When I was building the site map for Christian Pan Erotica, I wanted the art to not only be sensual and erotic, but also to tell a story. My quest for the right images paralleled my own ambitions as a writer: to find texture, character, and nuance, only with photography instead of words.
I found what I was seeking and much, much more in AntiquePhotoArchive, a company lead by Cass Fuller and Lisa Fields.
AntiquePhotoArchive collects, prepares, polishes and sells giclee prints of rare and unusual vintage photographs, including vintage erotica. They have been in the digital reproduction field for twenty years and have been the source and designers of numerous photographic installations and large scale collage murals in commercial properties across the United States. They also sell direct to consumers on their Etsy shop AntiquePhotoArchive while residing in the mountains of Asheville, NC.
Below is based on an interview I had with them via Zoom on 13 May 2021. Some of the interview has been edited for style.
CP: All right. Tell me the “origin story”!
LF: I´m going to let you and Cass do most of the talking, because he's the real artist between the two of us. I´m more in charge of the customer serivce, the marketing, and the social media, that whole other side of our business.
CP: Great! Sounds like you two are a great match!
LF: We are. Our skills really complement each other well, in this.
CF: I´ve been a self-employed artist my whole life--from air-brushing t-shirts, to doing sign-painting, to murals. I think, like many artists, there was a kind of prostitution to it: saying yes to everything, doing it for the money, not being able to build something just for myself.
But it was during this time, when I was working on these large scale art projects, that I was living in Las Vegas. I would frequently work with a number of commercial or entertainment spaces, like bars or restaurants, and one of my clients approached me to design this new bar they were opening. Essentially, I ended up creating this art installation, made out of old vintage photographs, that we then printed and wheat pasted onto the walls of his club. It was a huge hit. I think it really began then.
CP: Had you not been into vintage photography or erotic photography before then?
CF: Not really to this extent, no. To do the research for that client in Vegas, I researched literally thousands and thousands of images online. So many of them were just….random. And fascinating. I really felt like there was a story inside of every photo. And I mean beyond the voyeuristic angle of seeing these suggestive pictures, but just the whole context of it: who were these subjects? Who took the photo? How did they select the setting, or set up the lighting? I think all of those layers are present in these old photographs, and are not present in a lot of photography today.
CP: How so?
CF: I think the camera, what kind of equipment you use; along with the grain of the film itself--these elements create the story in a really powerful photograph, for me. And with digital cameras--it´s too high of a definition. The modernized technology has left the story behind in the people whose pictures we´re capturing. The older ones are more intimate.
CP: What does AntiquePhotoArchive do? How did that start?
CF: Well, once I got into these vintage photographs, I just couldn´t stop. I had literally thousands and thousands of these, and I realized that I wanted to share them. It´s one thing to have these images on a little corner of your laptop screen, but I still think there´s something of great value to actually have a print of it hanging in your home or at your office. So, I started figuring out how to print these old pictures--all self-taught. Each of these old pictures takes about 10 hours to delicately touch up, make corrections. Plus I´m always looking for photographs, trying to find new material. I mean, the world has so many photographs from over a hundred years ago, just floating around out there; when I actually find one I like, it´s a really powerful moment. It´s like I´m there, traveling through time, getting to enter that moment.
LF: And then I entered his life! (laughs)
CF: (laughs) Yes, that is true. We´ve basically not been apart since the first time we met.
CP: How did you two meet?
LF: We met at a gallery exhibition Cass was doing, in Vegas.
CF: It was my only time showing my work in a gallery context, really. And it was very last minute! Someone dropped out, and I was replacing them.
CP: Sounds like it was meant to be!
CF: Absolutely! And so we met, and there was a connection. And then we spent just about every day for a month chatting on the phone.
LF: I like to say that Cass and I met the "old fashioned way," just talking!
CF: And then we had our first date at a fetish party at Laura Henkel´s place.
CF: And we´ve basically been together ever since! And now, AntiquePhotoArchive is all we do. It´s a full-time business--from finding the photographs, to then touching them up, printing them; as well as advertising, keeping up with social media, all of it.
CP: Sounds like your passion and your creativity are providing you with material success. The artist´s dream!
CF: Yes, I´m very grateful. I just love everything about these vintage photographs--love learning about the equipment that was being used, who was there, how the picture came to be, was it posed or was it random? All of it is right there, in the picture, locked in time. I just want to share these with the world, in a tangible, tactile form.
LF: We like pleasing people´s senses!