Vintage photographs are some of the most unique types of collectibles you can add to your antique collection. Many years ago, I had a significant other who was a photographer. He specialized in printing photographs using vintage pre-World-War-I methods, making albumens, Van Dykes and cyanotypes. He also taught classes and lectured about vintage photography.
One of the things that he emphasized during his classes and lectures was to make sure that people label their family photographs with names, dates and even the photographer, if the photographer was not a professional, so that family memories can be passed from generation to generation.
As an antique dealer, I am always in search of interesting vintage photos. Vintage photographs can be a pretty good seller, depending on the image. When I consider vintage photographs, I consider the printing process that was used to create the image, the condition of the image and the subject of the image.
Vintage photographs of people in uniforms or of minorities tend to sell well. On the macabre side, photos of people with wounds or people who are dead can sell even better. However, there are collectors of just about anything who might buy a vintage photo if the image is of, say, a zebra, and they collect zebras.
Why bring up zebras?
We have an amazing collection of vintage magic lantern slides, taken somewhere between 1890 and 1910, of a trip through Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Magic lantern slides are photographic positives on glass plates that were predecessors to slides used in slide projectors.
Included in the collection of vintage magic lantern slides were images of dead zebras. I thought interest in these slides would be more focused on the African porters standing next to the zebras rather than on the zebras themselves, particularly since said zebras were dead.
Who would have guessed?
A zebra collector snatched up three of the vintage magic lantern slides.
The magic lantern slides that we currently are selling included the names of the places that the travelers visited, including a house where Teddy Roosevelt lunched. However, the names of most of the people were not included.
Is this why these magic lantern slides lost their family?
I just cannot imagine giving up these beautiful slices of history to someone not connected with the slides.
So, regardless of the form an image takes, eventually your photographs will become "vintage." And, if no one in your family remembers the name or names of the people in your image, the photograph is likely to be considered useless down the line.
It makes me very sad to see photographs that have lost their families.
Don't let this happen to your heritage. Write down the names and a little description of the situation in your image and keep the information with your photographs. Your present will much more likely be carried long into the future if you do this.
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