baia Instamount Photo Cube

I’m a sucker for 1950s color advertising photography, with its over-saturated colors and idyllic subjects and scenery. The packaging for the baia Instamount Photo Cube was no let down in this respect. Looking like scenes from bygone family-oriented TV shows the sides of this box, which held a once ubiquitous acrylic photo cube, wreak of family values and WASPy middle American life. The eye-catcher for me, though, was the simple 3-color baia logo set in a bold, slightly extended version of Clarendon. It feels rather modern for such a classic and commonly used typeface perhaps due to the even/odd interplay of the flipped words’ alternating characters. I owned a baia 8mm film editor some time ago and never paid much mind to the faded, black logo on it. I’d surely have kept the thing if the logo had appeared like this.

Bell Records Pocket Books 45 RPM Records

bell-records-pocket-books-covers-tequilaBehold this recently acquired stash of Bell Records 45 RPM and 78 RPM 7-inch vinyl records, which were distributed by Pocket Books and featured cover versions or “sound-alike” versions of popular tunes of the time. Sound-alike versions were cheap to produce and, beyond the flat rate the musicians were paid, cost the record company only publishing royalties on top of manufacturing and distribution. A nickel and dime game perhaps, but there was certainly profit to be made if enough unsuspecting customers bought the sound-alikes instead of the real McCoys.  Some of the songs featured in this collection are Jackie Wilson’s That’s Why, here performed by otherwise-lost-to-history act, “The Muses” and the Kingston Trio’s hit, Tom Dooley, performed by the equally anonymous “The Four Dreams.” [Read more…]

Vernacular Typography – a website, blog and film

newarkFellow type-obsessed collector, Molly Woodward, has embarked far beyond the shores of this occasional blogger’s endeavors with her website, blog and Kickstarter-funded film project, all appropriately titled “Vernacular Typography.” Visitors of my Hand-painted & Hand-made Signs exhibit may see some overlap, possibly in one or two sign photos, but definitely in a related passion for the often overlooked typographic relics scattered throughout cities as exotic as Havana, Florence and Newark. Her film has been successfully funded and I can’t wait to see what comes of it. While future generations may not have the real artifacts to admire and study, there will surely be sufficient digital archives thanks to the tireless efforts of folks like Molly. Cheers!

Bobo the Clown & Boy via These Americans

Bobo the ClownThe tagline for the These Americans website is “American Art, History and Culture Through Pictures” and, while this image of “Bobo the Clown and Boy (1951)” portrays the selflessness and compassion that embodies the American spirit, the website does tend to highlight some of the more colorful aspects of the Home of the Brave. Take, for example, their gruesome collection entitled “American Lynching” that contains photos featuring crowds of smiling white folks (including children) squeezing into frame around bare-chested black men tied, hung by their necks and often burned. [Read more…]

Abandoned Yugoslavia Monuments

yugo-monumentI stumbled upon this blog post containing some remarkable photographs of cold war era monuments that seem right out of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie. My favorite is this one located on a hilltop in Podgarić, Croatia and also immortalized on this Yugoslavian postage stamp. From what I can dig up it appears to be a WWII memorial made of concrete and aluminum and was possibly erected in 1967. I remember seeing some similarly powerful Soviet-era monuments while travelling in Vietnam, but none as striking as these. What’s probably most eerie about them to me are the photographs themselves. The monuments certainly don’t seem contemporary, but instead rather futuristic and they appear more like relics of a lost civilization situated in uninhabited landscapes much like Inca and Mayan monuments must have looked to early bushwhackers. Days of Future Passed!

Vanishing Austin

Has that beautifully beat-up old sign you’ve driven past for years suddenly disappeared with a cold, glass and steel tower rising in its place? Obviously, if you’re here at you’re not alone. But if you’re also in Austin, TX then you’ve got a last chance to see some of those lost treasures and can even help save future vanishings. Vanishing Austin is a website dedicated to, well, basically what the name says. More specifically website owner Jann Alexander’s photographs of “Austin in transition contrast the often-contradictory beauty of the old juxtaposed against the new.” As an archivist myself of beautiful things lost to “progress” I can only stand on my chair and applaud such efforts. Ms. Alexander has also recently unveiled a new poster featuring Austin’s “Endangered Species,” available on her website. Good stuff!

Polaroid Prints – Only $18 a Piece!

polaroidWell, if you were one of the lucky idiots who paid $180 bucks (plus shipping) for the “Special Edition Polaroid One 600 Classic Camera & 779 Premium Film” package that Urban Outfitters  was recently peddling then I hope you made every “say cheese” count. With only 10 prints per pack, as has always been the case, the Special Edition package pumped you for at minimum $18 buck a snap–thus quite possibly eliminating the joy and spontaneity that made Polaroid the camera of choice for party-goers and crap-shoot photographers alike. Anyone who has swung by their local thrift store, even if only to drop off that bag of last year’s clothes, has to have noticed the piles of perfectly good Polaroid 600 series cameras growing in the electronics section. I once picked up an SX-70 Land camera (think Warhol) for $3 bucks at a thrift store. Perhaps unbeknownst to their previous owners, film for these cameras does still exist–though mostly remainder stocks on eBay and You can even find new “crack and peel” type film being made for those vintage bellowed 540/720 series cameras if you search online. A three dollar camera sure puts me back in joy and spontaneity mode.

Do You Know What it Means?

Do you? I’m not sure you do, unless of course you start browsing the many family photos in this online memory project. hopes to avoid the type of catastrophic loss of visual history as which happened with the floodwaters of Katrina. Many photos seem to have survived a hurricane or flood or two, which would not be beyond the realm of possibilities for residents of New Orleans who seem to suffer a major “natural” disaster every generation or so. The snapshots instantly bring me back to my childhood. I have fond memories of “hurricane parties,” where several families on a street would convene to one house with the kids all running around the back yard and the dads setting up a giant cauldron atop a propane stove to boil crawfish, crabs and shrimp. Once the rains and heavy winds began the party would move indoors where the moms played Bourré under hurricane lamps, the men tweaked their transistor radios and the kids pulled out their Nash Roberts hurricane tracking maps waiting for the inevitable eye to come…