Interview and Review of Vintage Stock Photo Agency Colaimages
While there is a wide choice of contemporary photography for all purposes, images from a time when cameras were still a luxury and needed professionals to operate them are rare.
Colaimages.com historic stock photo agency is specializing in vintage photographs, and since May 2012 the archive is online with more 10,000 images. The images in the library portray the way we were, documenting the history of the 20th Century through its characteristic fashions, trends, icons, lifestyles, and social, economic and political events from 1900 to 1980. Themes range widely across all subjects: From Chinese tortures to Belle Époque nudes; from artisans at work to celebrities and starlets; from movie stills to sports, from ethnic visuals of colonialism to old illustrations, from pictorial art to studio portraits.
We had the chance to talk to Marco, the founder and owner of Colaimages.com
What kind of images are you offering at Colaimages.com?
The authors of the photographic collection are both professional photographers of the golden age of photojournalism, and amateur photographers. The exclusivity of our images rely on numerous unknown authors of unique familiar candid snapshots, surprisingly effective in representing the real spirit of their time: A sort of street photography ahead of its time.
These visual fragments of the past are the most effective way to enrich your work, whether you want to portray rapid industrialization and socio-cultural changes, or just show the old techniques of agricultural work and handicraft, pastoral life and marinara, games and sports, feasts and holidays, devotional behavior and ritual practices, school and family groups.
Why does Colaimages love archival images?
I would like to explain you a little more about our images, why they are unique and why it takes such a long time for an old photo to be available on the website.
First of all, a photo must be found somewhere in its original paper format. We only want originals; imitative retro design is not our business. This means a continuous research in the field, i.e. usually antiques flee markets and garage sales. Each Saturdays and Sundays, early in the morning, the production chain begins scavenging through old stuff. Most of the time nothing interesting turns up, but sometimes piles of old photos hoarded together are found. In this case you spend hours looking for the right snapshots. In my experience, usually – on average – only one photo out of 100 is worth buying and processing. When I travel, for whatever reason, to whatever country, my trip is focused on my never-ending search for old photos.
But what exactly are you looking for in an old photo? Why so much selecting?
First, I want to see action. About 90% of the old photos are people portraits, like grandma with hair bun and grandpa with mustache. I don't want many photos of this kind, they are too similar and in the end useless to diversify the archive. What I mostly look for is old production processes, artisans at work, historic events, famous artists, fashionable women, motorbikes, airplanes, zeppelins. I want images that represent the spirit of their time, photos that document the past, evidences and proofs apt to illustrate history. A photo must tell you something, otherwise is only decoration.
Once an old photo is acquired, it goes through a long process that starts with high resolution manual scanning – you cannot use a scan feeder because the old photo is delicate, often has tears, and you don't want to ruin it completely.
After the image has been digitalized, you need to clean it (cracks, foxing, spots, silvering, and scratches are almost always present), regulate the levels of B&W, exposition, contrast, brightness, color balance, and other photographic parameters. I use Photoshop for photo retouching. Sometimes this work is easy and relatively fast, sometimes, when an old photo is badly ruined, it takes ages to bring it back to its original beauty.
Once the image is restored and ready to be used, it needs to be archived in the database. This can be a long process too, especially when there are no clear indications written in the back of the photo, and when the place, the face, or whatever is portrayed is not easily identifiable. This research process is interesting, as you always learn a lot from a photo, but can also be frustrating. The time of the shoot – at least the decade – is easy to identify once you have acquired a certain familiarity with old clothes. However, you need to be familiar with old haircuts too, as sometimes people are naked. The last step before uploading the images on the website is to tag them. Without tagging them with keywords, how can you find the right image you need?
This production chain explains why our photos cannot be sold for a few euros like in the microstock world: Each one is unique, each one has hours of work behind it. To find the right selling price is never easy. We think that our images deserve a price that place our product in the high segment of the market. However, we would like to favor iconographic research, students, and academics, therefore we have chosen a price of 90 Euros for our 300 dpi photos (the print resolution). Moreover, we have chosen a very low price (10 Euros) for the low resolution web formats (500 pixel or 1000 pixel @ 72 dpi). We provide images in JPEG extension, but our customers can ask for TIFF files or whatever extension they need. We also offer image packs on demand at a discount price. With reference to licensing, we offer our images Royalty Free because it's easy and straightforward.
How do you find the right image you are searching for in Colaimages.com's website?
First of all, we offer four languages: English, French, Italian, and Spanish. To find an image you basically have two options: You can look in the relevant subject gallery, or you can type keywords in the search bar. An advanced search including different parameters is also available. We also offer a search service for free.
Colaimages.com offers a wide choice of images of the past in a simple and straightforward method. Just type your keywords in the search bar and look at the result. You can choose among 3 different image size/resolution for each photo. Files are directly available to download in jpeg format in a few clicks, to be licensed Royalty Free. Payments can be done via Paypal, Credit Card, or bank transfer. The online collection numbers more than 10,000 images, and new accessions are continuously added to the digital archive.
Archival imagery is certainly not among the main stream of image uses. This is why it is rather hard to find imagery from the early 20th century in big archives, they would be just lost of the masses of images. If you have the need for historic images, Colaimages.com is a place to go to with a focused selection of images, well restaurated and prepared for modern uses. Check them out now and set a bookmark. You'll never know when you might need just that.
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