End of Summer

Supposedly there is an enormous hurricane off shore as I type, but it's a cool beautiful day here that carries an end of summer feel in the air.  

Visually, the light has been beautiful with the storm swirling offshore - yesterday the beach light was bright and diffuse so pretty much anywhere you took a photo was perfection.  Last night the sun came in under the clouds while a dinner party in our friends backyard kicked off, giving us end of the season memories to take back to school and work.  

Looking at Archivast photos, this Coney Island image caught my eye the minute I saw it with the flags and sharp geometry of the roofs.  It's a summer feeling I remember from my childhood - even though it's from 1900 (well before I was born).  To me it feels like salt, smells like the beach and I can imagine the breeze when I lay eyes on the photo.  This experience is what I love about Archivast.  When I dig through archives, I'm on a journey of sense and memory.  Not many of the photos catch my attention, but the ones that do trigger an appreciation of composition and subject, but more importantly deliver me somewhere else as this photo does.  

Long after this summer is wrapped up, I can look at this image (and the ones I took yesterday) and be transported to the place, even if it was many, many decades before I arrived.  Enjoy the photo and take a pause to remember and be grateful for this summer.

Is Instagram the new Holga?

Was working on a project last week when I came across this photo linked off the Patagonia site:


I love his quote, "Back In 2008 The Only Way I Could Really Get A Camera Into (Burma) Was To Take My Multi Colored Holga Because No One Would Take Me Serious"

Walking around with a plastic camera that looks like a toy is a great way to disappear into crowds and the landscape, as it doesn't draw the attention of my larger cameras, with tripods, bags, etc...  I totally connected with his point about Burma.  Mine was multicolored as well with black, red and camo duct tape against light leaks. 

It's a great image and says so much socially about human perception, toys and how we view the world.  I shot for years with a Holga (see the next post) and used a Diana back in the early 80s in high school.  My school had a required art class which addressed color theory, composition and drawing.  What was cool about it were the Dianas.  Everyone had to shoot, develop and print from 120 negatives to focus solely on composition - the art department felt this was the simplest way to distill composition.

While I fell in love with photography in high school, I didn't realize how much I loved this format until I my 20s and 30s when I shot constantly with my Holga.  Even going so far as rigging up a water rig with ziplock bags, duct tape and skylight filter to venture into the Pacific to see what I could see through this beautiful lens.

I shot in Maine, California, New York, China and took some of the photos dearest to my soul with this camera.  After seeing this Burma image, I was moved to share some of my images - hope you like them.... 

Venice Porch 1999

Venice Porch 1999

You had me at Dektol

I grew up with Danny Lyon's photos.  My dad had a first edition of The Bikeriders amongst the art books in the bookcase.  I remember the smell of the paperback and the black and white photos of guys on motorcycles with cut off jean jackets and women with scarfs wrapped around their hair 50s style.  The images were from the early 60s and truly captured the beginnings of that decade.  I just looked it up for the link and Magnum calls it, "A seminal work of modern photojournalism".

So I'm taking the advice of a friend and starting to focus on what I truly like about photography, art and design and using this space to go there.  And when I think about photography and ultimately why I launched  Archivast, I go to my dad (who had this book), my maternal grandfather (who had a Leica M3 and a darkroom in the basement of a house on a side street in small town in Maine), and I think of Danny Lyon. 

So when I looked up Danny's blog I smiled when I read the URL - dektol.wordpress.com.  Dektol is photographer insider language. If you know the term, you've spent time in the darkroom. My first darkroom experience was at Waynflete School in the 7th grade (1978?) where I remember mixing Dektol for the first time out of the Kodak yellow paper packet.  Mix the white chemical powder and stir until dissolved.  The smell and introduction to the darkroom changed my life.  From middle school, to high school, to my college newspaper, to my first darkroom at 241 A Street in South Boston back in 1991.  The darkroom was where I became a photographer.  I pushed myself to master printing and the skills that come from connecting the exposure of a negative to the print, AT THE TIME YOU TAKE THE PHOTO. 

This photo always blew me away - it's almost perfect composition is humbling

This photo always blew me away - it's almost perfect composition is humbling

And this connects to Archivast.  As a photographer looking at Danny Lyon's books I gave myself an education in beautiful, impact full images.  These books were my window into photography before the Internet showed up and almost every masterful photo is now available online.  What we do at Archivast is take the inspiration from photographers like Danny and dig for similar images in the archives at the NY TIMES and other papers.  And then make these photos available to you to enjoy and savor at home or in your office.

When you look at Archivast images like this one of Madison Sq Park below, I feel the weight of photographers like Lyon, Robert Frank and Irving Penn.

This image below of Brooklyn and the flag from the Museum of the City of New York feels like a Robert Frank to me.  But its a beautiful image that's available when Frank's are so far up the price ladder given his stature in the cannon of American photography.

After devouring Danny Lyon's work in college, I was next moved to Bill Burke, but more on him later.   And if you are a photography collector, please consider some of these photos for your walls - we found their beauty in these archives and want to share it as much as we can.

Check out Danny's blog: https://dektol.wordpress.com/

And books:


Digging in the Archives

Summer has been slow at Archivast as we work hard to link up with more archives, but we've spent many days digging through the Archives at the NYTimes to see what themes present themselves, and then we can work to link curators to those themes.  It's an incredible place at the NYTimes as it's several floors below street level considering the weight of all the paper can't be supported by a typical load-bearing floor of an NYC office building.  That said, it's into the lobby, sign in with security and then wait for the DOWN elevator.  The doors open into a damp smelling hallway, but once inside the archive it's temperature and humidity controlled and there's just SO MUCH THERE.  So far we've been digging through a few themes - New York City night life - people having fun in the world's most vibrant city, fashion through from the 50s through the 90s, botanical photos, dogs, America's West, as well as interiors and food photography done in the New York Times studios.  It's easy to loose a day down there no problem - considering there's no internet, wireless or mobile service down there, it's the only time in my life I'm disconnected and it totally fits with the mission in the Archive.  Find beautiful, cool photos that would look incredible on your walls at home or in your office, and then match the theme with a curator so we reach the largest audience possible.

Here's a few images and notes on what we are finding --

Files and files and files

Files and files and files

Girl band The Moppets unloading at Cornell - 1966

Girl band The Moppets unloading at Cornell - 1966

Cattle on the winter range

Cattle on the winter range

Seagram Building - 1959

Seagram Building - 1959

Happy 4th from Greenpoint, Brooklyn, 1928!

When I saw this photo in the archives it spoke to me as the true essence of Archivast.  It brings to mind Robert Frank's "The Americans", Walker Evans or Dennis Hopper with it's directness and American feel.  This image, taken as part of the NYC transit survey, was recorded as a tool to help in planning the subways of NYC - but the person behind the camera was clearly a talent.  You can feel the photographer's presence in the image, and as a result - this combination of feel and talent created beauty.  Greenpoint Brooklyn, 1928 could be in a gallery or museum - but we're excited to give the photograph a future where it can be seen and appreciated, rather than sitting in a filing cabinet a few floors below ground somewhere in NYC.  Happy 4th everyone!  Let's appreciate the beauty we have today!

Just that time of year...

This photograph of the Flatiron Bldg in 1904 just feels like summer to me.  Clouds rolling through before a story and the low skyline is just romantic.  Like we say in the description - feels like Paris.

Picture Wall at the NYC Pop Up

We dubbed these photos the "picture wall" at the pop up.  All photos were features in bespoke Archivast sourced frames.  Some that we found in Paris antique markets, some sourced by friends of Archivast in flea and antique markets here on the East Coast, and some fabricated from interior mouldings pulled from demolition sites in Philadelphia.


NYC Pop Up

Opening night of our NYC pop-up gallery was a huge success. Held on June 5th in the Chelsea Gallery District, the party was the official launch of Archivast but most importantly showcased our inaugural collection “Heritage New York City” – curated by John Derian. The photographs looked amazing hanging in a beautiful loft space overlooking The High Line.  We are immensely grateful to John Derian - we could not have done it without him. We also owe a big thank you to Emelie and Andrew from Colonie in Brooklyn for the insanely good food.  And special thanks goes out to all of our friends and partners who pitched in - Katherine, Howard, Robert, Nathelie, Paulie, Trevor and Rebecca…plus so many others who’ve helped us along the way.

Beatrix Ost, Frederique van der Wal and John Derian

Beatrix Ost, Frederique van der Wal and John Derian

For more photos from our opening night party check out our Facebook page

Why John Derian?

I remember exactly how I felt the first time walking into John’s store on East 2nd street.  I’d recently met a woman I’d fallen in love with (now my wife and wonderful mom) and we were exploring New York together – her New York.  She’d lived downtown for years and while we’d met in Los Angeles – she’d moved back to New York and was showing me, the out-of-towner, around her favorite spots.  I’d spent a lot of time in New York in the past – but had never lived there and she was introducing me to places and things I’d never seen in the city.

One of those places was the John Derian Company, which at the time I think was one store just off the Bowery on East Second Street.  I remember walking in and being visual overwhelmed – but in a warm, welcoming way.  The store was filled with antiques and found objects, but what caught my attention was the center tables filled with John’s decoupage trays, platters, plates and accessories.  As I picked some up to check them out in detail I realized they featured antique graphics and postcards that must have been found by John – literally from all over the world.  And these images become the plate, the coaster, or the tray I was holding in my hands.  The images were beautiful, intriguing and eclectic – and not what you typically saw as ‘vintage’.  The images felt unique and found – walking into John’s shop made you part of the discovery – as John’s personality was there, front and center in all of these items.  I felt a connection to the images, but more importantly it was clear to me he went out and FOUND all of these graphics and that was cool.  I’ve always searched for photos in galleries, museums, postcards and clipped images from magazines – all of which I kept in folders or in my brain somewhere to use later in art or my journals.  That afternoon, I remember feeling connected to John and his process.

When I was launching Archivast John’s name came up almost immediately to approach as our first curator.  The New York Times was interested in the concept and we couldn’t think of anyone else more appropriate to curate a collection of Heritage New York City photographs from the archives of the NYTimes and the Museum of the City of New York.  While I’d gotten to know John since meeting my wife, I’d never talked business with him and meeting for coffee to pitch this project was perhaps the most nervous I’ve been in years.  Always a gentleman, John demurred when I suggested we’d be honored to have him curate this group of photos – he said he didn’t have the knowledge of photography to fill this role.  For me this was almost humerous, I’d admired his eye for beauty and art for almost a decade and I’m not alone.  John’s established himself as a leader in the design trends of the past two decades and has worked with the likes of Target on products that feature his design sense and most importantly his eye.  And I guess that what this all comes down to – the curator needs an eye – so I responded and told him how much in awe we are of his sophisticated eye and how we felt he'd be the ideal guide through the city's past found in the archives.  Thankfully for all of us, he agreed and from there we’ve launched the Heritage New York City collection of photos – please check them out



Birth of Archivast

Since the very beginning of my life, I grew up with photographs.  Not really snapshots, but photographs in the house.  When I was four, I remember a photo my dad had printed of me in a white cabled turtleneck in our kitchen in Virginia – holding a spoon, which is interesting considering one of my other passions is food.  So, photos were always of a higher quality or aesthetic level than just snapshots.  My grandfather had a darkroom in his basement in the 50s and produced these great custom Christmas cards – something else I grew up with (and wish I had saved).  When I hit the sixth grade my best friend’s family had a similar aesthetic and love of photography and I remember starting to enjoy the feel of a camera in my hands.  Enjoyed cranking film through a camera and spending time in the darkroom watching images come up under the safelights.

When I look at the photos in the archives of the New York Times or an institution like the Museum of the City of New York, I connect to the man or woman who did those things – held the camera, wound the film and spent that time in the darkroom.  Photography has been a constant in my life since the very beginning, so that’s what brought me to Archivast – and to a dinner in Brooklyn last summer with a friend in the media business.  

We were chatting about the extinction of traditional newspapers and along with them the merciless trashing of their old photography slides and images. It got me thinking about the scale of these newspaper’s photo archives and the fact there must be ‘some’ art in there along with the 100s of 1000s of forgotten news photos – and it was in danger of being lost forever.  Archives cost the papers money and with revenues going south, it's frequently something that is shed in the name of cost-cutting.

I began once again thinking about connections, about who was taking those photos, who the photographers were at a paper like the NY Times, and then at smaller papers.  People who were passionate about telling a story with the camera – I realized there must be art in these archives if you just spent time digging for it.  You might have to do a lot of digging I thought, but I knew it was worth doing, there were images that needed to be rescued and deserved to be given a new lease of life by being exposed to the world on our site, at our pop-up galleries, but most importantly as art in people's lives.