Helen Levitt (1913-2009) — Photographs of Children

Helen Levitt, known for her street photography scenes of New York City, died on March 30, 2009. She was 95 years old.

Her series of work on Spanish Harlem and the Lower East Side captured children at play and adult residents in “only-in-New York” street drama.

New York, c. 1940

Heritage Auction House Post-Auction Photographs For Sale

Heritage Auction Galleries (Dallas, Texas) has 165 lots available in a post-auction photographs sale. The lots were originally presented at the April 18th Vintage Photography Signature Auction. Among the lots are images by Roy De Carava, James Van der Zee, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Lou Bernstein, and Bruce Davidson that address African diaspora photography.

The sale ends Monday, May 4th.

Untitled (People Gathered, Woman Looking over Shoulder),
Henri Cartier-Bresson (photographer). Untitled (People Gathered, Woman Looking over Shoulder) Silver gelatin print, 1961

Be-Hold Presents First Live Auction, April 28th in New York City

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.

"South Carolina, Two Women" by Doris Ulmann 1926 platinum
Lot 92: "South Carolina, Two Women" by Doris Ulmann 1926 platinum

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.

Lynching, Springfield Misssouri
Lot 93: Lynching, Springfield Misssouri

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.

Josephine Baker Dancing, by Drtikol.
Lot 104: Josephine Baker Dancing, by Drtikol

$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.

Lot 157: "Karim Keita Le Gentilman - 1967" by Malik Sidibe

$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.

See Be-Hold: Fine Early Photography and Sales for preview times, bidding information, and relevant terms and conditions.

Checklist for Buying Vintage Photographs

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.

In Lisa Hunter’s book, The Intrepid Art Collector: the Beginners Guide to Finding, Buying, and Appreciating Art on a Budget, she details a checklist for buying vintage photographs. Xerox and take it with you for guerilla collecting pursuits. From the book:

Checklist for Buying Vintage Photography

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.

You can listen to Lisa being interviewed on Authentic Contemporary Art’s ArtCast (see Thursday, June 26th, 2008).

Buy this book. It’s a keeper.

Cowan’s Auction of Historic and Western Americana – June 25 & 26, 2009

Cowan’s Auctions has scheduled its Historic and Western Americana auction for June 25th and 26th, 2009. The lots are expected to represent materials that pertain to Civil War Photography, Early Photography, Slavery and the African-American Experience, and more.

In 2003, Cowan’s sold a daguerreotype image of slavery in Virginia from the Brasseur Collection of Cased Images, for $22,425. The estimate was $10,000-$15,000.

Collecting Photography: ArtCast at Authentic Contemporary Art

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.

Texas African American Photography Archive

I came across this archive on African diaspora photography today and thought you might be interested: The Texas African American Photography (TAAP) Archive

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.

Contact the Archive at (214)-823-8824.