160 lots of fine photographs from daguerreotypes to modern prints will be auctioned live at the Radisson Martinique Hotel in New York City by Be-Hold, a photography auction house that has sold works via catalog and the internet for twenty-five years.
Among the lots are four images representing the African diaspora. The information shown below is cataloged on the Be-Hold/Artfact web site.
Estimate: $3,000 – $4,000
8″ x 6″ platinum print, vintage ca. 1920. Signed by Ulmann in pen on the mount beneath the image. Label on the verso from the NYNEX collection.
Estimate: $2,000 – $3,000
14″ x 10 7/8″ brown toned matte gelatin silver print. No maker indicated, but “Springfield MO” written in pencil on verso. Sorry to place this immediately following the sensitive double portrait by Doris Ulmann, but this is the other side. There was a “race riot” and a series of lynchings in Springfield in 1906, but there were lynchings there at other times as well, so I haven’t been able to place this in a specific time. What is most striking and important about this photograph is that it well shows the horror of the event — it is even a kind of death portrait of the victim, including the spectators below– but it is also a carefully composed pictorialist photograph.
$3,000 – $4,000
9 1/8″ x 6 ½” matte mounted pigment print, signed by Drtikol and dated 1927 in pencil on the mount, recto, Just a wonderful example of photography poised between drawing and representation, and of course a wonderful subject.
$4,000 – $5,000
21 ¼” x 14 ¼” gelatin silver print, signed titled dated 2003 below image, matted and framed. The artist was awarded the Golden Lion at the 2008 Venice Biennial.
You’ll want to be sure to prepare for the auction, in advance. Make sure to see the photographs live, if possible, and inquire about the condition and provenance with the auction house owner, staffer, or representative.
I’ve been re-reading parts of Richard Blodgett’s book Photographs: A Collector’s Guide over the last few weeks and am amazed at the prices for vintage prints at $50, $100, and $500 — back in 1978-79. I’m talking about major nineteenth and early twentieth century photo stars such as Carleton Watkins, Edward S. Curtis, and Imogen Cunningham. Alas, in today’s market, one can become easily frustrated by the criteria for what constitutes a “vintage photograph.” Good judgment and caution should always prevail…along with the best resources to guide your process.
Who is the photographer, and how important is he or she to the history of photography?
Did the photographer print this image or supervise its printing? If not, it’s not considered in the same category as the photographer’s own work.
What kind of print is it? A high-quality print made for an exhibition, or a quick-and-dirty proof made on flimsy paper?
Is the image sharp and well detailed? Reproductions may look “fuzzy.”
When was the picture printed? For a piece to be “vintage,” it must have been printed with a few years after the negative was made. “Later” pieces usually sell for less, even though they may be very good quality.
Is it in good condition?
Who owned it before you? Can the dealer account for where it’s been all those years? If not, it may be a later copy. Insist on seeing other proof that the picture is genuinely old.
When you shine a black light on the photo, does it glow? If it does, that’s a sign that it was printed later than the mid-1950s.
An “ArtCast” on Collecting Photography is found on the website of Authentic Contemporary Art, a Washington, D.C. based firm that specializes in exhibiting emerging contemporary artists and mentoring fine art collectors through gallery visits, workshops, and special events. The Collecting Photography “ArtCast” features photographer and former gallery manager, Camille Mosley-Palsey, owner of Pasley Place Photography, a full-service photography studio specializing in portraits, fine art photography, and exhibitions.
From TAAP’s website:
…TAAP provides a broad overview of African American photography in the urban and rural areas of Texas, spanning the period from the 1870s to the present and representing a variety of processes and makers. The Archive is unique in its comprehensiveness, and consists of over 50,000 photographic negatives and prints and more than 20 oral histories collected from African American photographers. Most of the items in the Archive have been donated by the photographers and their families, while others have been acquired from private collections…The TAAP Archive focuses on the growth and development of vernacular and community photography among African Americans in Texas. The material in the Collection elucidates the context of social gatherings, including weddings, funerals, Juneteenth parades, church services, high school and college graduations, neighborhood businesses, and day-to-day activities in African American communities around the state. In addition, the images chronicle social protests and political demonstrations. The Collection includes work by identified photographers from around the state as well as photographs by unidentified picture makers.
There was a tiny sampling of African diaspora photographs at the Thursday, April 2nd Bloomsbury Auction in New York; three out of 140 lots were available and all went unsold. The photographs are on the level of social documentary imagery, and are quite familiar to the general public (i.e. social or work program imagery, images of need, and non-Christian religious gatherings) seen on television, in magazines, and the daily press. They don’t suggest the rarity of fine art photography of the black image, which might explain the response they received at auction.
Lot #35 O. Winston Link (1914-2001) Lubricator Charles Wade attends to the rods of class E2A 578 at the lubritorium in Bluefield, 1955
(Estimate $3000 – $5000) unsold
Lot #62 Sebastião Salgado (b. 1944) The Journey of Hunger…Ethiopia, 1984-1985
(Estimate $3000 – $5000) unsold
Lot #63 Abbas (b. 1944), James Nachtwey (b. 1948) and Bruno Barbey (b. 1941)
At the April 1st Photographs sale at Phillips de Pury New York, total lots sold for
$ 1,890, 875. Approximately fifteen out of 280 lots depicted images of the African diaspora or were photographed by black photographers. Some highlights include two works by African photographer, Seydou Keita which sold for $9,375 and $ 8,750, respectively.
Contemporary photographer, Carrie Mae Weems, was represented by a coupler print with sandblasted text on glass called You Became Mammie, Mama, Mother, Then, Yes, Confidant-Ha/ Descending the Throne You Became Foot Soldier and Cook from From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried, 1995. The piece was estimated at $ $10,000-15,000, and sold for $ 20,000.
A jazz and blues portfolio by Lee Friedlander was estimated at $40,000-60,000 and was passed. The portfolio includes images of Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Robert/Pete Williams, Joe Turner, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Milt Jackson.