Antiques PR Publicity Announcements News and Information
Antiques PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Largest & Most Diverse Portrait Collection Ever Assembled is Offered For Sale

SILVER SPRING, MD – What is believed to be the largest and most topically diverse photographic portrait collection ever assembled, is now being offered for sale. Although restricted to a single photographic format, this archive includes over 8,500 individual photographs (samples below) and encompasses nearly 500 categories or topics. Categories include conventional portraits, in categories such as Weddings: Couples, as well as environmental portraits, such as Autos: Children and occupational portraits, as in Business: Banking. A few examples can be seen at:

This archive primarily covers the period 1905-1920, primarily US, and was assembled over a 35-year period by Brian Smolens. This archive is generally considered vernacular photography, although many of the images are of professional quality. Many of the photographers are identified, although unknown to photography collectors. It was partially inspired by the work of August Sander, and intended to be a comprehensive view of early 20th century American people and culture.

The archive is composed solely of real photo postcards, a specific photographic format from the early 20th century. Although the more widely known picture postcards were printed mass-market items, the real photo postcards comprising the archive are individually developed photographs. Many were unique prints originally and most of the remainder are generally the only surviving copies.

Interestingly, Sotheby’s had offered to auction the archive, when it was far smaller than its current size. However, they had to withdraw when it became evident that their security procedures made handling an archive of this magnitude impractical.

Although there are a few highly sophisticated collectors of real photo postcards, such as cosmetics executive Leonard Lauder, most photography dealers and collectors remain unaware of the significance of this photographic format. One of the truly great real photo postcard collections to be created was assembled by Andreas Brown, noted New York bookseller and author of Prairie Fires and Paper Moons: The American Photographic Postcard, 1900-1920. Much of this collection was subsequently sold to The J. Paul Getty Museum, but is not believed to be publicly exhibited.

Note that in addition to the five representative images shown on the Web site (3 shown below), there are an additional 30 images available for editorial purposes. These are available in high-res format for publication.

About Vintage Images:
Vintage Images has published and distributed postcards, greeting cards and other products since the mid-1980’s. The archive was started in support of this endeavor, but subsequently transcended its original purpose.

Brian Smolens
Vintage Images

About Vintage Images

Vintage Images is an image marketing company. For further information, please contact us at (301) 879-6522.