Auctions | May 5, 2015

Swann Galleries to Offer All 20 Bound Volumes of <i>The North American Indian</i> on May 21


New York—Swann Galleries’ auction of Images & Objects: Fine & Vernacular Photographs on Thursday, May 21 features a range of works, from very early daguerreotypes to striking large-scale contemporary photographs.      

Headlining the sale is a full set of the 20 bound volumes of Edward S. Curtis’s The North American Indian. Printed on Japan vellum and with the signatures of both Curtis and Theodore Roosevelt in volume one, the present set is number 63 of an intended 500 copies, printed from 1907-30, of which only approximately 275 were bound. Swann’s Photographs Department notes “Curtis’s masterwork represents a unique conversion of the emerging art of fine art photography, the documentary idiom and the sophistication of artisanal bookmaking.” The pre-sale estimate for this set of 20 volumes is $250,000 to $350,000.

Other important early photobooks include Alfred Stieglitz’s Photo-Secession, 1904 ($6,000 to $9,000); Camera Work Number 34/35, 1911 ($4,000 to $6,000) and Camera Work Number 36, 1911, a copy inscribed by Stieglitz to his friend Waldo Frank, an American novelist, historian and social critic ($20,000 to $30,000).

A section of the sale is devoted to exotic travel images, with two important groups of photographs by Felice Beato: one of pre-industrial, feudal Japan, the other of Delhi, Agra and Lucknow in India, both from the mid-nineteenth century ($15,000 to $25,000 and $10,000 to $15,000, respectively). A never-before-seen set of 50 platinum prints by Frank A. Rinehart from the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition in 1898 presents a rare and possibly unique opportunity to view Rinehart’s body of work as a significant visual document of Native American culture as it transitioned into the twentieth century. The present photographs have been passed down through family from the original owner, Gurdon Wallace Wattles, the organizer and chairman of the exposition ($30,000 to $45,000).

Modernist images in the auction range from a 1935 vintage print of an industrial abstraction by Margaret Bourke White ($7,000 to $10,000) to Paul Strand’s Wall Street, New York, 1915, printed 1984 by Richard Benson and published by Aperture ($12,000 to $18,000) to André Kertész’s Washington Square Park, silver print, 1970 ($3,000 to $4,500). Ansel Adams’s The Grand Tetons and the Snake River, silver print, 1942, printed 1960s ($35,000 to $55,000) and Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, silver print, 1941, printed early 1970s ($30,000 to $50,000) are just two luminous examples by the artist among several in the auction.

Bridging the gap between classical imagery of the first century of photographic history and bold contemporary works are numerous vernacular photographs. Of particular note are photomicroscopic albumen prints by J.J. Woodward ($2,000 to $3,000); a group of 30 timely press photographs of kids, adults and even a Chihuahua being inoculated for measles, typhoid or Polio, 1940s-50s ($400 to $600); a group of 50 photographic laborer ID badges from the same era ($4,000 to $6,000) and a run of erotic photographs, including cross-dressers, fetishists, bodybuilders and some classical nudes. Midcentury advertising images offer a colorful look into the aspirations of a bygone era.

A section of the catalogue devoted to conceptual photography, typologies and sequences includes a first edition of Edward Ruscha’s Twentysix Gasoline Stations, one of only fifty copies issued with a slipcase, present, 1963 ($9,000 to $12,000). Francesca Woodman’s Some Disordered Interior Geometries, a first edition of the only book produced during Woodman’s lifetime, 1981, is also featured ($8,000 to $12,000). Classical meets contemporary in Ernst Haas’s Flowers I portfolio from 1984, with twelve dye-transfer prints ($8,000 to $12,000) and three images from Sebastiäo Salgado’s Kuwait Series (estimates ranging from $10,000-$15,000 to $30,000-$45,000). Monumental large-scale prints include Nick Brandt’s Portrait of Elephant in Dust, Amboseli, 2011 ($40,000 to $60,000) and the equally beautiful and evanescent Untitled (Deep South #7: Dark Glow), 1998, printed 1999, by Sally Mann ($12,000 to $18,000). Works by Richard Prince, Barbara Kasten, Annie Leibovitz, Katy Grannan and Chris Levine round out the contemporary offerings.

The auction will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 21. The photographs will be on public exhibition at Swann Galleries Saturday, May 16, Monday, May 18, Tuesday, May 19 and Wednesday, May 20 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.; and Thursday, May 21, from 10 a.m. to noon and by appointment.

An illustrated catalogue is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, and may be viewed online at

For further information, and to make advance arrangements to bid by telephone during the auction, please contact Daile Kaplan at (212) 254-4710, extension 21, or via e-mail at Live online bidding is also available via

First image: Nick Brandt, Portrait of Elephant in Dust, Amboseli, archival pigment print, 2011. Estimate $40,000 to $60,000.

Second image: Edward S. Curtis, The North American Indian, volumes 1-20, first volume signed by Curtis and Theodore Roosevelt, 1907-30. Estimate $250,000 to $350,000.