Issue #177  12/11/2010
Swann's Oct. 19th Auction Breaks Over $1.1 Million With Help From Rare Albums and Portfolios

By Stephen Perloff
Editor of The Photograph Collector

The top lots at Swann Galleries' October 19 auction of Fine Photographs & Select Photobooks were scarce or unique photographic albums and portfolios that captured cultures on the brink of extinction. Adam Clark Vroman's A Trip to Snake Dance, Moqui-Indian-towns, and Petrified Forests of Arizona, an album with 76 platinum print photographs of southwestern Native American culture, 1895, sold for a record $48,000. The album was once owned by Senator Barry Goldwater.

Another record-setting album was Roman Vishniac's portfolio The Vanished World, complete with 12 silver print photographs of Jews living in Poland from 1936 to 1938. The album, which was printed in an edition of 50 in 1977, brought $43,200.

There was also a suite of 29 portraits of Native Americans by Alexander Gardner, Chas. Bell and others from the U.S. Geological Survey of the Territories, late 1860s to early 1870s, $28,800 (fourth place); a copy of Volume 1 of Edward S. Curtis's magnum opus, The North American Indian, 1907, complete with 78 sepia-toned photogravures, signed and dated by Curtis, a record $15,600 (tied for ninth place); as well as a portfolio of a different kind, Emmet Gowin's Concerning America and Alfred Stieglitz, and Myself, with 14 silver prints, 1963-64, printed 1965, one of 100, signed and inscribed and with additional ink embellishment on the cover, $33,600 (third place).

Several examples of the earliest photographs were among the highlights, such as a whole-plate daguerreotype of three young sisters attributed to Albert Southworth and Josiah Hawes, late 1840s--early 1850s, $12,000; and a quarter-plate daguerreotype of seven placer miners in Northern California, operating equipment used to separate dirt from gold, early 1850s, $15,600.

Ansel Adams's Monolith, The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, CA, 1927/1970s, garnered $21,600 (sixth place), and his Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, brought $19,200 (seventh place). The classic publication by Alfred Stieglitz, 291, numbers 1-12, March 1915-February 1916, took eighth place at $18,000.

Classic 20th-century black-and-white photographic images included Brassaï's Bijou au Bar de la Lune, Montmartre, oversize ferrotyped silver print, circa 1932, printed late 1950s to early-mid 1960s, $11,400; Henri Cartier-Bresson's Behind the Gare St. Lazare, silver print, 1932, printed 1980s, $10,200; André Kertész's Washington Square (Winter), silver print, 1954, printed no later than 1967, which brought $22,800, a record fro a modern print; Alfred Eisenstaedt's Children at a Puppet Theatre II, Paris, silver print, 1963, printed 1994, $12,000; and Josef Koudelka's France, silver print, 1973, printed 1981, $13,200.

Among the many eye-catching nudes in the sale were three images from Ruth Bernhard's The Eternal Body Portfolio, silver prints, 1951-1967, printed 1976, $15,600; and Herb Ritts's Wrapped Torso, platinum print, 1989, $15,600.

A photograph that attracted a lot of media attention was Annie Leibovitz's portrait of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, New York, Cibachrome print, 1980, taken just hours before Lennon's death, which sold for $15,600.

The sale totaled $1,180,322, a bit below the low estimate, with a 34% buy-in rate by lot.

(Copyright ©2010 by The Photograph Collector.)

My thanks to Steve Perloff and The Photograph Collector Newsletter for giving me permission to use this information. The Photograph Collector, which is a wonderful newsletter that I can heartily recommend, is published monthly and is available by subscription for $149.95. You can phone 1-215-891-0214 and charge your subscription or send a check or money order to: The Photograph Collector, 140 East Richardson Ave, Langhorne, PA 19047. Or to order The Photograph Collector Newsletter online, go to: http://www.photoreview.org/wordpressindex/shop/.