The Value of a Photograph

img054I don’t frequent Ebay that much. But I did sneak a peek over there when I was trying to track down a copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Kháyyám, with photogravures by Adelaide Hanscom. I successfully tracked one down (rather circuitously obtaining an intact copy). As I was poking around I came across a cache of vintage photographs. Snapshots, studio pictures, mostly of children. From the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

My winning bid for 140 photographs was $89.07. That works out at about 63 cents a picture.

When I received the package a few days later there was a variety images, including some tintypes from before the turn of the century. Many of the images were in individual presentation folders stamped with the name of the studio where they were taken. 

I looked through the images, many of them well-printed silver gelatin, of children and teenagers, young adults. And wondered how all the pictures ended up together? They came from all over the country. What I find totally fascinating here is what time has filtered to remain today of this ephemera. And I do muse that the explosion of color photography in the 50’s/60’s made some more recent images more fleeting as the dyes were less archival than the gem-like silver prints I held in my hands.

Several artists use found images in their work. Two come to mind. One is Gaye Chan, an artist in Hawaii who reprints and recasts found images into new configurations. Another artist is Maggie Taylor. Her images to illustrate a new edition of Alice in Wonderland, published by Modernbook Gallery is compelling. Compositing images from the late 1800’s to produce dreamlike paintings and imaginations.

Perhaps I will find a use for these images in my work in the future. Now, I just wonder what their stories were, and how their lives played out.

One Comment

  1. Lou
    Posted Monday, May 18, 2009 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    In the news house I moved into recently, there was a bunch of such photographs (maybe around 1920’s). I also like the look of them. They are a true manifestation of time going by, they have indeed something special. One could exhibit them. Maybe I’ll frame one of them and hang it, that will be the patrons of the house.


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