Collecting 20th century photographs
Collecting photographs is a most rewarding hobby with an infinite variety of subject matter and style. On our website you will find interesting and historical images from around the world that you can add to any collection. It does not matter if you are a beginning collector or have accumulated thousands of photographs, there is something for you. This is a hobby that anyone can get into and enjoy.
The aesthetic considerations of an image far outweigh the cost and value of an item. When purchasing a photograph it is important to select something that “speaks to you.” Prices of photographs can range from a few dollars to millions. Our website 20thcenturyphotographs.com makes collecting 20th century photographs an affordable hobby that you can build on, one image at a time. You will find hundreds of photographs from $75 – $150 and most less than $500.
Many of the images you see here are from unknown photographers, both amateur and professional. These men and women saw the world through their camera lens. Their perspective varies often, to the delight of the person viewing the final image.
We are fortunate that in the 20th century the process of photography allows us to see decades of old photographs that appear as if they were taken yesterday.
During the last twenty years many museums have exhibited vernacular photography and found photographs, which by virtue of their randomness has made collecting everyday images one of the most popular hobbies in the world today.
What should I collect?
Only collect works that you love, those photographs that connect to you. If you choose to specialize in one collecting area, keep an open mind and take a look at things out of you sphere. You never know what might be appealing or that you never knew existed. The bottom line is to have fun collecting.
We hope that you enjoy our website. All items are offered for sale on a first come, first serve basis. Your satisfaction is our goal. If you are not completely happy with any purchase, we will give a full refund.
If there is anything that you want that you have not found on our website, please let us know and we will try and find it. We will keep your inquiry for a year and offer anything that fits your criteria.
Autochromes and Early Color Processes
The first color photographic process was patented by the two Lumiere Brothers of France in 1903. They were commercially marketed in 1907. The process uses a glass plate coated on one side with a random mosaic of microscopic grains of potato starch. These grains are dyed red-orange, green, and blue-violet and act as color filters. Fine carbon particles (lampblack) fill the minute spaces between grains.
Unlike ordinary dry-plate black-and-white plates, the Autochrome had to be loaded into the camera with the coated glass side facing the lens, allowing the light to pass through the mosaic filter layer before reaching the emulsion. An additional orange-yellow filter was required on the camera lens to block ultraviolet light as the emulsion was overly sensitive to this end of the spectrum. Autochrome plates required longer exposures than black-and-white plates. An autochrome was reversal-processed into a positive transparency.
Color values in autochromes can be very good, but vary with the expertise of the photographer. The starch grains give a pointillist effect. The resulting impressionist quality made this a very popular photographic medium years after more realistic color processes became available.
The National Geographic Society made extensive use of Autochromes and other mosaic color screen plates for over twenty years. These are preserved in the Society’s archives.
The Lumiere Brothers are also well-known for their early cinematic photography.
Dufaycolor was another French invention by Louis Dufay and patented in 1908. It is an early additive color photographic film for still photography (later used in motion pictures), and is based on a four-color screen photographic process. Dufaycolor worked on the same principles as the Autochrome process, but achieved its result using a slightly different method.
By 1912 color photography had been in use for several years. In the United Kingdom G. S. Whitfield patented his Paget process in 1912. This was an color photographic process that consisted of two glass plates, one that was the color screen plate and the second that was a standard black-and-white negative plate. The color screen plate was made up of a series of red, green and blue filters in a regular pattern of lines to form a matrix.
The process allowed photographers to purchase the color screen plate as a separate item to the panchromatic negatives, giving them the choice of when they preferred to use color for their photograph. In addition, the color screen plate could be used to expose many negatives in succession. Transparency (positives) could be made from the panchromatic negatives by contact printing, which in turn could be viewed in color using the screen in the same way as had been used for the original exposure. Unlike the autochrome, multiple copies could be printed from each negative. Sadly Paget color rarely had the rich colors associated with the autochrome. Paget went out of business in 1920.
eth•nog•ra•phy – a branch of anthropology dealing with the scientific description of individual cultures.
During the 19th century and early 20th century photographers traveled the world to capture images of exotic lands and diverse people. The new medium of photography gave these adventurers the opportunity to bring back to their own lands, images that were indescribable unless you had something to show for it. Photography provided that opportunity. This replaced written descriptions and sketches with the truthful and unbiased eye of the camera.
In this area of photography it is possible to see how individual cultures looked and lived. By studying these images we have a better knowledge of the journey taken over thousands of years, and how for some, nothing had really changed over the millennia.
It was a great challenge to obtain many of these photographs. The photographers had to approach an often, hostile group of people who had no understanding of the camera, or the ethnicity of the man behind it. Convincing the sitter that there was no danger or to keep perfectly still was often problematic. Payment of some kind may have helped. This unfamiliar person talking in a strange tongue did little to help allay the fears of the subject. Indeed there are stories of photographers who traveled to a remote location, never to be heard of again.
There are other stories of photographers who literally purchased the subject for a few coins and after producing the image abandoned them.
If it were not for these pioneering photographers we would have no idea how the people of the world looked over the last hundred years or more. Today we have nations of many ethnic backgrounds, but in simpler times years ago, all of these peoples had their own ethnic identities.
These images are as fascinating today as they were decades ago, seeing the diverse cultures in their dress, tools, weapons, food and environment.
Ewing Galloway Archive
The Ewing Galloway Agency in New York City was principally a stock photograph agency handling thousands of photographs in the 1920s through 1950s.
Ewing Galloway worked for the world-renowned photographic firm of Underwood and Underwood. In 1920 he opened his own photographic agency at 218 East 28th Street. His very small initial stock was purchased from a travelling lecturer. In 1925 he was able to purchase 8000 photographs of Africa and Asia, which boosted his ability to offer a greater range of subjects to publishers.
Three years later in 1928, he moved his agency to the new Graybar Building at 420 Lexington Avenue. As his agency grew in stature Galloway opened offices in in other U.S. cities as well as London, Berlin and Amsterdam. The agency specialized in general subjects and not news photographs.
By the time of Galloway’s death in 1953, the agency had acquired and managed in excess of 400,000 photographic negatives on every subject.
All of the Ewing Galloway photographs for sale here bear the ‘Ewing Galloway’ stamp. The many photographers who took the photographs are not known due to credit given only to Ewing Galloway.
It is still possible to license Ewing Galloway images, but this is a rare opportunity to purchase originals produced by the agency in its early years.
Pictorialism was a photographic movement in vogue from around 1885 following the widespread introduction of the dry-plate process. It reached its height in the early years of the 20th century. Pictorialism largely subscribed to the idea that art photography needed to emulate the painting and etching of the time. Among the methods used were soft focus, special filters and lens coatings, heavy manipulation in the darkroom, and exotic printing processes. From 1898 rough-surface printing papers were added to the repertoire, to further break up a picture’s sharpness. Some artists “etched” the surface of their prints using fine needles. The aim of such techniques was to achieve what the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica termed, in discussing Pictorialism, “personal artistic expression”.
It is interesting to see how pictorialism developed in this period. Photography in the nineteenth century brought a realism that did not exist before its invention. Not everyone liked this new reality and photographers, both amateur and professional became interested in changing the finished appearance of their images. A number of methods were used to produce texture and softness in the final print.
Vernacular photography is the creation of photographs of everyday life by unknown photographers, both professional and amateur. Vernacular photographs are types of accidental art, in that they often are unintentionally artistic.
The use of vernacular photography in the arts is almost as old as photography itself. Vernacular photography has become far more commonplace in recent years as an art technique and is now a widely accepted genre of art photography. This form of photography began to develop in the early part of the twentieth century. Vernacular photographs have become popular with many art collectors. Museum curators have begun to exhibit vernacular photography on a regular basis.
The subject matter is wide and varied, perfect for new and seasoned collectors.
The photogravure is a photo-mechanical process that was developed to produce a permanent method of reproducing photographic images. It was used to produce high quality art prints with rich sharp tones, reproducing the fine detail of the original. A photogravure looks much like a photograph but differs from the photograph when magnified. This magnification shows a series of connected lines rather than unconnected dots in a photograph. The process involves coating a copper plate with a light-sensitive layer of gelatin which is exposed to a film positive and etched. Photogravures have a broad range of tones due to the variable depth of the etching.
The French term for photogravure is héliogravure. These were produced with a minor variation using chemicals to make the metal printing plates. The photograph was reproduced on the copper or steel intaglio plates by photographic transfer using sunlight or artificial light.
Art in Photography 1905
By 1905 Charles Holme of The Studio produced and edited Art in Photography, showing selected examples of the best work done by leading photographic artists in Europe and America. In the preface Holme states: “A special effort has been made to ensure that the reproductions shall retain as much as possible of the quality of the original prints.”
Fine examples of pictorialist composition in photography by the great practitioners of the photographic art are among the photogravure section.
German born Karl Blossfeldt (1865 – 1932) was a photographer, artist and teacher teacher. He is well-renowned for his many close-up photographs of plants. In 1929 his book “Urformen der Kunst” became an overnight success. His highly magnified, close-up photographs made using a camera that he designed and made himself displayed the complexity and abstract shapes that had never been seen before. Blossfelt was fascinated by nature. He believed that “the plant must be valued as a totally artistic and architectural structure.”
Blossfeldt taught himself the true art in photography.
Die Kunst in der Photographie
Produced in Berlin, Germany between 1897 and 1908, Die Kunst in der Photographie was an artistic German photo magazine, published by amateur photographer Franz Goerke (1856-1931). Goerke was a prolific photographer and was one of the founders of the Freie Vereinigung Photographische (Free photographic Association). His goal was to popularize the aesthetics of photography as an art form. He organized a few photographic exhibitions but wanted a larger audience. In 1897 his first photo magazine was published and Die Kunst in der Photographie was born.
Using the photogravure process, Die Kunst in der Photographie reproduced high quality images that provided a platform of artistic photographers initially from Germany and Europe. This was a time when art photography was still in its infancy. The magazine soon attracted photographers from around the world. Many photographers who became internationally famous had their works shown.
Pictorialism featured in Die Kunst in der Photographie which was the vogue of artistic photography at that time. The magazine influenced the development of art photography after 1900.
Exposition International des Arts Decoratifs, Paris 1925
The Exposition International des Arts Decoratifs was held in Paris in 1925 represented the beginning of the Art Deco modern period. The exhibition was about style. Incorporating sleek streamline moderne, symmetric and geometric designs nothing like anything seen before. It was the look of the 1920s. Glass maker René Lalique designed a crystal tower fountain that became a focal point of the Exposition. The disciplines of the new Europe could be seen all over the Expo; Bauhaus, Cubism, Futurism and Russian Constructivism. displayed the new look The whole exhibition was about luxury products. Paris was showing that after the disastrous events of World War I they were still the foremost designers in the world.
In this section the heliogravures (photogravures) produced by René Herbst show the storefronts, showcase installations and stores of the exhibition.
Emil Otto Hoppé
Emil Otto Hoppé (1878 – 1972) was in born Munich, Germany. Although he trained and worked in the banking business, his passion for pictorial photography became his focus. After moving to London, he decided to become a full-time photographer and opened a studio in London. He was a highly successful, much sought-after portrait photographer. In addition he specialized in travel and topographic photography. Hoppé photographed many famous people of the period. Much traveled, he was active from 1907 to the end of World War II. Many of his photographs were used to illustrate books in both England and Germany. In this section you will see a number of his dark, moody images taken in Germany, that were produced during the years leading up to World War II, when German industrial expansion was at its height. These photogravures represent some of his finest work.
Many photographers photographed nudes. We have a number of photographers represented. Probably one of the most prolific of these is Stanislaus Walery.
Polish born Stanislaus Walery worked as a photographer in London during the early 1890s. In partnership with Alfred Ellis he photographed London society, including portraits of many well-known ballet and theatre performers. After the dissolution of the partnership, Walery moved to Paris in the early 1900s where he continued to photograph theatre performers and Paris society.
Walery produced many great images of the girls of the Follies Bergere, Moulin Rouge and Casino de Paris. We have a few that are hand-signed by him.
The art deco photogravures seen here were produced under the pseudonym Laryew, presumably so as not to upset his high-class clientele. These were produced by the Librairie des Arts Decoratifs. It is believed that the models were all Follies Bergere girls.
One of the most fascinating areas to collect is in the field of industrial photography. The relationship of Man to Machine is often portrayed with the machine dwarfing the man or woman. In this section the work of E. O. Hoppé is outstanding. His dark, foreboding pre-war industrial gravures seen here are moody and impart the coming clash looming in the not too distant future.
Salon International d’Art Photographie de Paris
Each year starting in 1894 the Photo-Club of Paris held their exhibition of photography Salon International d’Art Photographie de Paris, that drew the most influential photographers from Europe and to some extent from around the world.
This juried exhibition included the production of a catalog showing reproductions in heliogravure (photogravure). There are numerous individual examples in this section by well-known photographers of the time.