Our 20 May Photographs sale features works by some of the medium’s most influential contemporary artists, from Thomas Ruff to Thomas Struth and Wolfgang Tillmans. Alongside them are works by a new wave of contemporary photographers, already making a significant impact in their field. Here, Jude Hull, a specialist in the Photographs department at Christie’s, gives an introduction to the rising stars of photography, and selects seven works to collect with estimates from as little as £2,000.
Katy Grannan has received international recognition for her intimate and touching portraits of strangers and those on the margins of society. Grannan finds her sitters through classified advertisements, inviting them to pose as they would like to be photographed. The innovative approach reveals something intimate about Grannan’s subject, while underscoring the collaboration necessary to portraiture. The resulting images make her one of the most sought-after photographers working today.
In 2003, at just 26 years old, Ryan McGinley became the youngest photographer to have a solo show at the Whitney Museum. Four years earlier his self-published book of photographs, The Kids Are Alright, made waves, its heady imagery depicting life lived at full speed. Using his friends as subjects, McGinley would find a location away from the city and, having given them minimal direction, encourage his subjects to express themselves freely. The results were fantastical images of fun and beauty that, McGinley said, offered him something he ‘could have never expected’.
A historian of photography and its early processes, Tom Fels makes large-format cyanotypes that evoke those produced in 1843 by English botanist and photographer Anna Atkins, for her historic publication, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. Here, using only light and sensitised paper, Fels traces the silhouette of his subject — in this case, a tree in his back garden — leaving an abstract expression in the vibrant blue typical of the cyanotype process. Made directly, without camera or intermediary negative, works such as this triptych are unique.
Didier Massard creates imagined landscapes, painstakingly constructing scenes in his studio and photographing the end result. Drawing on romantic and popular notions of place, the photographer explains, ‘I start from nothing to create a landscape, like a writer faced with a blank page.’
Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin create works that grapple with issues including war, history, religion and politics. They use a diverse array of media to explore potentially divisive subjects, the material used for each work key to its meaning. Works by the artists are held in major public and private collections, including Tate, MoMA, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the International Center of Photography. They were awarded the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize in 2013.
With humour and wit, Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs explore the different forms Modernism has taken in society — be it through references to architecture, tourist snaps of the American landscape or documentary photography. Most recently, their series As Long as It Photographs It Must Be a Camera documented experiments in DIY camera manufacturing, using unorthodox materials ranging from turtle shells to rocks. This is the first time a work by the duo has been offered at auction.
Like Broomberg & Chanarin (see 5 above), Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla use their work to highlight areas of political, religious and economic tension in society. This work is a still taken from their film Under Discussion, which focuses on the island of Vieques off the coast of Puerto Rico — expropriated by the United States in the 1960s for use as a bombing range. What first appears to be a boat is, in fact, an upturned table, steered to the island by a local activist with the intention of prompting discussion.