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The Story of Vintage Annals Archive
Who I am
My name is Rich Wexler, I started Vintage Annals Archive Instagram around twelve years ago. I honestly had no idea what I was doing, which has reminded mainly unchanged (ha), and used to post like ninety images a day because I thought Instagram worked by randomly choosing images. If you have been a follower since day one, I truly commend you. Even before Instagram, I always collected peoples family photos as well as being very lucky finding tons of photos on the
street. I also have a personal digital photo archive of vintage images that I scoured the web to find.
I don't think we had more than three hundred followers for the first six years. At some point around year seven or eight years, we got a repost from the amazing vintage queen herself, Amy Sedaris. She posted an image, tagged us, and wrote stolen without permission by our page. As a guilty Jewish man, I thought she was calling me out and apologized to her. I am really hoping she never read that. Within five days we had around 4000 new members. This is why we work hard at boosting other accounts with a smaller followings, as a way to return that favor, as without it I don't think we'd ever have really built an audience.
Kevin Allison and Storytelling
We then started the process of doing the podcast, which honestly neither of us really had a clue on how to do this. We both have natural talents on certain areas that compliment each other and a shared love for all of the kind of stuff we post, and a love for archiving and collecting. Alex is also an amazing narrator, interviewer, and editor. Since I am a teacher and off in the summer, we started seeking out folks to interview and recording about twenty or so interviews. I know I wouldn't have the time to do the bulk of that work during the school year, so we just pushed it. I also have to say how lucky we have been to connect with our guests, and kind of shocked when they agreed. Our first guest was Kevin Allison (MTV The State/ Risk Podcast) who was so helpful and generous to us, we wound up hiring him to advise for the Podcast. I can't begin to tell you how kind, generous, smart, and how well Kevin listened to us as well as how much support he gave us. I highly recommend his coaching services https://kevinallison.net/coaching and his podcast http://www.risk-show.com/
I have always been a big fan of his podcast and honestly his coaching really helped shape our podcast into a format that is a mix of no holds barred storytelling through the art of conversation. If you want storytelling, podcast advice, or life coaching your money will be well spent working with Kevin.
Building a Kind and Supportive Community
One aspect of the work we have done has really come from the kindness and support of our fans and followers. It became clear that we were on to something special as we really did try to make the page supportive and kind to the folks and things we post about. This came back to us in greater ways than we ever imagined. We seemed to find a way to run a kind and positive experience using a social media platform. I give more credit to our fans and followers for doing this than I give to us. This really made us want to create some kind of online and in person community from the page. We have started offering free classes, events, and discussion groups. We hosted an amazing Zoom event to celebrate Jim Henson's b-day in September, and thanks to all the amazing folks that helped us make this happen. We also started working with Karen Gottfried who is the sister of Arlene Gottfried on a project called Arlene Gottfried Legacy Project, which is a dream come true.
Diverse and Multicultural Content
We have been very lucky because of the support of our followers and grew over the next five years to having around 22,200 followers. A very important aspect to work of this page has always been to highlight LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and other MINORITY voices. In fact we purposely keep 1/3 of the content to share the stories of those communities. I myself am Jewish and have always felt it was important to use my white privilege to share the stories of unseen communities. As I always scour the internet for these historical and other images, I found out how little there actually is in the context of other communities. And sadly in the Vintage world, I feel there aren't many pages that really mix it up. When I understood this I started scanning my found photos, and found family photos and posting them on this website. A big part of that was to seek out collections of photos of diverse communities and to make these images public.
My Photography and The Page's focus on Photography
I am also a documentary photographer (www.richwexlerphotographer.com) and try my best to share about the lives of unseen communities. I also shoot on film, Polaroid, and even 3D film. I specialize in documentary and street photography and focus mainly on what I call fine art documentary portraiture. I also have done a ton of pro-bono community based photography as a way to once again use my privilege to help share the lives and stories of unseen communities. I mention this since it really changed the way I ran the VAA page to start really sharing the stories behind the things we post. Through the last few years I have really focused on sharing short histories of diverse communities through the page, as well as getting campier, and a bit more subversive. But at the core we want to tell the stories of the unknown, the odd, the unseen, and tell the stories of all the people and things that are considered the others.
Doctor Thunder, Events, Classes,The Podcast, Where we are at Now
As I started thinking about the possibility of losing my page, not liking censorship, and lastly wanting to expand into a non social networking based means of sharing the content of the page. The first step in this process was deciding to do a podcast. I had been talking to a good friend, Alex Spencer (aka Doctor Thunder) https://linktr.ee/DrThunder about doing some kind of podcast for at least seven or eight years but not from the VAA page, just in general. So when the time came to do this, he was the first person I thought to try to partner with. I honestly have to say I don't think I could have ever found such a smart, funny, talented, hard working, who also has great vocal and editing talents. Without Doctor Thunder this podcast would never had got off the ground. Alex is onto some other endeavors but will remain a founding member of the podcast.
The Crap We Got Instagram Warnings For
Censorship, Warnings, and The Corporate Nature of Instagram
As my interest in my own photography work evolved into wanting to tell more stories, so did my interest in doing the same on the Vintage Annals Archive page. This eventually lead to wanting to find ways to expand from the limits of Instagram. Some of that was done for reasons I wish didn't exist. We have gotten around twenty or thirty content warnings and all of them have been for pretty ridiculous reasons. An example of this is posting a historical image of a woman from the 70's wearing a t-shirt at a rally that had the words "Proud Dyke" written on it and getting a warning that I was posting hate speech. I am not a fan of censorship in general and especially when there aren't clear rules or any way to really fight these decisions. I also like really don't like to be told I use hate speech. Lastly whenever you get one of these warnings it tells you that you might be at risk of losing your account. I also never know if trolls are reporting these and that's why I get warnings since as some images I use are taken from other accounts and posted there. Logically it wouldn't make sense in an automated system for the same image to be allowed on one site and not another. Don't even get me started on the fact that the Instagram Algorithm seems to benefit corporate interests, as well as designed to try to limit your audience so you have to buy advertising and even that doesn't do much.
We really have a ton of folks to thank at this point and I am sure we'll have to re-edit this to thank a ton more, but here goes... There is no way I am going to remember everyone so if I forget you, here's a preemptive thank you! Big, Big Thanks to Alex Spencer (aka Doctor Thunder) for partnering with me, putting up with me, and killing it every time. A thank you to Kevin Allison for such generosity and for inspiring us with Risk Podcast. A huge thank you to Paul Williams for inspiration and showing such support for this page. My second huge thank you goes to David Arquette for inspiration and support. A third huge thank you goes to Paul Reubens for inspiration. Big Thanks to Meryl Meisler who has been a big friend to me and the page and is responsible for connecting me to Karen Gottfried and helping me achieve a seven year quest to run an Instagram account for the incredible work of Photographer Arlene Gottfried to who the Arlene Gottfried Legacy Page is named for. A big thanks to Karen for connecting me to so many folks that knew her sister and helping me with the project in many ways. Many more to add! Thanks for support from Jim Tozzi, Matt Citrenbaum, Pam Severns, Gene Barretta, Cassidy Lewis, Box and Sarah Brown , Swan Flambé and Robyn Mansions, and more to be added.