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AIPAD 2024 : Vince Aletti – Recent Acquisitions by Michael Diemar


Vince Aletti, collector, author, curator and winner of this year’s AIPAD Award, lives in a seven-room apartment in New York’s East Village. It’s filled to the brim with his enormous collection, or as he describes it, “a collection of collections”, of magazines, photographs, books, vinyl records, and all manner of ephemera. Still, there’s always room for more.

How would you describe yourself as a collector?
– As someone who looks for the affordable and the unexpected. I started collecting in my student days. Later on, in the mid-70s, photography wasn’t that expensive, but as a freelance writer, I didn’t have much money. I bought flea market pictures, postcards, and a lot of small male physique images that were $1 or less. I still don’t have the kind of money I would need to be a serious collector. I’m happy about the restriction because it means I’m focusing on things that are important to me and I want to live with. My collecting has progressed to some degree, but I still buy all the kinds of inexpensive things I’ve always liked. Even though I buy works from galleries sometimes, it’s the lesser of what I collect.

Where do you hunt for material?
– Well, there’s eBay, and the New York flea market though it’s not what it used to be. There are still dealers who show up every weekend with boxes of snapshots, cartes de visite, and the sort of things you find at a flea market. I like sifting through all the boxes and I often think of friends who collect and buy pictures to send to them. That’s another part of the pleasure of finding inexpensive things. I’ll put five or ten images in an envelope and send it off to someone.

Your recent acquisitions include a painted press print. The caption on the back reads “Ossip Garber who took the passport pictures of Mrs. Ruth Marie Rubens, one of the principals in the Rubens-Robinson passport mystery.”
– The caption lends something to it, a suggestion of a mystery that I will probably never get to the bottom of. I have a small collection of painted press pictures and I enjoy the combination of photography and painting and the sense that something has been used for publication. Often, there are annotations and clippings with captions, and I find all that fascinating.

Next up is a nude of a man in profile.
– The impurities look like the result of some mistakes in the dark room. The print may not have been what the photographer had intended, but it has a real sense of mystery. I find the gracefulness of the figure and all the lovely mistakes simply beautiful. There’s nothing on the back. I don’t know a thing about it, when it was made or by whom but it’s just kind of gorgeous.

There’s also a Polaroid of a policeman
– There’s a note on the back saying Polaroid negative. It’s a really striking image because of the way he looks up. His mirrored glasses and the insignia on his hat reflect a kind of silvery light. It’s a very masculine image, but it’s also mysterious and cinematic. I also like the Polaroid edging around the image so I was glad to get that.

Then there’s a portrait of what appears to be two brothers.
– I found it at the flea market with several other photos by the same photographer named Linda Covello. There’s a New Jersey phone number on the back but I’ve never followed up on it. The pictures were mostly of teenagers. You often find the contents of somebody’s storage unit at flea markets They stopped paying rent, the contents were sold off and it’s kind of sad to see. I really liked the image and the rough edges around it. The boys are so sympathetic. I like portraits of men and they’re very handsome. They could be models, but they are probably just brothers or friends who had their portrait taken for whatever reason.

Finally, we come to a nude by Wilhelm von Gloeden.
– That was a bit more expensive. The others were 1- 5 dollars, and the Polaroid was 20 dollars. I bought the von Gloeden through an online auction. It was still affordable and I had the opportunity to see it before I bid, to inspect the quality and make sure it was a vintage albumen print, not a later restrike. I had never seen that image before, which is not surprising as there are thousands of von Gloeden images out there. It’s not a particularly graceful nude but I liked the awkwardness of the pose, the athleticism of the body and the chocolate toning in the print. I have other von Gloeden prints but nothing like this one. It’s special.

Interview by Michael Diemar


This article originally appeared in the AIPAD Catalogue sponsored by MUUS Collection.

The Photography Show presented by AIPAD
April 25 – 28, 2024
Park Avenue Armory
643 Park Ave
New York, NY 10065

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