographs


Embroidered Photographs by Maurizio Anzeri


Highlights Part II from my visit to the exhibition SECONDHAND,  coming soon!
Exhibition is on view at Pier 24 from August 4, 2014 - May 31, 2015


Mexican Fotoescultura (Photo Sculpture) August 29 2014, 0 Comments

Maker Unknown. Fotoescultura, wood carving with hand painted photograph, c.1950. 11 3/4" h x 11 1/4" w x 3"
AvailableSOLD/

In Mexico, in the 1930s, the three-dimensional effigy and the memorial photograph melded into the potent form known as a fotoescultura  - literally, "photos sculpture". Artisans began carving three-dimensional wooden cutouts based on a studio photograph (usually procured by a traveling salesman). After carving and painting the wooden bust and adhering the photograph to it, the artisan would add hand-tinting and embellishments such as jewelry and costuming to create a startling likeness. As photography  historian Geoffrey Batchen observes, "while the photograph usually speaks to us of the past..fotosculturas speaks of eternal life...the fully dimensioned presence of the present."

 


The Carlson Sisters-1146 Pounds of Fun and Trouble! August 23 2014, 0 Comments

Rare 1927 circus photograph  of  the CARLSON SISTERS know as the "FAT BOXING TWINS", (an act consisting of 1146 pounds of fun & trouble) and Clarence Chesterfield Howerton know as "MAJOR MITE" behind the scenes at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Combined Show.

Photo Collection of Barbara Levine / projectB.com. Want to see more circus sideshow stars?


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


Saying Goodbye to My Fotoescultura Guy April 11 2014, 2 Comments

I cannot be in New York City for all the Spring photos shows but my guy, my faithful fotoescultura (whom I affectionately call Pablo) is there. Fotoesculturas were made primarily in Mexico beginning in the 1920s and are highly personal and devotional folk photo sculptures. They were often commissioned by traveling salesmen to commemorate events, memorialize the dead or honor individuals. They were displayed in the home, not unusual to see them on top of televisions and on shelves with other family keepsakes. I've owned this beautiful c.1950s fotoescultura for several years and it has had pride of place in my home. Now, I am looking at him as Lot #128 in the catalogue for the upcoming auction, The Vernacular Eye: Photographic Albums, Snapshots & Objects at Swann Galleries in New York on April 17th. I will miss my Pablo and I hope he finds a good home (he is fabulous!). If anyone sees him at the Swann Gallery auction snap a picture for me!


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



Get it now! $25 + free shipping!

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

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Houston We’ve Landed! February 18 2014, 0 Comments


Unidentified Photographer, c.1970.

HOUSTON WE'VE LANDED!

We are thrilled to announce our multi-part exhibition and publication, Camera Era: Freeze Frames From A World Long Gone, will debut during the 2014 FotoFest Biennial. The festival is one of the largest photographic exhibitions in the world and our exhibit will be on view starting March 19th thru the end of May.

CAMERA ERA immerses the viewer in domestic photographs made by unidentified photographers during a time when nearly every home had a camera with film in it. The images are all from the PROJECT B Collection of vintage vernacular photographs. Along with original snapshots, we are recasting many of the images as large format prints. We are also excited to announce that the publication, CAMERA ERA, is a collaboration with San Francisco graphic designer, Martin Venezky (of Wes Anderson book fame).

We are now in residence here in Houston preparing the project and getting to know this spirited city! If you are in Houston  join us on March 19th at The Raven Grill and in late March and April at The Cherryhurst House (dates tba) for part two of the exhibition and book launch.

Stay tuned for more details about The Cherryhurst House and the exhibition, CAMERA ERA: Freeze Frames From A World Long Gone.
We are excited! 

 


Where Should I Put My New Print? January 16 2014, 0 Comments


Reagan considers putting 'Koo Koo The Bird Girl' in his foyer

Our friends, Reagan Morris and Michael Fitzgerald, creators of the wickedly funny Clayboys products, love art and design and together have created a gorgeous home. Everywhere you look are mesmerizing displays reflecting Reagan's interests in collecting unusual objects.

We were flattered when they said they loved our "Sideshow Stars" and "Anatomy Lessons" Print Collections. Together we played around with putting their favorite prints in different places throughout their house. The prints immediately fit in and made themselves right at home!


Or maybe instead, one of the "Anatomy Lessons" prints - which do you like better?


Reagan loves antique bottles and  "Anatomy Lesson 1" looks great with this display in Guest Bathroom.



Reagan contemplates putting Koo Koo The Bird Girl in the Living Room

 
Michael and Reagan bond over the the print "Anatomy Lesson 4".

Changing and rearranging the art your walls is fun and will show off your creative talents! Enliven your walls today!

Questions? email me: blevine@projectb.com.
All photographs by Barbara Levine for PROJECTB.COM


Passport Photos of Famous Authors January 12 2014, 0 Comments

 

As a collector and artist, I am fascinated by vintage documents and identification photographs. These vintage passports once belonging to authors Virginia Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, F.Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce are poignant and dramatic especially when we look at them now. They seem like floating pieces of a story frozen in time. 



Do you keep your expired passports or old id photos?

Questions? email me: blevine@projectb.com


1939 Snow Cone Face Mask! January 04 2014, 0 Comments


A photograph, c.1939, of women wearing the 'Snow Cone Mask'. Invented in Canada, the mask was a plastic cone designed to protect faces from the ravages of icy winter snowstorms. With the below freezing temperatures maybe you want to try it?! On the other hand, if these women had wings they could have migrated south for the winter instead!

Stay Warm!


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

 


6 Nude Male Photos are More Art than Science November 06 2013, 0 Comments


from The Anatomy Lessons Collection on projectB.com

A 19th-century photographic invention commonly used for educational purposes comes alive today in this exceedingly rare group of images made from glass lantern slides. The slides, made around 1880, were probably used in medical schools to demonstrate muscle groups and other aspects of male anatomy. Today, the photographs strike us as unusual nude studies, more art than science.  Limited edition prints of these beautiful images are available exclusively at PROJECT B.

all images from The Anatomy Lessons Collection on projectB.com
Limited edition prints of these beautiful images are available exclusively at PROJECT B.


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!