Crate digging : The photo kind.

You’re at a flea/antique/street market and you walk by a box of old photos – a common sight, at least at the places I visit. Do you stop and dig through the box filled with hundreds of memories, or move on hoping something catches your eye a little easier. I normally walk on – but there are those that stay.

I came across Doug’s eBay page whilst on the usual search for vintage clothing, it was the clothes that brought me to him. It was here, when I went looking for what else he had on offer that I noticed listings for old photos – lots of them. It was plain to see that these were no ordinary old pictures, like the ones in the crates. These pictures had a certain narrative to them – friends fooling around in D.B. suits, family barbecues, race car meets etc. They look as if they were all shot by the same photographer – but this is not the case. Doug curates these photos, spending time scouring fayres, markets and boots sales in, more often than not, dusty photo boxes, in order to offer a look into the past through his eyes. A few months after coming across Doug’s profile, I decided to contact him to find out more about what he does.


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Where are you based?
I’m from Seattle, Washington originally, where I began collecting photographs in the mid 1980s. In the 1990s I spent a few years in Indiana, where I began to more actively making my own photos in a small bathroom darkroom. I have now been in Phoenix, Arizona for several years now.$_57-3$_57-11

You describe yourself more of a collector than a dealer – when did you start collecting all these pictures?
Actually, for some time now I have described myself as a more of a dealer than collector. As I mentioned above, I started collecting photos in the 1980s. At the time I was collecting Arts & Crafts era decorative arts of all sorts. So I was looking for pictorialist style photographs of the same era. As these were not plentiful, my collection was very small. No more than I could hang on a couple walls. At that time I did buy a fabulous small amateur snapshot of a late Victorian era family lounging on the rocks above Snoqualmie Falls near Seattle. I suppose that photo planted the seed for collecting vernacular photography. But, a growing interest in doing my own photography supplanted my collecting for several years. It was about 15 years ago when I began attending a local auction house in Phoenix that I started to actively collect albums or boxes of family snapshots.$_57-6 $_57-8

Is this your main job? If not, what line of work are you in?
I’ve had a rather checkered employment history. My last “career” was in the insurance business. But that ended in 2008. Since, I began collecting in the 1980s I have always been a bit a dealer as well. Since 2008, the dealing has overtaken the collecting. until 2013, my wife owned small shop specializing in mid-century modern decorative arts & furniture. I have also collected and sold vintage men’s clothing for many years. But in the last months the photos have been my primary concern.$_57-4 $_57-17

Can you put a figure on the amount of pictures you currently have?
A few thousand I suppose. But probably just several hundred of any possible aesthetic value.$_57-2$_57-16 $_57-1

What is it you look for when you are on the hunt?
Volume. I do buy individual photos and neatly curated albums. But I much prefer to discover paper gems in a large jumbled box of loose disorganized photos. While digging I look for uncommon or abstract composition, interesting expressions or gestures, and photographic “mistakes” such as poor framing or double exposures. Because of my interest in vintage clothing, I also look for people in interesting attire. Photos of people with cameras are also always good. And I have special fondness for photobooth photos, the original “selfie”. The photo booth photos are the only photos that almost never end up in the sell box. I suppose aesthetic tastes are rather eclectic. And since my interest is so varied, I just hope there will be buyers that will share at least one of them.$_57-5
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You do sell these photos, where can we find them?
I sell them primarily on eBay – http://stores.ebay.co.uk/ACME-Vintage-Dry-Goods. Or you can follow me on Instagram at – @cotton_eyed_doug

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This entry was published on June 2, 2015 at 7:44 am. It’s filed under Blog post and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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