Ep.83 More Than 1000 Words (Sabrina - Vintage Photo Collector)
4:12AM Mar 11, 2020
Good day everyone who listening to Tom if your hobby and this is episode 83 more than 1000 words. I'm your host Alex and today I have the honor to have Sabrina as my guest on the show. How are you doing today?
I'm doing great, Alex, how are you? I'm doing
good. Before preparing for this episode, I went through all your pictures on Instagram just to have a Oh gosh, yeah, all of them just to get an idea and I already have a few that I want to talk about. But yes, great. But before we go into that, wolf Today, we're gonna be talking about collecting vintage photos and being a Vintage Photo collector. Before that, I'm sure people would love to know who is Sabrina?
Well, my name is Sabrina Hughes and I live in St. Petersburg, Florida. I am a photo historian. So that means that I went to graduate school for art history and kind of majored in history of photography. Weirdly, that's not necessarily why I started collecting vintage photos, although it seems like kind of an obvious thing to do. But that alone, wasn't it. So I am also a small business owner and an artist and I teach at the University of South Florida. That's pretty cool. And of course, you're an artist on top of being a Vintage Photo collector, which is also an art so
yeah, pretty cool that you restore them to I know I'm jumping the gun. I really want to get into this. But imagine you have a business and this is a perfect segue for my next question. Do you have any social media links or websites that you would like to share. It doesn't have to be necessarily linked to Vintage Photo collecting. It could be about anything and everything.
Oh, man. Okay, I did yeah, I have a lot of links. I'm gonna I'm gonna just say the best one to go to is Hello dot photo x Oh, and that spelled pH o t o x o dotnet. My business is called photo x Oh, like a kiss and a hug for your photos. And the business is where I help individuals and families preserve their family photos. And so that link Hello dot photo Expo dotnet is kind of just a landing page where you can get to a whole bunch of other a whole bunch of other offerings and web presences of mine, including Instagram and including the projects that came out of this Vintage Photo collection.
That's pretty cool. I'll put that in the description below so people can go check it out. And I know what you mean having all those links to different platforms and stuff like that. thought of it. And I saw somewhere online where you make a business card and you throw in a QR code. So on there, you just have to update the links in that website. So you don't have to update your a business card every time. I didn't come up with it. I wish I did. But I didn't. But yes, it is not about how to use technology and business cards today is all about Sabrina and her passionate hobby of restoring photos. And you kind of touched it before, but how did you actually get introduced to collecting vintage photos and restoring them?
Well, okay, so when I started my business, I knew that I was going to need a set of images to use for different, you know, social media, different marketing, different promotions, and just in blog posts, like basically I knew I was going to need a whole bunch of stock photos to tell people like oh, here's what I do. You know, I work with your family photos, whatever. So When I knew I needed a lot of like old family photos, because I obviously didn't want to use my clients photos for that, because that would be rude and unethical. And I didn't want to use my own family photos because it would be very clear after like three or four photos that they were all of me. So I thought okay, let me just let me just buy some like on eBay because there's always like vintage photos on eBay. And so I bought just a lot of black and white photos. And that was really cool. But what really kind of sparked my my passion was, I decided to buy a few slides at the same time. And the slides are really what got me going like the old 35 millimeter slides have just become a kind of a near obsession for me.
Wow. And you've restored all of them that you've had or you still have some in your collection that you haven't restored yet.
Oh, I don't restore all of them. I restore them as, as I find a use for them. So there are some that I keep, that I never will restore, because they're the damage is kind of what I use for, you know, showing people what I can, how I can prevent that in their own family photos. But for the ones that I that I've used as a part of this curatorial project that I'm doing, those are the ones that I restore. So it kind of just do that on a, on a case by case basis, because the restoring is not the fun part, the restoring actually can be very time consuming. So it's something that I don't I don't do unless I'm really positive that I want to use that image for something where it needs to look perfect.
And sometimes the photos just stay as is and they're beautiful in their own way. Right.
It's true. It's true. You know, sometimes the color you know, it's pretty Common for old photos for the color to go, especially in slides because just depending on the film stock, there's so many variables. And so, you know, I know that that the color I see them isn't isn't the true color and isn't the way that that they looked when they were first developed. But sometimes they're, they create these really interesting, you know, kind of surreal sensations of a different color palette of life, you know, like, yeah, so sometimes it is good to just sort of leave them as they are. I don't know about you, but when I look at like vintage photos, where the colors are kind of fading, I haven't experienced that, but I feel like it's nostalgic.
I have this nice Nordic feeling to it, even though it could have been with my grandparents or something like that. It just has that feeling.
Right, right. I mean, they look different. I think anytime we're looking. I think anytime we're looking at something that looks both familiar as photography is familiar to all of us, but that it looks Very different whether it's the clothes or you know, the way the colors are faded or something like that. I think it I think it provokes that reaction in a lot of us or we just know that it's, it's from a different time. Now I've had this question swarming my head all day, and I didn't want to look up online to find the answer because I said to myself, you know what, I'm going to speak to you. And I feel like it'd be a pretty good question. I didn't write it down. But what is considered vintage like At what point like 10 years ago is not vintage was 2030 4050. What is your definition of vintage? That's a really good question. I'll tell you in terms of what I'm interested in collecting. I'm generally interested in anything through the early 80s. That's kind of where for me I mean, I guess I wouldn't say there is a hard and fast definition for vintage but for me, what interests me is when things when the subject matter in the picture, so what I'm looking at when it just looks radically different than what, what I'm accustomed to seeing. So for instance, yeah, pictures from 10 years ago, pictures from 20 years ago, and maybe even pictures from 25 or 30 years ago. They don't quite. There's not enough differences yet between that picture and real life and what we experience in real life.
Does that make sense? Absolutely does make sense?
Yeah. Yeah. So for me, it's really just something it's just, I don't know, it's almost just like a feeling or an aura. You know, something that's really funny to me is to see a lot of pictures from the 70s. And sometimes they trick me like if if they weren't slides that I knew were dated from the 70s. The styles the hairstyles are the same. Sometimes the clothes is the same and right now a lot of the interior fashions are the same like interior design. And houseplants like there's not sometimes there's not very much difference between now and then which is also kind of an interesting juxtaposition that you know, we all styles come around, you know, every few decades, but it's really interesting to see how much styles repeat.
Some things are timeless. They just go out through time. Old man like me, goes throughout the generations. Actually, this is this is also just popped up in my head. But do you ever listen when you get a new photo? Do you play this little game where you try to figure out what's the exact date? Not date? Like a month but probably a year?
Yeah, I do. I do. I mean, I, I like to try and at least pinpoint the decade when I can. And there's a few ways that you can do that. One way is obviously by you know, if you're, if you happen to get lucky and find a picture that has something in it that you definitely recognize, like, you know, fashion or like ladies clothes, it's kind of really easy to try and pinpoint a decade based on women's fashion because it changed so much and so quickly changes a lot faster than men's fashion or car. Or something like that like something that definitively dates it. But sometimes when I'm giving slides, you know, this especially applies to 35 millimeter slides. Sometimes the cardboard like casing or holder or whatever the mount the cardboard mount, that the actual negative is mounted in. Sometimes you can date them based on that, because the date if you're lucky, the date might be stamped on it. But otherwise there are certain not styles. What am I trying to say? Like Kodak, for instance, used to have these slides that had red borders around the outside of the cardboard mount. And they only had that during, you know, between the late 1940s and the mid 1950s, for example. So it's like even if there's
no a limited edition,
Well, not exactly limited edition, it's just a change in in their branding identity. I guess you could say it's just the way that it was bred the way that they branded it can can help in identifying What time period it was from. So sometimes even when I don't have anything else to go by, if it's a red border, Kodachrome slide, that you know that that's the branding that's on it, then I can say, Okay, I know that this is probably from the 50s, you know, in and you can even get more specific than that if you you know, if you know a little bit more about codecs, branding, how their branding changed over time, which, you know, that, in particular doesn't interest me too much. But, but yeah, it is, it is interesting, like, you know, you do have to kind of if you're interested in dating them, specifically, you do have to really kind of have a keen eye and look for clues. And then, you know, try to do some research and data based on you know, what, what you have in front of you, that's sometimes all you have to go on. That's pretty cool. It's kind of like a Where's Waldo, where you're looking at every little detail to kind of put pieces together. You got a picture from the second I got something from the 80s like, No, no, no, wait, what? It's just things that don't belong. That's pretty cool. On that note, what is the oldest photo or picture that you have in your collection? So I have one of the courses that I teach at the University of South Florida is history of photography. So because of that I tend to collect, I try to collect a variety of photography types so that I can show my students different, very old photo types. So the oldest photo that I have is probably from the 1860s. Wow. And yeah, and it's an it's what's called an ambrotype. So it's an image on glass. That's in like a hard case with a like a gold, you know, gold toned tin border around it. That's not the old. This medium of photograph. The oldest one is called a double arrow type and I don't currently have any arrow types in my collection, but it's, it's I want one, they're not terribly expensive. It's just that I'm kind of picky About what what kind I want. So it's got to be the right subject matter. And it's got to be in good shape for me to want to buy the arrow type. So, so the ambro types are, you know, even early photography was rather affordable to people. So there's actually a lot of ambro types, a lot of Darrow types that are, you know, kind of circulating out there in the market. And they're collected by museums. They're collected by other photo collectors. They're very beautiful objects like those old the really old photos from the 1800s are very often not on paper, they can be on like minus on glass. They can be on tin or on some other kind of metal like there's some really interesting old photographic media that's out there out there in the world.
I would love to see it. So I have two follow up questions. Is it on Instagram or anywhere online? We can see this specific photo and how did you get this one? Um,
I can put On, I'll put it on Instagram. It's on Instagram at the moment, but I can put it up. This one is one that I found on eBay. So I don't spend a whole lot of time on eBay just because it's it's kind of dangerous and I don't want to blow all of my money on, on on photos, although, you know, it would be great to but I got to hold myself back. But yeah, I just you know, I knew that this was something that I wanted to show my students and so I just kind of spent some time looking on eBay and found a nice one that was in good condition that was, you know, a reasonable price. And so I bought that one. I mean,
that is so cool.
But yeah, they're, they're pretty easy to find. They're pretty easy to find, and they're pretty magical.
That's so so cool. And speaking about restraining yourself I have to ask, How big is your current collection?
Okay, I have tried to in preparation for this. I was like, I need to have an answer to this question. My best guess is Between 50 506,000
Wow, that's awesome.
That's really most of our slides. Yeah, the vast majority of them are slides. Because that's so that's, you know, just where my my real kind of interest and where I'm drawn to. So, yeah, yeah, a lot. It's a lot. It's a lot, Alex.
So another follow up question to that is how do you organize all these photos? Like, almost 6000 of them? How do you organize them?
Yeah, that is a really great question. And that is honestly, it's, it's the same type of thing that I do for my clients. So what I do with the slides is when I get them in, I'll just kind of walk you through like, how this goes when I buy some new slides. So my favorite way to buy slides is to buy a big box sight unseen. So So I will find a big box on eBay, I think box of slides and it just says 600 slides, variety of subjects and I'm like, that's what I want. So when that arrives to me, I kind of do a cursory Look, I look at every single one, I have a big light table. So if the light table is kind of clean, I'll I'll lay all the slides out, just cover the surface and just kind of look at them and do a preliminary pass at things that I'm interested in and things that are not. The types of photos that I'm interested in are almost always people and almost always like home family photos, as opposed to tourist photos or vacation photos. Like I really like just the kind of ordinary like the revelation of ordinary life. You know what I mean? Like just in a time that I didn't experience I think that's my favorite thing. So if there's a bunch of landscapes like some some landscapes standout if there's a standout like that Escape, I'll keep that. But most what most of what I keep are people interacting. So after I've made that first pass, then I will scan the slides so that I can look at them more closely. And then that's when I really decide if it's something that that is going to fit into, you know, into into the collection as a whole, whether it's something that I want to keep at that point. And then after that, so as I've scanned them, I number them. And the way that I number them is according to where where they're going to be stored. Because slides are so small, they're very easy to store and they don't take up a lot of space. So the way I store them is in archival sleeves. So each sleeve is like a like a binder page that holds 20 slides and then that goes into a binder. So the way that I kind of look hate them and store them is I when I scan it, I name each each image file with the sleeve page. So that might be like 243 and then a hyphen and then like the number one through 20 where it is on that page. So, so most of my slide images, when I look at them when I look at my collection on on my computer, you know, they're just it's just a file name that's a number and then kind of as I as I get more attached to it, then I'll I'll do things like create an actual title for it. And then that's around the time when I start retouching or repairing if it needs repair. Man, it sounds like such a relaxing.
No, it's great
that you said that because I was gonna say it sounds a little obsessive. I've never described it before. So it sounds I'm glad you said it sounds relaxing. It really is relaxing. For me. It's it's something that I just find so much Like, I just find so much delight in it. You know, it's like there's so many surprises and I think that's my favorite thing about it.
Yeah, like you when you look at a photo, you try to figure out what is going on in that event. And speaking of which, I saw two there's two photos I had to ask. I don't know if you know the answer, but there's a photo of a man in a pool looks like he's falling it's on Instagram.
backstory that one or it's just
I I don't I don't know any backstory? Like most of the photo, most of the slides. Oh, wait, although the one you're talking about. I actually might know. Is this on my Instagram regular on Sabrina Hughes Instagram. Yeah. Or Yeah, not the pictures. Okay, I'm getting there. The majority. Okay. I think I do know which one and yes, I do have a story. The vast majority of my slides have zero information on them. So they're completely anonymous. You know, sometimes I might get one name like maybe it's like bill in the yard or something like that. Sometimes I'll get a location But you know, when you think about who looks at your family photos, it's usually people who already know who they're looking at. So there's not always a lot of identifying information that goes along with it. Now the picture that you're describing, is it like, he's got his arms out spread, and he's kind of like his mouth is open, and he's like, laughing.
Well, there's one man. there's sort of two people in the front row, look for that photo again. And the one behind looks like he's like, he can't see his head. You can just see normally like, up in the air.
It's like a floating man. It's been right, right? Yes. Okay. I know the one you're talking about. Yes. No, I don't have any backstory. Unfortunately, that's one of the anonymous anonymous ones that came to me. So when I when I started to say I might have information, I will say that I started buying these slides so that I wouldn't have to use my clients photos. But then I've, strangely I've had a few clients who have found out that I've been kind of putting these slides out there in the world and giving them a second life. And so they've then said, Oh, I want you to do that with mine, which has been incredible, like so unexpected. I found the photo you're talking about. And no, I don't know the story. Although if I remember correctly, I think that there were several pictures in that same group of people on that. waterslide. So I think I think the waterslide has something to do with it, or maybe a cannonball,
one or the other. The other thing that I do like it just kind of like a salesman, it was the kid with the orange. It's like you want to buy this orange? Oh, yeah. Looks like you just want to show you an orange. So he's got to go check the whole entire page of some awesome photos.
Yeah, that one I again, I don't have much of a backstory except to say that I do have many pictures from that family. And I don't know, you know, there's no names on them. But some of the captions were written in French and That kid appears and I have I have several photos of this kid. And I think I haven't printed this particular photo with the oranges yet, but I think I might because it's just it's just a really funny picture and you're not the you're not the only one who has reacted to that.
Well, if you do need somebody to tell you what the caption is, French is my first language. So I can maybe help. Okay, very cool.
Yeah. All right. Yeah, maybe some of the locations and stuff would be helpful.
There you go. This is how friendships are made. Yes. No, regarding the actual restoration process, what goes into that whole step by step?
Okay, so before anything's restored, I've already made a digital a digital image of it. Everything I do, all of the repair I do is digital repair because I'm not I'm not a conservationist. So I don't know how to actually repair something that's like torn or has water damage on the actual object, but I am really good at I have a lot of like, along Background In Photoshop and repairing doing digital repair through Photoshop. So once I have scanned once I'm sure that a slide is going to kind of be integrated into the collection that it's something I'm going to keep, I'll scan it at the highest quality that I possibly can, which currently with my current equipment allows me to take a 35 millimeter slide so you know roughly how small that is. And I could print that as large as 18 by 27 inches. So it's, it's a pretty I make the highest quality image that I can so that I can play with size in the future. And then I put it into Photoshop, and I just, you know, zoom in to 100%. I add a grid over Photoshop over the photos so that I can kind of make sure that I cover every single, every single pixel and I just look for things that need to be touched. Doubt to make it perfect in most of the time, that's just dust like honestly, a lot of the photos that I have are in very good condition probably because they've been sitting in someone's closet for years. So a lot of times the restoration is dust removal, which, you know, it's it's a simple thing to do, but it's it still takes a lot of time because there's often you know, a lot of it. I do sometimes you know, if there's scratches or something like that on a photo that I really like I can, I can repair those. Sometimes there are photos that are beyond my help. There's an image that is also on my Instagram. That is one of the most heartbreaking images I have because it's so perfect, but it has so much water damage on it. But it's this photograph of four women in moves that go down to the ground. So they're all in these very different, brightly colored floral dresses that are like all the way down to their feet and they have on lays they must be In Hawaii or something, but they have on these beautiful orchid colored leis and when I saw that photo I got so excited, I was like, this is amazing and perfect. And then when I looked at it closer and scanned it, it just it has some severe water damage that may not be beyond my skill level, but I'm not sure that it's I'm not sure that even with a lot of time invested in it, that it would look good. You know, like and because of what the unfortunately the worst of the damage is on their faces. So that's you know, touching out dust and scratches is one thing but kind of creating, recreating a face that's been wiped out by water is kind of that might actually be beyond my skill level. So yeah, so that's one that I kind of, you know, I use it, I keep it I still keep it, it's still one of my favorite images, but I try to do other things with it and kind of, you know, give it life in other ways other than just you know, making a Nice print of it.
Well, I don't know if you're going to be able to answer this question because you said you had a collection of photos that are in black and white and some that you don't restore, you just keep them as is. Have you ever restored those pictures where you actually added color to them?
No, I I personally am not really into that. For one thing. I think that that requires a skill set that I don't have, in my opinion, the people who are really good at that are actually people who have experience as painters, and I am not a painter. And I'm talking even, you know, even digitally even with Photoshop, even the digital restoration, I think that there's a lot of there's a lot of skill that goes into adding color from a purely black and white photo that I just don't have. And also I don't I don't know if that's something that interests me from like a historical perspective because When I'm teaching history of photography to my students, sometimes I have to, I have to kind of unteach them the habit of looking at a photo and thinking that it's like a window into real life, you know what I mean? Like, we can look at a photo, and think that that is exactly a picture of, you know, what you're looking at, when in actuality there's a lot of mediations that happen between reality and the picture that we're looking at. And so I think this is a big answer to a small question, but I think that for me, I don't think I necessarily like to make it look more real when it's already demonstrating kind of qualities that that help us help remind us that it's not real. I can
No, no, I get I get what you mean. It's kind of like you wanted to represent It's time. It would be kind of weird if you were to like, repaint the David. Bye. Colors, hipster clothes on no known, known salted hipster is what I'm saying. Like it should be valued for what it is for the time it's been.
Exactly, exactly. Yeah. And I think there is some value, I think there's value to experiencing it how it is. And you know, that's not to that's not to say that people that do the colorization there are some people that are highly skilled, but it is a, it is an extremely time consuming process. And I actually found if I can think of it, then I'll find the link again and send it to you for the show notes. But I used to, I found once a time lapse of someone who is a very skilled colorization artist, and the amount of time that it takes on one photo is just that's just not that's not where my personal interest lies. And also I would be terrible at it.
Hey, you're better than me. I have a lot of skills, because I see your store them pretty well and you're really good at capturing The story in the picture, I know it's not a window. And I know I wish I was a student. So you could teach me all your lessons about how to do photography and maintain it. But I do appreciate it as a beginner perspective.
Yeah, and I mean, you know, the other thing I think is really cool is that these are objects that are that have come to us, you know, in some cases from almost 200 years ago, definitely a lot from more than a century ago. And so, you know, again, I'm an art historian. So it's like, I really like the kind of materiality of, of what comes to me in whatever form you know, like, sometimes they're torn. That's okay. Like they don't have to be they don't necessarily have to be perfect, you know, the image and the story is what attracts me and just even the fact that even if I get a photo and it's damaged, but it's something that speaks to me, the fact that that piece of paper you know, has kind of survived you know, photos are really delicate, like the fact that a piece of paper has survived decades and ended up in my hands is kind of a miracle. And like that's, that's, that's what I like about it,
you're almost scared that it'll just start crumbling away. The moment you pick it out
my guys, I know some of them the danger with some of them. I don't have any of that delicate but I've seen them in my clients. Some of my clients have had some that are very, very delicate.
No, I could be wrong, but I would imagine that sometimes you use gloves so the oil on your finger does not go on to the photo, I could be wrong. Is that something you do?
There's a Yeah, there's there's several different ideologies about this. And I personally am not a glove user. And I will tell you why. And it's because even the even the kind of, you know, the gloves that are made for handling art aren't really great for handling thin pieces of paper, which is what photos are. So in my in my experience, it can be hard to pick up a photograph when I'm wearing gloves. So what I use Is the clean hands method I just, I wash my hands often, I hold the photos when they're just the paper photos, I hold them on the outsides, so that my fingers are touching the emulsion or possibly leaving fingerprints or oils. And I clean when when I don't want to touch something completely, I have some tools that helped me lift the photos off of whatever they're sitting on. So I don't have to touch the edges either because sometimes the edges are the delicate parts. So yeah, I have my methods generally do not include clubs just because I feel I feel much more clumsy with the gloves on than then just making sure that I have clean dry hands.
That makes sense. So now I know that I know don't need to buy gloves to handle my granddaughter's photos because Sabrina
I'm a photo historian. Yeah, I'm the experts said just wash your hands. Exactly. I want to get experts on my show.
I'm the one During this I'm the non expert. That's why I'm having to learn. Now speaking about being an expert, what would you say is the best way to maintain the quality of a photo for years and years to come? I know putting it in direct sunlight is not good. And humid places can be pretty bad as well. What's your additional things you could say?
additionally, I would say don't don't put them in albums, put them into archival boxes. I'm not sure about finding those archival boxes like at retail stores. I will say you know who has archival boxes is The Container Store. But I also I ordered mine from a shop online that sells those archival storage products to museums. So I have a big trust factor with them. I use archival methods and there's a lot of different sizes. There's, you know, kind of once you find once you find something that you know is a safe product, then you can Go into any type of size that works best for your storage situation. So my slides are in the archival sleeves that I mentioned. And then they're just in binders. They're in a room that doesn't get a whole lot of light. And that has, you know, air conditioning, regular climate control. And then the photos that aren't slides, the ones that are actually prints are just in photo photo safe archival box. And yeah, I keep them I try to keep a you know, what else is really helpful in the boxes is to put one of those silica gel pocket packets that come in, like your shoes and stuff like that. Oh, yeah, the simplest way to balance the humidity inside of the box. So I throw a few of those in. It's good to not use rubber maids, because those can create what's called a microclimate. So you can actually trap humidity in in a box in a plastic situation. So the archival cardboard Well, it's not cardboard, but the archival board boxes are better because they can kind of breathe a little bit. And yeah, keep them away from water. My grandmother, I actually I tell this story a lot that I think part of the reason why I'm so interested in other people's Family Photos is that I actually don't have that many photos of my own family because my grandma bless her heart thought she was doing the right thing by storing all of our family photos in her closet, which sounds like a great idea except it was the closet with the hot water heater. Oh, and the hot water heater exploded and we lost countless countless family photos. We have very, very few family photos from that side of the family. So yeah, it's a real it's a tragedy that can be avoided. So yeah, but keep them away from away from hot water heaters.
Yeah, well, we know that now.
Yeah. Yes. That's my number one advice. Don't put it with the hot water heater.
No, this might be a stupid and ignorant question to ask. But if you don't have a little silicone bag with rice in a container of work, just put it
maybe, maybe I haven't tried it as long as it doesn't attract bugs. It's possible. Keep the bugs out. Yeah, I used to collect like whenever I would find one of those one of those silicate packets, I would I would put it in a stash and then I realized like, wait, somebody, these have got to be purchasable somewhere. And of course they are. So then I just bought myself a huge packet of them. So yeah, just buy some. If you're if you're
good. I'm sure they're not that expensive. If they come with you. They're not a pair of shoes and you get a free one.
Exactly. Exactly. Yep.
What would you say is the best part about being a Vintage Photo collector?
Oh, for me personally, it's like rediscovering stories like I don't you know, I don't know the stories. I don't know the actual stories. Of what But what what is happening in these photos, but the ones that I'm drawn to invite a story, like they invite you just like you asked about the guy in the pool, like, they invite you to wonder, what was happening, where is this? Who are these people? What are they doing and so for me, you know, this obviously has to do with my my interest in in it from a from an academic standpoint as a photo historian, but it's also from a, you know, just like a human standpoint, like the fact that we have the ability to record our lives this way. And that we have, we have the possibility of our lives, our image, and fragments of our lives like living on in a different way. And you know, in the case of what I do with with mine, they can live on as art, which is, I think, just the most kind of amazing, amazing thing to to kind of facilitate something so ordinary being seen in a different way.
And I bet you is even more interesting when you have multiple photos from that same event. So kind of like the slideshow in your head.
Yeah, yeah, it really is. That's, I have an idea for a project that I really want to do in the future. And it's not, it's, I really, you know, so I have 5000 photos, the ones that are going to be part of my sort of artistic practice and my art project is a very small fraction of that because those are the ones that are just kind of like, perfect in some way. But the experience of looking at a slideshow from a slide projector is something that is lost and it's something that experience I'm really interested in finding a way to recreate that experience online. Like even with the sounds of you know, the word of the fan from a slide projector and like the cut chunk sound that it makes when it advances like oh god yeah, I love that and you know Like, yeah, it's really cool. And so that's actually kind of an art project that I that I hope to do in the future. It just requires a little bit a little bit more technical know how then I personally have so I would have to enlist some, you know, the help of some pretty, I don't know, some web designers who are up for an adventure,
whoever's listening, if you're interested, you know, just
But yeah, I think that, you know, that experience, I'm interested in that experience of it too. Because you know, you think about the way you look at a slide the other slide carousel or slide, you know, your slide photos, you would be in the dark, you would be probably not by yourself, you know, it's very different than looking at a photo album, which is kind of made you know, the album is made for one or two people to look at at a time you're you're looking at it like a book, you're sharing the book on your lap and you're kind of looking at it together. But the experience of looking at slides is a little bit different because it's a little more it's a little more akin to almost like a cinematic experience because there's usually more people you're in the dark you're looking at this very bright colorful image projected on the wall and it's bigger you know it's like it's it's something small in real life but then you're so you get to see it magnified so many times like it's really cool to me too and that's that's you know, as as the media changes that whole experience is just something that is of the past and is completely lost
the last time I think I saw a slide in a movie was in the movie it and it wasn't in like a relaxing context isn't a horror contracts in the slide came to life. But it was like cool to just see that little moment at the beginning and then the con came out you're like, Okay, now slides have cons I can come out great.
I loved that. I when I saw that scene, I was like, This is incredible. What a great What a great way to introduce people to slides like, think about how many kids may have seen that who have never been who've never experienced slides before.
No, this increases
exactly when they go try slides or like, just like, no phones come out of them. I don't trust them, right? What's the feeling people had when they went to go see a movie the first time and move like when movie theaters came out? Yeah, it was like a movie of the train. They thought the train was coming at them.
Right, right. Yeah, I know. I know. It's so cool to think about something that we're so accustomed to like photography like to try and think about what it was like to experience that media for the first time like I you know, it's like it's unfathomable. It's such a part of our lives now and like back then you can correct me if I'm wrong, but back then you had to sit like for like the first photo or first camera. You have to stand still for a while. It's no long it wasn't like just as done yesterday. Solid. Yeah. minutes. Yeah, minutes, minutes.
And I could be wrong too. But I feel like smiling wasn't really done as well because they wanted to do more. Now for like the 1980s. I'm in like older, older, older, more serious because
right the 19th century. Yeah, like when when photography was first invented a lot of the sort of conventions of what a photographic portrait should look like, or borrowed from painting. And so in addition to the fact that you had to hold yourself steady for an uncomfortable amount of time, so you really needed your face to be in a relaxed position. But you know, additionally, people would not have thought to smile for a formal portrait because in the painting tradition, you know, if you're smiling in a painting you were you are being portrayed as a drunk person or someone who had lost their mind who you know, it just, it didn't have that same sense of dignity. So yeah, it's, it's, there's a lot of there's a couple of reasons why, why there was no smiling and you know, something that's really interesting to me too is that you know, we say cheese. When we're about to have our picture taken. Well, you know, that you they say Say cheese because that makes Your smile muscles, right? Like it replicates the same muscles as on your smiling. Jeez. So in the early 20s, in the late 19th century and early 20th century, they would tell people to say prune proof, because that makes your mouth feel bloated. Yeah, kind of Yeah, proven like so it activates a different set of muscles in your face that created the expression that was more desirable then. Isn't that cool?
So cool. Here, I'm just here behind the mic, like just practicing other words to see what shaving makes. Right? Actually, on the morbid side, this is like kind of just popped in my head because I knew I did some research and a while back. They used to take pictures of let's say, recently deceased children or stuff like that. Did you ever do you have any photos like that? It's really weird question. But do you know of that?
I do know of that postmortem photography was it was very common and it was used You know, I'm not gonna, I won't bore you to death.
This is all about you, you want to share? Yeah,
we in this time period, we have a very different relationship with death and with the recently deceased and a lot of times, you know, nowadays when someone passes away, they might be in a hospital, or even if they pass away at home, you know, they kind of get taken away in an ambulance, like they don't stay in the home, they are located elsewhere for the next step in that body's journey after death. So in Victorian times, it was much more common, you know, people passed away at home much more often. And it was much more common for them to for the body to stay in the home for a little while, like maybe up to a week or so. So that the sense of, of having a picture of a corpse didn't signify the same way then that it does now for us now it's a little eerie, and maybe a little quick But then it was just kind of it was normal. And so with photography, you know, especially with children, the infant mortality rate was higher than it is now, generally speaking, and so when photography was new, sometimes that picture of someone after they passed away might be the only picture you got of that person. So yeah, yeah, it was pretty common and and there's also a cool pictures where someone took their own portrait, you know, had their sat for their formal portrait while they're holding a picture of one of their family members who's deceased. Like, it has all these kind of like layers of you know, it was it was a very it would have been a very precious object for people. So yeah, they exist. They're cool. They are highly collectible. I don't own any because they are very expensive, like people really people who are more serious collectors than me and who have deeper pockets than me. are like postmortem photos are highly collectible. That's cool. I
yeah, yeah, I'm knocking on wood that you get one for your collection. Maybe right after we're done this episode you just like slid through your door like, there it is kind of creepy that you just get one out of nowhere.
Sometimes you just gotta say you're looking for one and then and then they come to you, you know, you're there.
You're just just, it just popped out of nowhere comes out
to be great. Yeah.
No staying on the, let's say darker side of things. I know might be a little hard to answer this question. But what are some misconceptions about people who collect vintage photos or even just collectors in general?
Yeah, so I'm gonna answer this kind of from a perspective of my myself. I don't, I never have really interacted much with collectors in general. I mean, I worked at a museum so I guess I interacted with art collectors there and then but I'm gonna just kind of say, I have some misconceptions about myself as a collector. Were just to say that most of My life I would have, I didn't collect anything. I never collected anything until I started collecting photos, which is so funny. I mean, I guess that's probably how it happens for a lot of people. But you know, I always had friends like, since childhood where it's like, oh yeah, I collect, you know, I collect tea sets and I collect whatever. And I always kind of felt almost like an outsider because I just, I didn't want a whole lot of stuff like even into my young adulthood, even into my 20s and 30s. I just kind of felt like, that's just stuff like, how are they attached to that? What is what is the emotional connection there? So it was actually kind of shocking to me when I realized that like, Oh, I'm I'm actually kind of emotional about this now, like I, I have not yet done this. But I very often think that I need to make a will I need to make a will for the first time in my life because I care about what happens to these photos if something happens to me, which is kind of new like it's it's a very new feeling for me to sort of have an emotional attachment to, to these objects. But I think that's for me, that's kind of part of the part of why they connected with me and part of why I'm part of why that's what what I collect is that it struck the right emotional chord and it just kind of hit me at the right time. And hit the right emotion. And so now now, I love them. And now, now I need to provide for them.
I completely understand what you mean, like with once you pass away, you want it to go to the right person, so they can preserve it and cherish it as much as you do.
Yeah, and maybe continue the art project to you know, like, maybe maybe it even has a life longer than mine, which is cool. Yeah, that's
exactly what the feeling I get with this podcast. Like, I want to make it so yeah, I'm done. People from the future can listen to us like wow, people in like 2020 had these hobbies, they are all and this is what they were passionate about. So they continue to Learn so we're the same person. We are. Yeah.
And you know, actually what you're doing that's, that's actually really important for future historians. Yes, it really is. You know, like, it's super important for future historians because they're gonna, like, Yeah, when things don't exist anymore, they need to know how did people use these things, you know, whatever it is. So I think that's actually a that's a really good perspective and, and it will absolutely live on.
Well, you're contributing, contributing to this right now by sharing your hobby, which is fantastic. And another random question that popped in my head. It happens so often, I didn't write all these down, as you may have noticed, but that was totally cool. that ever happened to you that you're just living your everyday life and you wouldn't necessarily call it a deja vu but you something that happens reminds you of a specific photo that you have in your collection. Yes.
Yes, that has happened. I actually, one one specific example of this is one of my other friends who's an artist and who's a A photographer. Her name is Selena Romano. And she's a fantastic photographer. And she is also from Florida. And so she has, she just has these kind of motifs that reappear in her work. And I remember seeing a photograph that she made where it was just someone in a specific bathing cap and I don't think you know, like a swimming cap, like a vintage swimming cap cap. And this I don't think the cap was even vintage. It was just a cool, a cool swimming cap that, you know, the way she had it on her model was it just made me flash to this photo that I had just seen a slide of a young child like a young girl like maybe eight who is getting out of a pool, and you can't see her face. It's actually it's on my Instagram too. But you might have to scroll for it. But she's, yeah, she's in a pink bathing suit. And she's walking. She's kind of climbing out of the pool, heading towards the camera. So the person taking her picture was, you know, facing her, but she's looking away so you don't see her face. You just see this pink bathing cap and her pink bathing suit, and the blue of the pool. And you there's also some like, mid century modern, like architectural details like the mid century modern breezeblocks are in the background. And yeah, as soon as I saw the picture that Selena had made, I immediately was like, Oh, I have to show her this picture because they are so similar in just that feeling. They're creating the same feeling.
That's a guy I was looking through it I'm like, I'm not gonna be able to find it right now. I gotta focus on you right now. Okay, but I'm gonna go back and look at it for sure. So for you, what would you say or sorry? How did collecting vintage photos have an impact on your perspective on life?
Oh my gosh. Well, I feel like this whole conversation is kind of the answer to that question. It's, it's really, I think that it has definitely made me more interested in in individual stories like I had someone contact me through someone who knew what I did, who knew who knows what I do for clients that I helped them preserve their family photos. And she referred me to this this woman who was moving from her retirement home, or sorry, from the home. She was living in into a retirement home. I'm in Florida. So there's a lot of assisted living facilities. So she was living moving into an assisted living facility. She was not married, and she didn't have any kids. And she used to during she was a teacher when before she was retired, she was a schoolteacher. And there was a period for like five or six years where every summer she would go to Kenya, like she went to Kenya once just fell in love with Kenya, something connected there with her. And so for four or five years, she went back to Kenya. And so she had these slides of her her vacations to Kenya, and she didn't know what to do with them. And so you know, the word got back to me that she had these slides. And so I called her and I said, Would you like me to digitize them for you? And she said, No, honestly, I've, you know, I don't need to look at them anymore. I just don't want to throw them away. So you can do with whatever you want with them. And I was like, Okay, well, I'm going to take them and I'm going to, I'm going to scan them, and I'm going to put them on the internet. And she was like, Okay, that sounds good. And I did that. And I wrote a little blog post about it. And I just put her pictures up on the internet. And, you know, it was just such an amazing opportunity to connect with her at this stage at her life, which, you know, I've never really considered myself a people person, like, I don't know, like, I'm kind of an introvert. And so, you know, it's also I think, being able to talk to people about their photos has made me you know, gives you some common ground to easily start relationships with people and easily start Connecting, Connecting with people. So she gave me these photos. I posted some on the internet and people were just over the moon about seeing them. Like they just loved the whole story that she gave them to me and everything. And then this picture is also on on Instagram. Someone, an artist, a painter who follows me and who I follow on Instagram. They're a painter who paints from vintage photos. So it's like the vintage photos are their inspiration. And so he found this picture that I posted on the Internet and on my Instagram and he made a painting of it. That's cool. I don't know. It's just it's it's amazing to me how, you know, we all have these photos, but even with our own family photos, we can sometimes feel emotionally disconnected from them. But I think that there's a lot of ways to reinvest them with emotion and re reconnect them to you know, even if I'm not reconnecting those photos to her because she's reconnect. You know, her story with just strangers is amazing. Like, that's so cool. So yeah, I guess it's it's had a huge impact on my perspective on life. It's, it's made me think kind of about longer timeframes than just what I've experienced, you know, like, I think a lot about times before what I've experienced and times that will happen that are going to come after what I experience and like, how that's going to impact how that how that ripples out. You know, it's like it ripples out in ways that you can't even predict.
And also, I guess it would have I also brings in that human aspect, everybody, everybody lives a normal life or everybody's human at the end of the day. And those photos do really represent that. And I like how you take these photos, more like candid photos are just everyday life. They're cool.
Yeah, that's it. No, that's exactly it. That's exactly what
flipping from the cool and black side has collecting vintage photos ever stressed you out. That's the opposite of feeling relaxed.
It doesn't stress me out, but I can get a little fixated when I'm when I'm in like get photo And I'm unboxing them and kind of feeling like I really just want to see them all. I can get a little fixated on feeling like I need to Okay, I need to look at them all as fast as I can so I can see what I have. And so I can find those like, those magical surprises. So yeah, maybe that has stress. I don't take enough breaks and I kind of am hunched over my light table for much too long. But yes, it's coming out of anticipation of what I'm going to see and what what kind of surprises I'm gonna find.
Were the same same person guarantee.
I know it's being hunched over. What was your biggest challenge when you first started your hobby?
I don't know. You know, it's not up on me. I didn't I didn't think about it. I didn't think about it as something I was starting. So I think that maybe and maybe that's a good thing, because maybe I didn't like overthink, you know, I didn't overthink like what, what was this hobby going to be or what was my collection going to look like? It just kind of grew organically and snuck up on me. So I'm not sure that I had that I've had a challenge. And luckily, like I, like I said earlier, luckily, my collection is very easy to store because slides are small. So 5000 slides doesn't take up that much space. I could see, if I keep at this, I could see space potentially becoming a challenge, but I'm not there yet. And hopefully, I won't get there. I mean, I think, you know, the other part of what I like to do with these is, you know, I do have a background in the curatorial departments of museums. So I, I try to be pretty good at you know, not hanging on to things that aren't going to be used useful for me in future projects. So hopefully space will become an issue.
Well, if space is not an issue, what would be your current challenge today?
Hmm. My current challenge is having so many wonderful images that are Just waiting like I have I have several boxes of slides that I haven't even looked at yet.
They're just waiting for you. They want to be
there just waiting. Yeah, that's my current my current challenge is, is kind of not letting myself get swept away in the excitement of that and just kind of trying to regulate it. And yeah, like not not let it become an obsession that takes me away from the things I need to do so I can keep buying slides.
With your infinite wisdom of vintage photography. Do you have any word of advice for anybody who might be interested in this hobby?
No, just do it. Like if you think you might be interested in it, just just buy a few pictures and see if you connect to them. Like there's there's a very low cost of entry into collecting vintage photos you know, and even as, you know, as art like people who might be interested in collecting art, might want to start with photography with vintage photography, because honestly You know, museums are collecting are collecting vintage photos as well. So they are absolutely art objects that participate in, you know, the kind of larger art discourse and it's a very easy way to start getting into collecting art if you're into that. So it kind of has, it can kind of be a gateway to several different things. But yeah, I would say just do it like it doesn't you know, you don't have to have any kind of special equipment. You don't have to have anything just go to go to a pawn shop or go to or sorry, not a pawn shop. I don't see them there. But go to an estate sale, go to yard sales. You know, if you see a photo album, just buy it, like just start. Yeah, you never know. It's fun. Yeah, it's true. It's really true. Actually, my very first, my very first vintage photos that I ever bought, I found at and I just remembered this because I found them at a thrift store and at the time I didn't I just knew I knew I wanted them. But I didn't have. This was like in the in the early 2000s. I didn't have a way to digitize them. I didn't even have a way to look at them. But I just saw them and I was like, I think I think I should buy those because they're here and I just I felt like you know, there was only like five of them or something. But I just thought like, I think I should buy these and then I was actually afraid I had lost them. When I started looking for stock photos. I couldn't find them. And that's why and that's part of why I started buying but then they turned up so I didn't lose them. And yeah, like what a funny way for that to reoccur. Like I couldn't have expected it.
That's so cool. Looks like it's just a recalling for you. That's so cool.
I've asked this question at the beginning of the episode, but I'll ask it again. So people who are refreshed. Do you have any links or websites or projects or anything like that you'd like to share so people can learn more about you and your passion?
Now that I've been talking for a while I will drop some of those specific links because we've mentioned it in Instagram a few times. So I'm Sabrina Hughes on Instagram, just all one word. And I have a second Instagram, which is my curatorial project that I, it's what I do. It's the art that I do with these vintage photos and it's called the puck curious. So it's p i see u r, io u 's, and then just the in front of it, the curious and so that's where that Instagram is solely vintage photos. And so if what you see on my regular Instagram, if you like it and you want to see more, that's where I post like the best of the best. And those are the ones that I that I've spent time retouching and that I create art prints from so those are available. If anybody's interested in owning if one speaks to you, and you're like I need that in my house, then that's where you can get that. And then I'll just I'll just say again, hello, dot photo xo dotnet you can Get to both Instagrams from there. And you can also see more about what I do for my clients. You can find my own podcast, which is brand new. Oh, yeah, maybe I can have you on my podcast. The podcast is called ambient light. And I'm, I'm really into just getting getting people to talk about one of their photos that they connect with like one picture from your past like one picture from your family, and it's fledgling. I only have like six episodes up. It's very brand new, but I'm really, really excited about the response I've gotten so far. Just people get really excited to talk about a picture once you you know, you've got it in front of you and you have like 30 minutes or an hour to just really dive into it. It's super fun. Yeah, so anyway, hello dot photo Expo dotnet is where you can find basically everything all of my numerous sort of tentacles of myself. business and art projects. That's perfect. I'll put all that information in the description below so people can go check it out, follow support, share and everything above. I'm so happy you have a podcast I'm gonna go check it out. And if you want me on already have a picture in mind, there's a picture of me that I find hilarious. It's me as a kid on the table eating Cheerios, but I'm asleep and I still have a Cheerio in my mouth. I didn't.
That's amazing. I'll
send it to you after this episode. So you see how ridiculous I look. Um, so yesterday, for the last question. It's a question that you know what I feel prepared, as I say for every episode, but I'm never prepared. Do you have any questions for me about collecting vintage photos?
Do you want to do it now that we've talked about it? are you into? Are you going to search out some
some vintage photos? Well, it's interesting you asked that because a few years ago, what I started to do is I went through all my family photo photos. albums and I wanted to make like a special thing where I would put it on a USB so I can share it to my grandma, grandmother, my grandfather, my parents and stuff like that. And I've gotten probably like 1000 photos and then I started organizing it and things got in the way and then I just didn't have the chance I do want to complete it. But yeah, like it was just like hard trying to figure out I want to date them and organize that.
Yes. Because what
else I found is that my parents while searching for that my parents had some old VHS cassettes of videos of like classes kids and growing up and stuff like that and their their wedding and it made me like realize, like when I look back at and like whoa, my dad looks like me. He had an afro at one point, I have an afro or not anymore. I use of an afro, and it was just like, oh, they're human like, humanizes everybody. They're no longer like just your eyes. They were once my age,
right? Yeah, yeah. There's a project on Instagram that I really liked. And I can't recall the name of it right now. But I'll send it to you in the show notes. But it's it's people sending in pictures sharing pictures of their moms before they were moms. And it is chilling like it's a fascinating project and then they write a little bit, you know, the whoever submits, it writes a little bit about their mom and what's going on in the picture. And it is just like, yeah, thinking about your parents lives before you were in it is just like, oh, design, it is dizzying. That's crazy.
It's like yeah, we're different but the same at the same time. Sounds weird.
But yeah, right. No, I know. I know. It's really cool. You know, something that I enjoy about looking through family photos and you know, I get this more with my clients went then then with the the photos I collect, because the ones I collect are just sort of random. But when I'm when I get to see several generations worth of photos that a client may have, it's so cool to see like resemblances and how they pop up over time. Time and like it just makes you think about genetics and being human. And you know, I mean, it is wild, it can get kind of existential if you spend too much time with photography.
But it's so relaxing. I love doing it just, it just goes back through historic memories, as we mentioned at the beginning of the episode. Yeah. Oh, man, I could go on for for a long time talking about this. I feel like I just want to go like look at albums now. But
they're good influence. That's for sure.
So there you have it. Another body with the hobby. Thank you so much Sabrina for coming on. And just going through time of photos with me and just I have a big smile on right now. I just love it so much.
Me too. I'm getting so big. Thank you so much, Alex. This has been so much fun.
And if you guys want to learn more about Sabrina by all means go check her out on the links. I will put in the description below support her share, like thumbs up everything and anything. And if you'd like to be on this podcast, you could send me an email at Tom firstname.lastname@example.org or you can even ask questions and as of today, but by the time this episode is released, it's gonna be as of like, what two months ago. I am selling merchandise now with time for your hope. not time for your hobo time for your hobby logo on it so you can have like a time for your hobby shirt when you're doing your hobby. Or you have a time for hobby mug, they sell also shower curtains, I don't think you need time for your hobbies, shower curtains, I don't see the relevance. But if you're into that, hey, there it is. And if you'd like the podcast, you can leave a review, share with friends that always helps. And if you think somebody is going through a hard time, and you want to share this with them in hopes that it helps by all means share with him because maybe collecting Vintage Photo will spark new joy, new energy and happiness. So once again, thank you so much, Sabrina. Thanks, Alex. So Until the next episode, make some time for your hobbies. Take care