Auctions | January 26, 2022

Celebrating 70 Years of Photographs at Swann

Courtesy of Swann Galleries

Danny Lyon, SNCC Staff Sit-In, Atlanta, John Lewis behind Mendy Samstein (+ the pastries), Stokely Carmichael standing at right, together with The Movement, silver prints, 1963-64, 1969. Estimate: $10,000-15,000

New York — 70 years ago, Swann Galleries held the first auction dedicated to photography in the United States. The 1952 auction was astonishingly early for a sale devoted to a medium just 113 years old and still finding its artistic footing in the marketplace. Seven decades later, however, the landscape for this diverse and innovative medium has grown dramatically. On Thursday, February 10, Swann will hold a sale of Fine Photographs marking this achievement. The specially curated sale will celebrate the history of the market for photography at auction while exploring the medium’s future.

Early work includes Charles Marville’s Rue des Déchargeurs, de la Rue de Rivoli, circa 1865 ($6,000-9,000), Carleton Watkins’s The Pavilion on the Stump, Calaveras Grove, 1878–81 ($8,000-12,000), and Julia Margaret Cameron’s Baby Blossom (Alice Keown), circa 1866 ($15,000-25,000). Alfred Stieglitz’s Camera Work Number 36, 1911 ($18,000-22,000), and Edward Curtis’s Three Chiefs, Blackfoot, Mountain, 1900 ($6,000-9,000), showcase two early masters of photography as well as the medium’s rise as an art form.

American photography features a run of important Civil Rights imagery by Danny Lyon, including SNCC Staff Sit-In, Atlanta, John Lewis behind Mendy Samstein (+ the Pastries), Stokely Carmichael Standing at Right, 1963-64, together with The Movement, 1969 ($10,000-15,000), as well as images from Ole Miss, the March on Washington, and James Baldwin in Selma, Alabama. Robert Fank is present with two early masterworks: Café, Beaufort, South Carolina,1955 ($20,000-30,000), and Los Angeles, 1956 ($25,000-35,000), both from The Americans (also available, at $1,500-2,500). Further documentary photographs include works by Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lange, Lewis W. Hine and Walker Evans, among others.

Also of note from Mid-century American photographers is Ansel Adams’ Oak Tree, Snowstorm, Yosemite Valley, 1948,  a stunning print seemingly used as the master for his Portfolio I ($20,000-30,000), and Evening Clouds, Sierra Nevada, 1936, printed 1963-70 ($12,000-18,000); as well as Robert Adams’s Entry, Methodist Church, Calhan, Colorado, 1966, printed circa late 1960s ($10,000-15,000). A rare vintage example of Helen Levitt’s dynamic photograph of boys playing on city streets New York (Foreign Legion), 1940; printed 1940s ($25,000-35,000)—the cover image to her iconic A Way of Seeing), is on offer alongside Diane Arbus’ Female Impersonator with Jewels, N.Y.C., printed and signed by Arbus 1958-60 ($25,000-35,000), and O. Winston Link’s Hotshot Eastbound, Iaeger, West Virginia, 1957, printed 1987 ($7,000-10,000). The house will also offer works by Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, George A. Tice, Stephen Shore, and Margaret Bourke-White.

Contemporary highlights are led by Sally Mann’s Untitled (Self-Portraits), a 2011 triptych of three unique ambrotypes on black glass ($30,000-45,000). Also of note is Barbara Kasten’s Construction 33, 1986, and Construct LB/3 ($5,000-7,500, apiece); Masahisa Fukase’s Nayoro, from The Solitude of Ravens, 1977, printed 1980s ($10,000-15,000); and Carrie Mae Weems’s May Flowers, 2002 ($6,000-9,000). Further contemporary work includes early work by Katy Grannen, color

Photobooks and portfolios of note include Emmet Gowin’s early book with photographs, Concerning America and Alfred Stieglitz, and Myself, 1963-64, printed 1965 ($8,000-12,000); a suite of 10 abstract expressionist photographs by Aaron Siskind from 1949-80, printed circa 1980. ($10,000-15,000); Berenice Abbott’s Berenice Abbott’s New York, a complete portfolio with 12 of Abbott’s iconic NYC views ($20,000-30,000); and Lisette Model’s Twelve Photographs, a complete 1937-46 portfolio with 12 silver prints from an edition of 15 proof copies, printed 1977 ($12,000-18,000).

Exhibition hours are 12 p.m to 5 p.m. on weekdays from February 7 through February 9. Swann Galleries staff will prepare condition reports and provide additional photographs of material on request. Advance order bids can be placed with a specialist for the sale or on Swann’s website, and phone bidding will be available. Live online bidding platforms will be the Swann Galleries App, Invaluable, and Live Auctioneers. The complete catalogue and bidding information is available at and on the Swann Galleries App.
Additional highlights can be found here.