Friday, September 5, 2008

Real Photo Postcards - Portraits: The Brian Smolens Collection

[Boy on tricycle]
1905-1915 (ca)

Real photo postcard
Private collection of Brian Smolens


During this week I've been contacted by three private collectors with extraordinary material and over the coming weeks exhibitions will be appearing on Luminous-Lint. One of these collections has been amassed over the last 35 years by Brian Smolens and consists of over 8,500 American real photo postcard portraits. The real photo postcard in the USA was a specific photographic format that was popular from about 1905 until 1920. 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 the only surviving copies.

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 the Andreas Brown collection was subsequently sold to The J. Paul Getty Museum, but is not believed to be publicly exhibited.

Thanks to Brian for sharing some of his remarkable collection and in discussions I gather that he is interested in selling the entire archive. Given the scale and quality of the collection this is a rare opportunity for an institutional purchase.

There is an online exhibition on Luminous-Lint.

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