Sunday, July 1, 2012

Own a Piece of the Past

I've always harbored a design fantasy of covering a wall "salon style" with lots of interesting old black-and-white photographs. Unfortunately, most of the limited editions I drool over in art galleries and designer showrooms are beyond my budget and so my dream has remained unfulfilled.

Until now.

Recently I stumbled upon the most amazing website for vintage photographs and it's kind of changed my life and I swear I'm not even kidding. 

Look at this photo of Liz and Dick on their yacht in Sardinia in 1967. Was there ever a more glamorous couple? What would you say if I told you that I bought this original, one-of-a-kind photo (as in once it's gone, it's gone forever) for under $30? 

(P.S. All watermarks are from the website images. These marks DO NOT appear on the actual photos.)
(Collection of LBG. )

Here's the reverse side.  You can see the editorial comments, date stamp and the clipping of the article it appeared in. It's a fascinating little piece of history.

If you're wondering why all these photos are being made available to the public, here's the short answer: as newspapers finish digitizing all of their photo archives, they just don't have the room -- or the money  -- to keep storing the originals in huge temperature-controlled warehouses across the country anymore. (We're talking hundreds of thousands of images, by the way.) It's sad that these enormous collections are getting split up, but in a way, the newspapers are handing over the privilege of being custodians of the past to all of us. I don't know about you, but I'm honored.

Let's keep going. I want to show you some more examples of the kinds of photos you can find on the Tribune Archives. Here's Edith Sitwell, English poet and seriously fabulous eccentric. Of course I had to buy it. What more powerful example is there that glamour has no sell-by date?
(Collection of LBG.)

Here's Winston Churchill painting in the South of France. I love Winston. He is a total inspiration to me. As Boris Johnson said recently about him on NPR (HERE): "He was biblical. For anybody who's ever got drunk and regretted it in the morning, Churchill is a lodestar." 
(Collection of LBG.)

I searched "Charles Dickens" and found this incredible 1932 photo of a troupe of actors performing The Old Curiosity Shop on the anniversary of his birthday. 
 (Collection of LBG.)

I searched "London weather" and found this haunting photo of riders in the fog in Hyde Park in 1937...
 (Collection of LBG.)

...and this one of London girls camouflaging their smog masks with chiffon veils for a night on the town in 1953.
(Collection of LBG.)

And THEN...there's those crazy kids the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. I admit to being fascinated with them and not because I hold them in high regard or find them especially sympathetic. He was weak, she was ambitious. They had a great romance that turned into a great tragedy.

But oh, the stories that their photos tell. To me, the ones with editors' crop marks are especially interesting because of what they say about the Windsor's fluctuating social status over time. In the beginning of their relationship, it's usually the Duke who is highlighted for publication. People were captivated by the king who gave up his throne for love.
 (Collection of LBG.)

(Collection of LBG.)

But as time goes on, the balance of power shifts. Now it's Wallis who the general public can't seem to get enough of. And the Duke? He's not very subtly crossed out.
(Collection of LBG.)

(Collection of LBG.)

(Collection of LBG.)

Unless he happens to be wearing a killer pair of shades.
(Collection of LBG.)

(All photos were purchased via the Chicago Tribune Photo Archive.)


One Very Important Thing to Know About Purchasing an Archival Newspaper Photo:

When you buy a photo, you own it as a collectors' item. The copyright is retained by the newspaper who issued it. As it says on the website, "No rights for reproduction or commercial use in any form whatsoever are given or implied." In other words, don't be making copies or silkscreening it on a tote bag.


Tavarua said...

Brilliant post as always...

Moving on to another continent...for a new "Travellers Nest"

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Love the horses in the fog, especially.

Slim Paley said...

how fabulous Lisa! thanks for sharing
I'm practically hyper-ventilating with excitement, but slightly horrified to have found yet another site to keep me at my desk.
Must...step...away...from... computer...

Jessica Thor-Miller said...

How do you do what you do so well? This is incredible. I fear you've already snatched the Churchill photos - we're a bit obsessed here too. In fact, if I could have my way, I'd name one of our future daughters Clementine.


Lily said...

Hurray!! Another escape to the glamorous black & white past via your infallible sleuthing, what a find!
And I love how you always share the good stuff... Thank you!
xx Lily

The Ancient said...

The New York Public Library also sells high-resolution digital copies of photographs in its collection.

So there's an inexpensive way of getting a high-quality copy of an old photograph without spending $10,000 (or more) for an original print. Properly framed, it can be almost impossible to distinguish from "the real thing."

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to seeing how you arrange these on the wall - great photos.

Emily said...

This is the best thing I have learned in a long time!! My head is swirling with gift possibilities.

And, I hope you and your readers will check out my one of kind King Edward VIII coronation pin necklace in my shop It is a must have for Windsor fans!

shiree segerstrom said...

Lisa, what a find! Thank you for sharing this incredible information. Wish I had a place to hang a wall full. Shiree'

Serenknitity said...

I love your blog, and get so excited when I see a new post. You seem to find things that I didn't even realise I was quite as interested in as I seem to find myself when I read them here.

Have you read 'That Woman', by Anne Sebba? It's a biography of Wallis Simpson, and contains letters which were in somebody's attic for years (the author doesn't reveal her sources). It's a brilliant read, even though I don't usually do non-fiction. And there are photos!

Unknown said...

How amazing! What a truly great find. And thanks for sharing some of your purchases. I agree it is sad that all of them are being sold. I hope they will be cherished by all those who purchase them. I know you will.

noreen said...

i'd love one of Maria Montessori. Now I know to go and look. Thanks, Lisa!

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Can't wait to see where you're going next! xx

Pamela Terry and Edward:
There are lots more fabulous images available. xx

Slim Paley:
I knew you'd like them! xxx

Modern Traditionalist:
Lots of Churchill photos left...and more being added all the time. xxx

Hoped you would like it as well! xx

The Ancient:
Excellent tip, thank you for sharing. xx

kathy peck:
will let you know. :) xx

Your coronation necklace sounds fabulous!

shiree sigerstrom:
just buy one. :) xx

The book sounds GREAT -- thank you. xx

Melissa Kojima:
I'm afraid it's turning into rather a dangerous passion! xx

Fingers crossed for you! xx

P. M. Doolan said...

That is an amazing discovery. Thanks for the link. I've just ordered a photo of Leonard Bernstein.

debbie bailey said...

Amazing! I'm going to go look right now and see what I can find. Thanks for letting us know about them. The one you bought of the Burtons is great!

Pigtown*Design said...

UGh. there was a huge auction here in Baltimore of a massive collection of one of their award-winning photographers' images from about a 40 year span. I can't help but notice that a lot of the DoW images are marked Baltimore Sun... she was from here. It's all so sad to see.

Melissa Powar said...

...and there went another hour. Or two. And perhaps an image of Winnie tossing his hat in the air (presumably in celebration of VE day?), Liz with Burton completely crossed out of the image, and an old cowboy circa 1933 scribbled all over with editorial opinions. Another great idea, Lisa.

24 Corners said...

Oh dear...what a dangerously wonderful resource to know about!
xo J~

Terra said...

Oh Lisa, I got goosebumps seeing your selections; I have taste along your lines. The horseriders in the fog, Taylor and Burton, The Duke and Duchess, et al., wonderful touches of history. You found a treasure trove.

Amy joe said...

Really,Its so valuable to me.Thank you for this precious post.

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