1. The sheer variety: The family of processes
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As John Szarkowski so perfectly defined it, ‘The word ‘photography’ stands for a family of processes united by the fact that they produce images through natural energies.’ Over the course of the past 175 years, there have been scores of photographic processes invented and refined. They can range from a ghostly image on a sheet of polished metal, to the most vibrant, otherworldly color on a glossy sheet of paper, and many things in between.
Adam Fuss (B. 1961), Untitled, from My Ghost, 2011. Archival pigment print. Number 3 from an edition of 11. Estimate: $30,000-50,000. This work will be offered in Photographs: The Evening Sale on 5 October at Christie’s in New York
The Evening and Day Sales of the Photographs department count over a dozen distinct photographic processes (and many more artistic techniques) on its list of exceptional works. The piece shown here, by Adam Fuss, is one of those mysterious images that hovers between the physical and the ethereal — something Fuss excels at.
2. Its creative expressions have been in constant flux
Photography was born in the matrix of the Industrial Revolution, and as a child of the new era it has spanned as many artistic movements as any other art form.
Paul Outerbridge (1896-1958), Chemistry, 1923. Platinum print. Signed and dated in pencil (on the mount). Estimate: $50,000-70,000. This work will be offered in Photographs: The Evening Sale on 5 October at Christie’s in New York
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The 19th century was one of exploration and romanticism, and ended with a pictorialist period that gave way to the dynamism and love of industry that characterized the first decades of the 20th century.
The avant-garde was thriving in both America and Europe, and the wars deeply affected all artists. All throughout these successive periods, the technology of photographs was rapidly changing, and the creative expressions were in constant flux. Honing in on individual periods of artistic growth, and finding key
examples by important artists is one of the most exciting aspects of collecting photography today.
3. The 19th century: An era of exploration
The 19th century was an era of scientific discoveries, technological advancements, and of mapping the surface of the earth (and the heavens above). Photography provided a new set of eyes for all manner of phenomena, as well as of the most distant reaches of the seven continents.
Felix Teynard (1817-1892), Colossal Statues Seen from Three-Quarters View, the Temple of Rameses at Abu Simbel, circa 1851-52. Salted paper print from waxed paper negative. Title in pencil (on the mount). Estimate: $40,000-60,000. This work will be offered in Photographs: The Evening Sale on 5 October at Christie’s in New York
Some of the earliest photographers were members of great architectural survey teams, or geological and military survey expeditions. Timothy O’Sullivan, Carleton Watkins, and W.H. Jackson produced striking images of the American West, while figures like Francis Frith, Edouard Baldus, Girault de Prangey, Captain Linnaeus Tripe, Roger Fenton and Felix Teynard operated across the European continent to Africa, and the Near and Far East regions of Asia.
4. The beauty of where: Photography and landscape
Honore Daumier said that photography described everything and explained nothing. This couldn’t be truer than with photographs of the landscape, which are so ripe for different interpretations depending on the viewer. The history of art is one of engagement with one’s surroundings, and the invention of photography brought us the tools to peer more closely and broadly than ever before.
Paul Strand (1890-1976), Apple Tree in Full Bloom, Maine, 1946. Gelatin silver print. Credited and initialed ‘H.S.’ by Hazel Strand in pencil (on the reverse of the flush-mount). Estimate: $30,000-50,000. This work will be offered in Photographs: The Evening Sale on 5 October at Christie’s in New York
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Paul Strand, a key figure in American photography of the pre- and post-war years, devoted no less than five books to the idea of place; his first such title, Time in New England, is a classic portrait of a locale. Photographs like Apple Tree in Full Bloom convey the spirit and sensibility of the landscape through the simplest of details.
Hiroshi Sugimoto, a contemporary master who has deeply influenced the current generation of photographers, has a keen sense of the power of place, most notably in his well-known and highly collectible Seascapes series. Conceptually similar to his images of seascapes, the power of his mysterious and ethereal photograph of Kegon Waterfall hinges on an awareness of the role that water plays in sustaining life on this planet.
Hiroshi Sugimoto (B. 1948), Kegon Waterfall, 1977. Gelatin silver print, printed later. Signed in ink, title, date and number typed on label affixed (on the frame backing). Estimate: $120,000-180,000. This work will be offered in Photographs: The Evening Sale on 5 October at Christie’s in New York
Water is a primordial physical element as well as a potent spiritual force in the artist’s life. Standing in the exact location as the artist, early humans would have gazed on precisely the same awe-inspiring view, whether looking at this waterfall, or gazing out on the Pacific Ocean.
5. The Dusseldorf School: The influence of Bernd and Hilla Becher
The photographic work of husband and wife team Bernd and Hilla Becher was first exhibited in the United States in the seminal 1975 exhibition New Topographics, an exhibition that has proven a touchstone for many artists of the last half of the 20th century. The straightforward visual approach, which they applied to photographing industrial and vernacular architecture around the world, has precursors in the work of other German photographers, notably that of Karl Blossfedlt and August Sander.
Bernd & Hila Becher (1931-2007 & B. 1934), Mineheads, 1971-78. 4 gelatin silver prints. First signed, each numbered consecutively F1-F4 in pencil and stamped ‘Slg. Carl Vogel Hamburg’ (on the verso). Estimate: $80,000-120,000. This work will be offered in Photographs: The Evening Sale on 5 October at Christie’s in New York
The Bechers presented their large-format black and white photographs in grids — typologies — based on subject matter: water towers, coal mine tipples, blast furnaces, framework houses. As educators associated with the famed Kunstakademie Dusseldorf, they directly influenced a generation of contemporary photographers, including Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Thomas Ruff, and Thomas Struth.
6. Who, what, how, now: Contemporary Photography
Todd Hido (B. 1968), Number Four, 2015. Unique photographic collage. Signed, titled and dated in pencil on artist label affixed (on reverse of the mount). Estimate: $12,000-18,000. This work will be offered in Photographs: The Evening Sale on 5 October at Christie’s in New York
AS a general rule, collecting works early in an artist’s career can provide support at a crucial stage of their development, and helps with everything from financial resources needed to complete a project as well as a much-appreciated confidence boost.
John Chiara (B.1971), Seven Chimneys-Carter-Highway 1, 2013. Unique dye-bleach print. Signed and dated in pencil (on the verso). Estimate: $5,000-7,000. This work will be offered in Photographs: The Evening Sale on 5 October at Christie’s in New York
It’s also important to pay attention to the myriad voices that speak in support of an artist as his or her career begins to advance. When museums or major private collections begin to acquire works, you know that trained eyes are seeing what you too sense—the real thing.
Alec Soth (B. 1969), Patrick, Palm Sunday, Baton Rouge, LA, 2002. Chromogenic print. Signed, titled and dated (on the verso). Estimate: $12,000-18,000. This work will be offered in Photographs: The Evening Sale on 5 October at Christie’s in New York
Many of the artists in the October sales, including Todd Hido, Alec Soth and John Chiara, featured here, are already collected by major museums around the world. The fall auctions are an invaluable opportunity to collect key works by these rising stars.
Laurent Millet (B.1968), La Methode, #51, 2001. Archival pigment print, printed 2002. Signed, titled, dated, print date and numbered ‘7/20’ in pencil (on the verso). Estimate: $3,000-5,000. This work will be offered in our Photographs sale on 6 October at Christie’s in New York
Desiree Dolron (B. 1963), Xteriors I. Chromogenic print, diasec mounted. Signed, titled, inscribed, dated and numbered A.P. In ink on the reverse of the flush-mount. Estimate: $60,000-80,000. This work will be offered in Photographs: The Evening Sale on 5 October at Christie’s in New York
7. Connoisseurship: Seeing is believing
No matter what era the works being considered are from, there is a small set of factors that will determine value. These factors include obvious things like the strength of the image and the condition of the print, as well as questions of provenance and the rarity of the print in the marketplace.
Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004), Seville, Spain, 1933. Gelatin silver print, printed no later than 1943.. This work will be offered in Photographs: The Evening Sale on 5 October at Christie’s in New York
In any field, no less so in art, connoisseurship is required; questions of condition are even greater with photography precisely because of the fragility of photographic objects. By holding and examining in person photographic works, you learn much more than you can from just a jpg on a screen.
Robert Frank (B. 1924), Luncheonette–Butte, Montana, 1956. Gelatin silver print, flush-mounted on masonite, printed 1967-1968. Digned and dated in ink (on the reverse of the flush-mount). Estimate: $60,000-80,000. This work will be offered in Photographs: The Evening Sale on 5 October at Christie’s in New York
In the 21st century, we are seeing that serious collectors of all ages are comfortable learning about art with a myriad of tools, including the Internet. They are also willing to go out of their way to see a work in person, whether that’s at a global art fair, museum or in a gallerist’s home town. Nothing beats the real thing.
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