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TOKY’s John Foster Interviewed for Collectors Weekly and St. Louis Magazine

Collectors Weekly Foster 2013

We’ve written more than a few times about how TOKY’s John Foster moonlights as a well-known collector of vernacular photography.

Having been named one of the “Top 100 Collectors” in the United States by Art & Antiques, and with snapshots moving from his collection to the International Center of Photography’s, John is a go-to source on the subject.

A few more publications have come calling so far in 2013. This spring, he was interviewed at length for Hunter Oatman-Stanford’s article “Take That, Instagram: The Enduring Allure of Vintage Snapshots,” published in Collectors Weekly. Just a few excerpts from the in-depth piece:

Few vernacular photographers considered their work a creative pursuit; for most it was simply a form of documentation. “Birthday parties, weddings, funerals, new cars, moving into the new house, holidays, and vacations. These are times that the camera came out,” says St. Louis-based collector and folk-art scholar John Foster.

During the early 20th century, as ordinary people learned to take photographs, discarded prints became a necessary by-product of the camera’s democratization. “In a sense, the American people documented the 20th century themselves,” says Foster. “There are millions and millions of these pictures, these artifacts of the 20th century.”

… Although the images in Foster’s collection weren’t originally created as art, he only chooses those which meet his particular aesthetic standards. In the late 1980s, Foster discovered a photo that opened his eyes to the beauty of vernacular imagery.

“It was a portrait of two people standing in front of a fence, and you could see over the fence into a housing complex or something, with the grandmother looking over the fence. Then even further back, someone’s in the window. They were all perfectly posed and arranged in a way that I knew was not intentional, but they’re photo-bombing this image in a really wonderful way. I’ve always loved things that happen unintentionally, accidentally.”


John Foster SLM 2013


Closer to home, John was also featured in the March 2013 St. Louis Magazine. In “Perfect Mistakes: The Accidental Masterpieces of John Foster,” writer Byron Kerman has John walk SLM readers through four of his favorite snapshot finds. I encourage a click-through. It’s a fun piece.

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Written by Stephen Schenkenberg