Thursday, June 7, 2012


This month I asked for you to share a favorite Real Photo Postcard (RPPC), and below you will find a dandy selection.  Next month: An erotic Photobooth or Polaroid.   Got one?  Drop me a line.   Stacy Waldman

As with inscriptions and captions on “found” snapshots, messages and dates on real photo postcards not only inform the captured moment, but provide a personal connection that preserves the life of the image. For me, the gems are the ones that combine strong amateur photographs with succinct handwritten notes, both of which could survive independently. This real photo postcard possesses all of the important elements. The image is a compelling composition: the geometry of the couple’s interlocking hands and arms capture the viewer’s eye and, ultimately, focus it at the electric connection of the close-eyed kiss, all of which is  enhanced  by the balance of light and shadow and the manner by which the lines of the horizontal clapboards and shutter slats frame the lovers in the doorway.  The blue tone of the cyanotype further  provides a dreamlike quality to the magic moment.  The simple sentiments, “What’s the use of loving if you can’t love all the while?” and “Homeward bound. Jack” are the frosting on the cake.

Mark Glovsky

His eyes just draw you in - and his expression and attitude is strikingly self-possessed.  And then there's that off-kilter compositional element - those splayed feet lifted and put into your face, yet perfectly frame his own face as well.  It's one I often return to for another look.  The postcard formatting on the back indicates it may have been printed around May-November 1910.  I wonder if he made it safely through the later world events of that decade.

Karen Oldfield

Most private real photo postcards show people, events, or buildings, but somewhere in the vast world of RPPCs, if you look hard and long enough, you will find everything -- including the kitchen sink. Why would someone take a photograph of a  sink? Because of its low vantage point, maybe this photo was taken by a plumber who was proud of his handiwork. Whoever took this image was good at the craft of photography. It's nicely lit, pleasingly asymmetrical, has great contrast, and fits perfectly in the 3.5" x 5.5" postcard format.

Contrasting with the hard, cold sink is this soft sepia portrait of a nude woman -- a topic almost never seen on a RPPC except as a mass-produced product. This, however, is a private image, printed with a Velox postcard back but never mailed. It's likely that the photographer printed it himself on postcard stock rather than sending it off to Kodak to have it developed. It's erotic yet demure, and has a wonderful "Old Master" quality. The chains around her neck add an elegant touch.

Pat Street

Having probed the market repeatedly as an eBay seller, I find that real photo postcards are seriously undervalued by snapshot people. Why is this? After all, RPPCs are often just snapshots printed on postcard stock.

One important difference between snapshots and RPPCs would even seem to work in our favor as collectors. An RPPC represents a second pass at a picture or pictures already taken. So it allowed for a certain amount of second-order darkroom fiddling, which may or may not have been professional or particularly thoughtful: an RPPC can include an extra layer of ingeniousness, crudity, or total inscrutability. This composite image seems to have been assembled from three separate snapshots. The intended effect is very difficult to guess.

Joel Rotenberg

The photo is by Jose Alemany.  I have no idea how it was made, or why the post card info is on the front, or if that was even intentional.  

Erin Waters

This 1911 real photo postcard depicts a scene from the waning days of tintype photography. The setting is the Athens Interstate Fair, nestled in the rolling hills of north central Pennsylvania, not far from Elmyra, New York. A group of people are gathered in front of the Crystal Tintype Gallery tent, as if waiting for their turn in front of the camera. The shirt-sleeved guy on the right, removed slightly from the rest of the group, may be the photographer, but we have no way of knowing. Google failed me in yielding up any results about his gallery. The shooting gallery to the right adds more interest to the image. And if you look real closely on the left, you can make out samples of the photographer's wares pinned to the tent. I like photos that conjure up a whole little world and this one fits the bill nicely.

Phil Storey

This image is part of a group of trick photo postcards which I bought in Seattle awhile back.  The information noted on the back states that the amateur photographer William F. Peacock of N. Albany, Oregon took this photo of perhaps his son, Virgil, on January 19, 1915.  It is unlike anything I have ever seen in this genre and thus ranks as one of my favorites.
Robert E. Jackson

Attached are two scans of RPPCs from my collection.  They are Latvian in origin, from the Capitol Riga. They were taken by J. Eizen. Both depict the interior of a wax mannequin maker's shop.

I've always found wax mannequin heads to be compelling objects.  So when I saw these postcards, my eyes must have bugged out.

David Chow

I must admit I have more interesting photo postcards in my collection.  But this is my favorite. Is it because of the pretty girl, or the football outfit?  Maybe it is because of the subject-- a glass house advertisement.  Well yes, that is part of it as I have been collecting beer and soda bottler memorabilia for 30 years.  It is addressed to W.A. French & Co. Red Bank N.J. who bottled Red Bank from 1875 - 1920.  That is the town I collect and William French is a relative of mine.  See my point!

Glenn Vogel

I've had this postcard in a book for about 12 years.  I bought it the first time I went to Brimfield. That may be why he's special to me.

I hope you like him.

Clare Goldsmith


  1. Wonderful selections all! Thank you for sharing

  2. Freaky to think all these people are gone but they were once so alive.

  3. really very interesting. Insight into what was important to people and what they wanted to share with people who were, perhaps, far away. Hard to imagine in this world of intercontinental flights and interstate highways that when people of a bygone era moved they rarely saw each other again, except perhaps a few times in a lifetime or through photographs.

  4. I love these real photo postcards! There is a section of the postcard forum dedicated to them. If you enjoy postcards you might like this link:

  5. Hey, I think those ones that David Chow posted might be my Great Great Great Grandmother...!

  6. I thought it was interesting that the sentiment written on Mark G.'s postcard (the first one) is from a popular song (slightly misquoted) -- the 1906 ditty "What's the Use of Loving If You Can't Love All the Time?" by Joseph Mittenthal and Harry Armstrong. Even then, song lyrics spread like wildfire and turned into catch phrases...