Books by Barbara Levine

Recent publications by Barbara Levine include Finding Frida Kahlo (2009, Princeton Architectural Press), and the first ever publications on early vernacular photograph albums. Around The World: The Grand Tour in Photo Albums (2007, PAP) and Snapshot Chronicles: Inventing the American Photo Album (2006, PAP). Her dexterity game collection was featured in the 2012 Games issue of Cabinet magazine. Watch for Barbara's forthcoming book on collecting and creativity.

Finding Frida Kahlo

Finding Frida Kahlo by Barbara Levine with Stephen Jaycox was featured in The New York Times, Art News, on BBC and National Public Radio. It was given a five star review in Publishers Weekly who wrote: "Independent curator Levine (Around the World) encountered a mysterious, important and long-hidden collection of more than 1,200 of what are reputed to be Frida Kahlo’s personal items in the back room of an antiques store in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Levine and Jaycox meticulously document the unpacking of the archive from five trunks, suitcases and boxes, and guide readers through the contents with reproductions of letters and diaries, and photos of Kahlo’s drawings and personal effects. Levine finds it all illuminating, not only regarding Kahlo but also “the universally human tendencies that the archive represents.”

Levine’s interview with the antiques store owners recounts their fascinating acquisition of the pieces while the “visual exploration” focuses on Kahlo’s impassioned love and hatred for her husband, Diego Rivera, whom she calls an “evil fat toad,” and her anxiety over her amputated leg, which manifests itself in her obsession with flight (“What do I want feet for/ If I have wings to fly”). This beautiful book poetically offers a fresh look at one of art’s iconic women, and though Kahlo is the protagonist of the project, Levine’s journey includes us all."

Around The World: The Grand Tour in Photo Albums

"Page after page of vintage photography and lettering, this is an astounding book like no other, drawing us back in time to a world before digital cameras and photography, when each journey and voyage was recorded by hand...I'm having so much fun looking at each page--this is armchair traveling at its best. "-- Fiveandahalf.net

Snapshots, passenger lists, itineraries, and postcards from San Francisco flapper Vera Talbot's Far East adventure. Chicagoan Clara E. Whitcomb's travel diary containing pages filled with souvenir photos, maps, and a list of titles for a future book about her travels in Egypt. These are only two of the narratives that unfold in the beautifully designed pages of Around the World. From Cairo to Burma and back again, authors Barbara Levine and Kirsten Jensen transport readers back to the dawn of world travel when, Brownie cameras in tow, the middle class toured the world for the first time and painstakingly documented their discoveries within scrapbooks, diary entries, and pasted-on souvenir postcards. 

Around the World traces the development of the travel photo album, from primarily narrative forms—ships' logs and diaries—into rich multimedia objects of sublime beauty. The book features a wealth of turn-of-the-twentieth-century photographs and ephemera such as passports, ship menus, calling cards, and newspaper clippings. Around the World evokes the pleasures of a time when the surroundings were taken in slowly and travel was an art in and of itself.

Snapshot Chronicles: Inventing The American Photo Album

"Curator and photo album collector Levine feels that whenever she opens an album she is "activating a story"—the annals of a family, the tale of middle-class striving, the story of Americans developing visual literacy and gaining fluency with photography's new idiom. Levine and fellow curator Snyder have produced far more than a catalogue to a San Francisco exhibition opening in April or a coffee-table book—they have made a beautiful, quirky history of photo albums." Publishers Weekly

Today, the photo album is something we practically take for granted, and "scrapbooking" is a billion dollar industry with its own television network. It was not always so. Before the camera, ordinary families had little more than the family Bible, a portrait of grandpa, and a drawer full of documents. Then Eastman Kodak introduced the Brownie, giving Americans the means to document and record their daily lives. Hundreds of thousands of these cameras were produced, and as a result small collections of photographs were assembled and preserved in an astonishing assortment of albums, with photographs as the raw material for collages, constructions, and text experiments. 

Snapshot Chronicles by Barbara Levine and Stephanie Snyder is a visual exploration of the creative outpouring made possible by the camera. Friends, family, travel, domestic life, special occasions, the workplace, farm and city life—these were all intermingled in early albums in surprising and dynamic forms. Men, women, and even children became the creators of their own visual biographies, and documenters of previously unprecedented aspects of American life.