Dr. Reinhold Mittersakschmöller is director of Rainworld Archive and initiator of The Vienna Vintage Photo Festival
Mr.Mittersakschmöller, thank you for agreeing to do this interview! We are excited to hear about the first Vienna Vintage Photo Festival and your thoughts and opinions regarding vintage photography in general and the increasing interest for collecting it. The festival will take place on June 4th and is the opening event of Photo Wien 2023
Mr. Mittersakschmöller, can you tell us a bit about the background of the Vienna Vintage Photo Fair?
The Vienna Vintage Photo Fair will have its premiere this year on June 4th in the heart of Vienna at the MQ in the museum district. Since there hasn't been any comparable event in Vienna in the past decades, we decided to organize it. We are a small team, a fusion of the only two dealers in affordable vintage photography in Vienna: RAINWORLD ARCHIVE and MILANEUM. The biggest Austrian photo festival, FOTO WIEN 2023, immediately supported the idea, and after a short brainstorming session, we made it into the opening program of the festival. This gives us the opportunity to reach not only long-standing collectors of vintage photography but also anyone interested in visual arts in general, including students, teachers, curators, and photographers. The essence of our idea and the resulting fair is to introduce the audience to the rich tradition of photography that spans three centuries. We hope that visitors will be overwhelmed by the variety of historical and modern photography, just as we were when we started collecting, researching, and trading photographs.
Why should I start collecting vintage photos in your opinion?
I believe that collecting vintage photographs can broaden your horizons in many fields. From its inception, photography has had an impact on social history, and vice versa. Collecting vintage photographs can change or refine your perception of certain visual topics, such as historical events and their development during specific political conditions. Each photographer captures images from a different angle, with a unique set of preconditions, so it is up to the observer to select and evaluate the image content. The timeline of photography's development parallels other sciences as well. For example, 19th-century travel and exploration photography developed alongside advancements in natural history and anthropology. The wide range of techniques available provides collectors with the opportunity to specialize in early photography, the classic period, or even modern iconic prints that are found in today's press photography.
Would you say the interest for vintage photography collecting is increasing?
With fairs dedicated exclusively to vintage photographs in New York, Paris, London, and Amsterdam, the interest in genuine vintage prints—originals from the period—is definitely increasing. We are thrilled that Vienna will be the next European capital to host such a fair. Vintage photography auctions are rapidly growing in Central Europe, and while not every auction focuses solely on photography, antiquarian book sellers worldwide have seized the opportunity to offer photography-related items, such as photo books with accompanying original prints, old travel albums, and press photographs from dissolved archives. The online market for vintage photography still provides a great opportunity to acquire a vintage print at very reasonable prices, where many younger photo enthusiasts start their collections.
In your experience, are there certain topics within vintage photography that are of extra interest for collectors?
From the first online purchase to owning an original Edward Weston, it may be a long journey. However, there are many different approaches to collecting. Collecting vernacular photography, such as snapshots, has already gained popularity, but there are still great finds to be made. The uniqueness of each image adds a special flavor to anyone's collection, not much different from an early daguerreotype. A significant number of vintage photographs offered at the aforementioned fairs are travel, exploration, ethnographic, and topographical photos from the 19th century. These serve not only as visual proof of European expansion in a colonial context but also as rare documents of the industrial revolution and technical innovation, often exhibiting superb photographic quality. The classic age of 20th-century art photography requires no explanation, but there are numerous other themes to discover in the vast universe of vintage photography, including 20th-century press photography, amateur salon photography from the 1930s to the 1950s, and visual documents of 1960s/70s pop culture.
Thank you very much for your inspiring answers Mr.Mittersakschmöller and good luck with the festival!
Niklas Blomkvist, Creative and Photography Director, IMS Vintage Photos