Bonhams Introduces the Griffith J. Davis Photography and Archives
New York ? On October 2, Bonhams sale of Photographs will offer over 130 works featuring major names including Irving Penn, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Robert Mapplethorpe, Allen Ginsberg, Nan Goldin, and Ernst Haas. This sale will also introduce two works by Griffith (Griff) J. Davis (1923-1993), a pioneering African American photographer, journalist, filmmaker and U.S. Foreign Service Officer.
Laura Paterson, Director of Photographs, comments: "Griff Davis left a legacy of 55,000 photographs, as well as large quantities of documents and memorabilia from his long and illustrious career as a photojournalist and influential civil servant, yet astonishingly he remains relatively unknown. Bonhams is extremely honored to have this opportunity to introduce two compelling images from Davis' innovative and sophisticated body of work to a wider audience of photography curators and collectors."
In the 1940s, Davis became a reporter for Atlanta Daily World, the oldest continually published African American newspaper in the country and served as a Buffalo Soldier and army photographer in the 92nd Infantry Division in Italy. After the war, Davis returned to Morehouse College, where he studied alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. and formed a lifelong friendship with Visiting Professor Langston Hughes. Hughes recommended Davis to John H. Johnson, founder and publisher of Ebony and he became the magazine's first Roving Editor. Davis was also the only African American student accepted into Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism's class of 1949. After graduation, Davis made three trips to Liberia as a freelance journalist for Black Star Agency before launching his two-decade long career there as US Foreign Service Officer. The U.S. government had established its first full African embassy in Liberia and Davis was charged with documenting the nation's culture, development and lifestyle. The resulting pictorials appeared in a variety of prominent publications, such as Life, Ebony, Fortune and Der Spiegel. He was also awarded a one-man show, Liberia 1952 at The American Museum of Natural History in New York.
Additional highlights include the Collection of Kaspar Fleischmann, noted photography expert, collector, gallerist and philanthropist. This selection includes examples of the finest work produced in the history of photography by its doyens Ansel Adams, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Gustave Le Gray, Ernst Haas and László Moholy-Nagy. Fleischmann himself was a pioneer collector of photography in Switzerland through his former gallery Zur Stockeregg, founded in Zurich in 1979. He is now a noted benefactor of several museums, including the Kunsthaus Zurich and the Fotomuseum Winterthur. The sale also includes the Collection of renowned Swiss psychoanalyst Carl László. Born in Hungary, László was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. He built a new life in Switzerland where, in addition to his clinical practice, he pursued his keen interest in the arts, co-founding Art Basel and working as an art dealer, writer and magazine editor. This collection includes works by renowned photographers such as Richard Avedon and Robert Mapplethorpe, Allen Ginsberg, and Gerard Malanga.
Image: Lot 36, Walker Evans. “Demolition Site, New York.”