Collecting Real Photo Postcards by Barbara Levine


It is hard to resist the charm, authenticity and one-of-a kind appeal of real photo postcards (rppcs). Significantly different than a snapshot which was predominantly private in nature, rppcs were intended as a form of communication with others and it was not unusual for friends and loved ones to send amusing and sometimes bizarre images to each other. Amateurs and professional photographers alike made rppcs covering subjects ranging from the outlandish to landscape to souvenir studio portraits to historical events. Photo postcards appeared soon after George Eastman invented the roll film process and the Brownie camera in 1900. Around that time Kodak purchased the rights to Velox photo paper and heavily marketed the easy to use developing out paper, which was on heavy stock to prevent curling and came with a pre printed postcard back. In 1903 Eastman introduced the No. 3A Folding Pocket Kodak. The camera, designed for postcard-size film, allowed the general public to take photographs and have them printed on postcard backs. Rppcs continued in popularity until the 1930s when other photographic processes became more readily available.

From artists who use the postcard as canvas and exchange their art in mail art groups to serious postcard and photograph collectors, the personal, authentic and idiosyncratic nature of rppcs has always captured the interest and curiosity of artists and collectors.  Martin Parr's book , Parrworld , includes a selection of wild and beautiful rppcs Parr collected over a thirty year period and in 2009, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibition, Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard, focused on the 9,000 picture postcards collection Evans amassed during his lifetime (1903-1975) . 

 

 

 

All photographs from the Collection of Barbara Levine / PROJECT B