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  • 30 Oct 1989—12 Sep 2017
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'the pond -- moonlight'

Multiple gum bichromate print over platinum, signed and dated by the photographer in crayon on the image, mounted, matted, framed, 1904 Edward Steichen’s ‘The Pond—Moonlight’ ranks among the photographer’s greatest achievements in Pictorial photography.  An aesthetic and technical tour-de-force, the print of ‘The Pond—Moonlight’ offered here shows Steichen operating at the very peak of his early powers.  The painterly qualities of this masterpiece, combined with its photographic realism, its large scale, and its supreme technical virtuosity, place it alongside Steichen’s magnificent study of the Flatiron Building as the photographer’s most ambitious artistic statement; together, they are the culmination of the movement known as Pictorialism.  Operatic in their intention and in their effect, the ‘Pond’ and ‘Flatiron’ series are the young Edward Steichen’s bravura confirmation of the validity of the photographic medium.  As one critic wrote in The Photogram of 1905, there was an answer to ‘that addled question in the short catechism of the camera: “Is photography an art?” with all its bungling answers in extenso. “Let the answer be: Yes: it is Steichen.”’ Like the series of Steichen’s ‘Flatiron Building’ now in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, only three examples of ‘The Pond—Moonlight’ are known, and as in the ‘Flatiron’ series, each in this trio is different in tone, in atmosphere, and in subtle detail.  In addition to the present photograph, there is the print of ‘The Pond’ that Stieglitz gave the Metropolitan in 1933; and the print that Steichen himself gave to The Museum of Modern Art in 1967.  Although created from the same negative, the three prints are the results of different photographic processes and are a testament to Steichen’s artistic goals and to his finely honed abilities as a printer.  Multiple-process printing, on this large scale, was practiced by no one as it was practiced by Steichen. The negative for ‘The Pond—Moonlight’ was made in the wetlands around Marmaroneck, New York, on Long Island Sound, near the home of Charles H. Caffin (1854 – 1918), the English-born art critic who had championed Steichen’s work in his volume Photography as a Fine Art (see Lot 5).  After the birth of their first daughter in July of 1904, the Steichens sought refuge from the stifling heat of their top-floor Manhattan apartment, gratefully accepting an invitation to spend August with Caffin and his wife Caroline.  The August visit stretched into September when Steichen suffered a bout of typhoid and was hospitalized for three weeks.  A gelatin silver print of a closely-related image, entitled ‘Autumn,’ now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, is inscribed ‘Autumn, Marmaroneck, N. Y., 1904,’ by Alfred Stieglitz on the reverse, a likely indication that the present photograph was made in September, during the latter part of the Steichens’ stay (The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal, Volume 16, 1988, fig. 93). The woods at dusk, or in moonlight, was one of Steichen’s favorite subjects, one to which he returned time and again in the years before the first World War, in paintings as well as photographs.  Although few of his paintings survive—he destroyed most of them in his notorious bonfire in Voulangis after the war—their titles echo his obsession with the effects of glimmering light in nocturnal settings: ‘The Road to the Lake—Moonlight,’ ‘The Moonlight Promenade—The Sea,’ ‘Balcony, Nocturne, Lake George,’ and ‘Moonlit Landscape,’ among others.  A rare surviving painting from that period, now in the Whitney Museum of Art, shows parallel rows of trees in an unidentified glen, the moon rising to the top of the composition, its light reflected in the water in the foreground (reproduced in Dennis Longwell, Steichen: The Master Prints, New York, 1978, p. 17).  ‘The romantic and mysterious quality of moonlight, the lyric aspect of nature made the strongest appeal to me’ Steichen wrote in his autobiography.  ‘Most of the paintings—watercolors—that I did in my early years were of moonlight subjects. . . the real magician was light itself—mysterious and ever-changing light with its accompanying shadows rich and full of mystery’ (A Life in Photography, unpaginated, Chapter 1). The influences of not only individual painters but also whole artistic movements on this period of Steichen’s work have been variously discussed in the literature: Dennis Longwell, in his Steichen: The Master Prints, 1914-1985, The Symbolist Period (op. cit.) and Lucy Bowditch, in ‘Steichen and Maeterlinck: The Symbolist Connection’ (History of Photography, Volume 17, Number 4, Winter 1999), for instance, are among many who tie Steichen to the international Symbolist movement.  Christian Peterson, in ‘The Photograph Beautiful: 1895 – 1915’ (History of Photography, Volume 16, Number 3, Autumn 1992), states the case for the Arts & Crafts movement, with its attendant influences of Whistler, Arthur Wesley Dow, and Japonisme.  And a number of scholars refer to Steichen’s relationship with Scandinavian painters such as Fritz Thaulow, especially Melinda Boyd Parsons, in her article ‘”Moonlight on Darkening Ways”: Concepts of Nature and the Artist in Edward and Lilian Steichen’s Socialism’ (American Art, Volume 11, Number 1, Spring 1997).   That a host of authors have found sources for Steichen’s early work in this variety of international styles testifies to Steichen’s talents as a visual magpie, seizing and synthesizing from the cultural plethora around him, not only in his Pictorialist phase, but throughout his career.  And, as always with Steichen, the total, as in ‘The Pond—Moonlight,’ was equal to far more than the sum of the parts. Steichen admitted that, following in the traditions of the day, he initially saw his woodland photographs as preliminary studies for moonlight paintings.  ‘I made realistic notes of the actual night colors on the spot,’ he wrote about one Milwaukee twilight photography session, ‘describing the colors I saw in terms of a mixture of pigments to be used in the painting’ (A Life in Photography, unpaginated, Chapter 1).  If a Steichen letter from 1903 is any indication, the photographer vividly recorded in his mind the colors of a setting, even if planning a photograph: ‘We had a moon night before last—the like of which I had never seen before—the whole landscape was still bathed in a warm twilight glow—the color was simply marvelous in its dark bright—and into this rose a large disc of brilliant golden orange in a warm purplish sky—Gold. . . ’ (quoted in Longwell, op. cit., p. 94).  The ability of oil on canvas to capture the colors of a night setting, as well as its shadowy forms, was for Steichen one of painting’s most valuable aspects.  Steichen was from an early date preoccupied with color in photography, and he was one of the first to jump on the bandwagon, in 1907, when the Lumière brothers devised the first practical photographic color process, the autochrome.   Indeed, as aficionados of Camera Work know, so committed was Steichen to capturing the subtle colorations of certain moonlit scenes that he resorted to personally hand-tinting every copy of two photogravure plates issued in Camera Work:  the ‘Road into the Valley—Moonrise’ in the Steichen Supplement of 1906, and ‘Pastoral—Moonlight’ in Camera Work Number 19, from 1907. It was the malleable gum-bichromate process, and his consummate mastery of it, that allowed Steichen to realize to the fullest his vision of the moonlit landscape.  He was conversant in the basics of gum-bichromate before he left for Paris in 1900--‘I had read an article by Robert Demachy, a famous French photographer, about a process that he used extensively and referred to as a gum-bichromate process,’ he wrote in his autobiography (A Life in Photography, unpaginated, Chapter 1)—and he had experimented with gum in his Milwaukee images.   His exposure to the European masters of the process, however, as well as the photographs he saw in the European salons, broadened his outlook and showed him the possibilities of what could be achieved in terms of multiple printing on a large scale. His best introduction to the expressive uses of gum-bichromate would have been Robert Demachy (1859 – 1936), the French gentleman photographer who was married to a relative of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and was a fluent English speaker and writer.  Demachy practiced the gum-bichromate process almost exclusively from the 1890s until 1906, when he took up the Rawlins oil process.  His writings on gum-bichromate, in both French and English, were authoritative, and he befriended Steichen during the young photographer’s first sojourn in Paris.  The photographer who brought both scale and multiple colors to the process was Heinrich Kühn (1866 – 1944) (see Lots 38 – 40), the leader of the Viennese secession and like Demachy, a contributor to Camera Work.   Steichen met him in Munich in 1901, and could not have failed to have been impressed with the vivid colors achieved by Kühn through multiple, layered printings from different negatives. The works of these and other European practitioners of gum-bichromate, alone or combined with other processes, were seen and studied by Steichen at the salons on the Continent and in London. In France, Steichen began working in gum-bichromate and combination processes with a vengeance.  Always ready to take up a challenge, he rose to the process’s technical demands and used its painterly qualities to prove that certain types of photographs could be worked over and multiply-printed until they were indistinguishable from etchings or other traditional fine prints.  His duping of the jury of the 1902 Champs de Mars salon is told over and over again in the Steichen narrative: how he submitted, and had accepted, ten gum-bichromate prints to the graphic arts category, only to have them rejected once the committee discovered they were photographs.  This early grand-standing aside, he worked very seriously, and with great power, in the combination processes, producing a series of Pictorial masterworks, of which the present image is one. The print offered here is a multiple gum-bichromate print over platinum, and its depth and color come from skillful layers of manipulated, sequential printing, in different tones, from one negative.  The initial ‘base’ of the image would have been a platinum print, over which was printed one or more ‘layers’ of gum-bichromate.  Each of these subsequent layers could not only be a different tone, but could also be altered on its surface with a brush or sponge during development, allowing for manual control of the shapes and shadows.  In large format especially, the technique was elaborate, tricky, and laborious.  Although Steichen rarely discussed his printing in detail, there is an extant, undated letter he sent to Stieglitz regarding his large, multiple-process prints, which reads in part: ‘. . . [the prints] represent two months hard work to say nothing of the expense which my bills testify to.  Big plates mean more failures and cost like h__l.  I wish you could see the new things—They will be hard to hang—One in particular . . . ‘The Big Cloud’ . . . it’s a whopper—and will compel attention—although I’m afraid they may refuse to hang it— d__m if they do.  Another one Moonrise in three printings: first printing, grey black plat[itnum]—2nd, plain blue print (secret), 3rd, greenish gum.  It is so very dark I must take the glass off because it acts too much like a mirror.  I hope they will handle it carefully . . .’ (quoted in Longwell, op. cit., p. 17). As these large multiple-process prints were each created by a process not dissimilar from the creation of fine cuisine, with special touches known only to the chef, it is difficult to single out the ingredients of Steichen’s prints: thus it is hard to know if the description above applies perfectly to one of the three extant ‘Pond’ images, or to another print of the image now lost.   The print offered here has been analyzed recently by the conservation department at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and it is described by them as a multiple gum-bichromate print over platinum.  The print given to the Metropolitan by Stieglitz, also analyzed recently by their conservation department, appears to be a platinum print with applied Prussian blue and calcium-based white pigment, likely hand-applied.  The third print, in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, is catalogued as a platinum and ferro-prussiate print.  Each is different, and each is striking in its own way.  As the photographer Joan Harrison, herself an accomplished printer in alternative photographic processes, has succinctly stated, ‘Gum-Bichromate is the most individual of all photographic printing processes both in method and result.  The hand of the artist is evident in every print and the medium is unique in that its malleability allows for the development of a personal colour palette suited to nearly any taste or sensibility’ (‘Colour in the Gum-Bichromate Process,’ in History of Photography, Volume 17, Number 4, Winter 1993, p. 375). Steichen’s large-format multiple process prints presented him with what must have been the most complex and challenging darkroom experiences he had known in his career to that point, and probably thereafter.  But these multiple-process prints were difficult, costly, and time-consuming, and these limitations precluded their production in any quantity.  That, coupled with the deterioration or loss of most of the photographer’s early Pictorial negatives during the first World War, make original Steichen multiple-process prints among the rarest works in his entire oeuvre. The print of ‘The Pond—Moonlight’ offered here was purchased from Alfred Stieglitz, presumably acting as Steichen’s agent, by John Aspinwall, in 1906.  Aspinwall, a friend and supporter of Stieglitz and an amateur photographer himself, served as president of the Camera Club of New York in the early years of the last century.  The date on Aspinwall’s bill of sale, 3 April 1906, may indicate that the print he purchased was the actual print of the image included in a major retrospective of Steichen’s work at the Photo-Secession Galleries from the 9th to the 24th of March 1906.    The original bill of sale to Aspinwall, in Stieglitz’s hand, which at one time accompanied the print, is now lost.  The print was also at one time accompanied by a copy of a letter from Steichen to Mrs. John Aspinwall Wagner, a descendant of the original owner, stating that the relatively high price of $75.00, paid in 1906, indicated that Steichen and Stieglitz thought the print was an especially fine one.

  • USAUSA
  • 2006-02-15
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The master set

A group of 548 photographs by Edward Weston, printed by his son, Cole Weston, each mounted, 536 stamped and signed by Cole Weston, 12 with The Cole Weston Trust stamp, signed by trustee Cara Weston, and nearly all with title, date, and negative number in other hands in pencil on the reverse, 1918-49, most printed between 1958 and 1988, none later than 2003 The 548 photographs in this lot span the entire range of Edward Weston’s career as a photographer, from his early Pictorial figure studies to his last landscapes on Point Lobos.  There are excellent, representative pictures of his work in Glendale, where he had his first studio; his transition from Pictorialist to Modernist in Mexico; his memorable work with shells, vegetables, and plants; his elegant series of female nudes, including many images of his most important muse, Charis Wilson; his studies of cloud-filled skies and windswept dunes; his panorama of America, first for California and the West  and then for Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass; portraits of friends, family, authors, and artists over several decades; and finally, photographs from his last years at Wildcat Hill, photographs that suggest a new direction his work might have taken, had his career not been cut short by illness.  This Master Set encapsulates the full scope of Weston’s achievement in the art of photography and offers a definitive statement of his importance to the history of art of the 20thcentury.    The majority of the prints in this catalogue were made by Cole Weston in the years between 1958, when his father died, and 1988, when Cole decided to cut back on printing from his father’s negatives and concentrate on his own work as a photographer.   Although most of Edward Weston’s negatives went, as part of Weston’s archive, to the Center for Creative Photography in 1981, a selection of the more popular negatives were kept by Cole at his  Garrapata studio, and new prints were made by him from time to time, until his own passing in 2003.   Cole also had the right to borrow back negatives from the Center for Creative Photography during his lifetime. A surprising number of the images offered here are not represented by prints in the Edward Weston archive at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson: the Center has no prints—neither early prints by Edward, nor Project Prints by his son Brett—of over 140 of the images that comprise the present lot.   These include, among many others, two of the iconic shells (Conger F.2 and F.3), one of the peppers, the maguey cactus, the leeks, a rare pose from the famous ‘Charis on the dunes’ series, Charis at Lake Ediza, and Charis in a gas mask (Conger F.5). In other instances, Amy Conger, in her catalogue of Weston prints at the Center, lists only a handful of extant prints in institutions (sometimes as few as one or two) that correspond to certain Cole prints offered here.  Among these are the famous bedpan (Conger 582; the Center’s print is a print by Cole); the memorable ‘Hot Coffee’ (Conger 1175) and the Excusado (Conger 184); the bananas (Conger 597) and the Chinese cabbage (Conger 652); exquisite cloud studies (Conger 912, 913, and 1329); the duck and lily at Point Lobos (Conger 1496); Charis in the hammock (Conger 1032); and nudes of Miriam Lerner, Bertha, Virginia, and others too numerous to mention.   That few prints of these images—by Edward, Brett, or Cole—ever appear at auction, is worth noting.  Not only comprised of icons, the Master Set includes a range of images that are rare in any form and that will not be printed again.

  • USAUSA
  • 2014-09-30
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Georgia o'keeffe (hands)

Palladium print, numbered 'OK 25 E' by Doris Bry in pencil on the reverse, matted, in a modern white metal frame, 1919; accompanied by an earlier modern white metal frame, with Gilman Paper Company and Doris Bry labels on the reverse Throughout Alfred Stieglitz’s multi-decade, multi-image portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe, the painter’s mobile and expressive hands are frequently a focal point.  Among the very first images that Stieglitz took of O’Keeffe, made shortly after their meeting in 1916, are several that focus on her hands, including one in which they are held before a watercolor by the artist (Greenough 459).  Stieglitz’s initial preoccupation with O’Keeffe’s hands seems natural, as they were the hands that created the drawings and paintings that had so overwhelmed him.  It is interesting to note, however, that while Stieglitz had created a large body of portraiture of the artists and photographers in his circle, their hands rarely, if ever, play as significant role in the composition.  As his relationship with O’Keeffe grew more intimate, and the portrait project began to include semi-nude and nude studies, Stieglitz never lost his fascination for her hands.  As late as 1933, Stieglitz made a number of studies solely of O’Keeffe’s hands, including the iconic image of her braceleted hand delineating the curve of the spare tire of her Ford V-8 (Greenough 1519). The hand study offered here is as much a portrait of the artist as any of the images from the series, perhaps more so than those that focus on her face or the overtly sensuous nude studies.  With this study, Stieglitz concentrates on the parts of O’Keeffe’s body that, along with her eyes, are most responsible for her art.  O’Keeffe was an eminently practical person, and her hands were a principal interface with the world; the only other Stieglitz study of O’Keeffe’s hands to come to auction (Christie’s New York, 8 October 1993, Lot 80) show’s the artist’s nimble hands working with a needle and thimble.   O’Keeffe’s hands were also capable of expressing, or suggesting, emotion, as in the image offered here, in which a particularly fraught gesture is set in relief against a black background.   The narrow dark outline that models the edge of O’Keeffe’s lower hand is due to Stieglitz’s solarization of the print.  Frequently, when working with palladium paper, Stieglitz would solarize, or overexpose, the print during processing.  In Stieglitz’s deft hands, this technique resulted in prints with greater tonal weight, and the subtle and selective reversal of tones seen in this print. In Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set: The Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Photographs, Sarah Greenough locates 4 other prints of this image: at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.; the George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Doris Bry’s census accounts for two additional prints: a platinum print in a private collection, and a gelatin silver print in the Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.  Bry lists the date of the negative as 1918.

  • USAUSA
  • 2006-02-15
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Georgia o'keeffe (nude)

Palladium print, mounted to buff board, inscribed 'treated by Steichen' by Doris Bry in pencil on the mount, matted, in a modern white metal frame, 1919 This intimate, explicit study of Georgia O’Keeffe nude was one of a select group of 22 images Alfred Stieglitz gave to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1928 (see also Lots 10 and 23).  In this group, chosen by Stieglitz as his best and most representative work, were seven studies of O’Keeffe, of which this was one.  Stylistically, the cropping of the torso, with its uplifted arms and muscular thighs, may owe its inspiration to the sculpture of Auguste Rodin, whose work Stieglitz knew and had shown in the galleries of the Photo-Secession.  Like some of Rodin’s sculptures, the headless torso offered here, with its uplifted arms and muscular thighs, has a timeless, heroic quality.  Rodin, one of the most famous artists in the world at the turn of the last century, enjoyed a reputation for controversial modernism. At the urging of Edward Steichen, the galleries of the Photo-Secession had shown a group of Rodin drawings of the female nude in 1908, frankly sensual drawings that had caused a stir in the New York art world.  One of the visitors to the Rodin drawings show was the young Georgia O’Keeffe, enrolled at that time at the Art Students League in New York.  This was her first introduction to Stieglitz and his gallery, although they did not meet when she came to the exhibition, and it would be nearly ten years later before their real relationship began. In 1921, Alfred Stieglitz exhibited the present image in a major show of his own photographs at his friend Mitchell Kennerley’s Anderson Galleries.  This ground-breaking show drew record attendance—thousands of people thronged to the Park Avenue galleries in less than a month—and among the most moving, and controversial, images in the show were the more than 40 photographs from Stieglitz’s multiple portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe.  ‘Hands, feet, hands and breasts, torsos, all parts and attitudes of the human body seen with a passion of revelation, produced an astonishing effect on the multitudes who wandered in and out of the rooms,’ wrote Stieglitz’s friend Herbert Seligmann (America and Alfred Stieglitz, Garden City, 1934, p. 116).  In her biography of her great-uncle, Sue Davidson Lowe has written that the public ‘was electrified,’ and of the O’Keeffe series in particular, that ‘women who saw the prints were often moved to tears’ (Stieglitz: A Memoir/Biography, New York, 1983, p. 241).  Conveying as they do both emotion and intimacy, the nude studies of O’Keeffe transcend the merely sensual. Remembering the impact of the Anderson Galleries show, and the photographs of her in particular, O’Keeffe later wrote, ‘When his photographs of me were first shown, it was in a room at the Anderson Galleries.  Several men—after looking around a while—asked Stieglitz if he would photograph their wives or girlfriends the way he photographed me.  He was very amused and laughed about it.  If they had known the close relationship he would have needed to have to photograph their wives or girlfriends the way he photographed me—I think they wouldn’t have been interested’ (Georgia O’Keeffe: A Portrait by Alfred Stieglitz, New York, 1978, unpaginated). In Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set: The Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Photographs, Sarah Greenough locates in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.,  a palladium-platinum print (Greenough 509) and a gelatin silver print (Greenough 510) made from this negative (OK 34 D).  Additionally, Greenough lists palladium prints at The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and in a private collection; and gelatin silver prints at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and The Art Institute of Chicago.  Doris Bry, in her census of prints of this image, accounts for the prints listed above, as well as an additional palladium print in a private collection.   Bry also points out that the private collection print listed by Greenough is now in the collection of the Museé d’Orsay. 

  • USAUSA
  • 2006-02-15
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‘shadows and reflections, venice’

Gum-platinum print, on a triple mount, signed in pencil on the secondary mount, titled and annotated '34' (circled) and with other numerical notations on the reverse, 1905 In its atmospheric evocativeness and bravura handling of technique, this large-format multiple-process print is the apotheosis of Pictorial photography.  Coburn has combined in this print two processes in separate exposures—one in platinum, the other in gum—yielding a print of complex tonality and depth.  Additionally, Coburn has emphasized elements of the image within the negative and enhanced volume, shape, and line with pigment on the surface of the print itself.   Shadows and Reflections is, like Edward Steichen's great The Pond—Moonlight, a daringly abstract image for its time.  The reflections in the canal abstract—rather than mirror—the figurative elements of the composition.  The principle subject—the shadowed figure ascending a Venetian bridge—plays a secondary role to the fascinating reinterpretation of the scene on the water’s rippled surface.  Although Coburn is justly classified as a Pictorialist during this phase of his career, he never relied upon the formulae or sentiment that ultimately limited the creative lifespan of this style.  From his earliest work with the camera, Coburn was adept at creating complex, evocative, and visually engaging images from the world around him. A print of Shadows and Reflections was shown in the seminal 1910 International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography at the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo.  In Alfred Stieglitz’s brief introductory text in the exhibition’s catalogue he praises Coburn’s abilities with the platinum-gum process.  Stieglitz had debuted the 22-year-old Coburn’s images in Camera Work in 1904, reproducing six of his photographs and hailing him as ‘Possibly the youngest star in our firmament.’ Gifted with both an artist's eye and a deep understanding of photographic technique, Coburn always represented a wholly independent vantage point in the world of early 20th-century photography.   His capacity for incorporating abstraction into representational imagery was distinctive and new and is beautifully illustrated in Shadows and Reflections—Venice.  Coburn’s penchant for abstraction continued throughout his career, finding its fullest expression in the Vortographs he created the following decade—images which take shadows and reflections as their principle subject matter. As of this writing, only three other prints of this image are extant: in the Alfred Stieglitz Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; the George Eastman House; and in a private American collection. Like the Vortograph offered in this catalogue as Lot 12, Shadows and Reflections—Venice was originally given by Coburn to his close friend Leonard Arundale, with whom he shared an abiding interest in Freemasonry.

  • USAUSA
  • 2014-12-12
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* Note that the price doesn’t correlate with today’s value, but only relates to the actual end price at the time of the purchase.

Photography

This category includes all manner of photographs and prints, from early photographs and historical images to iconic shoots, portraits, and contemporary photographic art. The lots here span the development of both photographic technology, and of photography as an art form, from their invention to the present day.

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