How to Decorate with Vintage Photography
Evocative and compelling, vintage photography is an easy way to add a cinematic feel to a space. In a living room, landscape photography can be used to mimic a vacation without the trip, while portraiture photography can be used to redraw the family tree. Look for colored photography to reinforce a room’s color palette and inspire decorative accessories, or use black-and-white photos to lend a room a soulful and moody vibe.
Yet with so many types of used photography to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to aim your lens. To help, we’ve broken down some of the most common types of secondhand photography you’ll find here at Chairish, including some of the photographers we think snapped it best.
Botanicals & Landscapes
When it comes to used photography, we love botanicals and landscapes for the way they play like portals to the natural world (making up for those fire escape-facing windows with aplomb, we must say). When decorating, vintage landscape photography is an easy way to reinforce a room’s theme—whether it be a snowy landscape hung in a sparse Scandinavian-inspired space or a minimal desert photograph displayed in clean, modern room.
If you’re in the market for vintage landscape photography, but don’t know where to start, try Ansel Adams. Inimitable, Ansel Adams was an American photographer who specialized in iconic, black-and-white images of the American West. His images of Yosemite National Park in particular stand alone as examples of visual poetry. We love these pieces used in simple, contemporary spaces, or spaces that might have furniture that feels a bit dated. Pair last season (or decade’s) sofa with an Ansel Adams print and we swear it will feel seasons fresher.
On the other hand, if it’s botanicals that call out to you, try Karl Blossfeldt. A German photographer who is best known for his close-ups of plants, Blossfeldt adopted a perspective akin to that of a bug crawling on a leaf. The result are monolithic plant photographs that feel simultaneously architectural and monstrous. Use these vintage photographs in lieu of the hub’s B-movie Sci-Fi posters for a look that you can both get behind.
Give your space a lift courtesy of aerial photography. Graphic, colorful, and seriously engaging, aerial photography has become increasingly popular thanks to the way it lifts a room out of everyday context and pulls in major vacay vibes. Featuring sprawling landscapes captured by helicopter or plane, aerial photography frequently showcases beachy locales dotted with colorful bathers, although it’s relatively easy to find city and mountainous sprawls too.
Use these large-scale prints to make major impact in a dining room or living room where you want to go all-out with accessorizing, as these prints often feature a variety of bright colors that can be riffed off of. If you desire even more drama, try opting for an aerial diptych or triptych. These will make easy work of filling a space behind a large sectional or along a ten-seater dining table.
If you’re looking for a photographer who aces the aerial look, try Gray Malin. Although perhaps best known for his iconic images of the Prada installation in Marfa, Texas, his aerial photographs seriously stun. With a catalog of aerial photographs that range from beaches to Central Park, his images possess a graphic elegance crossed with a playful, Where’s Waldo?-like vibe.
You might not know them on a personal level, but that doesn’t make vintage photography portraiture any less compelling. From black-and-white movie star stills to glamorous candid captures, portraiture is the perfect way to invite the element of intrigue into your space.
In most cases, you can use vintage photography portraiture much the same way you would an oil portrait, factoring one into a credenza vignette or hanging one in an alcove. Fashion photography (think classic Vogue photography) is ideal for offices and bedrooms where you desire a timeless, femme feel without too much emotional investment.
If you have more space to cover, consider opting for a large, dynamic portraiture scene. American photographer, Slim Aarons created these types of scenes with factory-like precision in the 20th Century, turning out thousands of images of sun-soaked socialites and Euro-tripping starlets in the 1960s and 70s. Undeniably fantasy-like, Aaron’s images encourage us to depart from everyday reality and embrace a little opulence. Functioning almost like a movie screen, they’re perfect for curating grand interiors that feel glamorous and Regency-like.