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Vernacular albums, fine art images draw bidders to Swann Galleries' auction
The sale’s top lot was a 1923 San Francisco police department album containing approximately 720 mug shots, which sold for $36,000.
NEW YORK, NY.- Collectors and dealers competed for a choice selection of Fine Photographs & Photobooks at auction at Swann Galleries on December 11. The sale’s top lot was a 1923 San Francisco police department album containing approximately 720 mug shots, which sold for $36,000*--an auction record price for an album of vernacular photography. This lot surpassed the last mug-shot album from California sold at Swann in February 2012 (that one dating from 1908-10), which was then a record setter at $31,200.

Other vernacular highlights in the sale were a group of 11 circus panoramas by Edward J. Kelty, capturing Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey and others, silver prints, 1933-38, $14,400; and a pair of Japanese albums with a total of 74 delicately hand-colored albumen prints, circa 1880, $5,040.

Daile Kaplan, Vice President and Director of Photographs & Photobooks at Swann, said, “The results of our December photographs auction reflect collectors’ discerning tastes. Vernacular materials, like the crime album and Kelty photographs, continue to realize very string prices. Iconic photographs by artists including Paul Strand and Max Dupain set world auction records.”

The Strand, a posthumous printing of Wall Street, New York, platinum print, 1915, achieved $31,200, and the Dupain, Sunbaker, silver print, 1937, printed early 1970s, $13,200; while Sebastião Salgado’s Antarctica, oversized silver print, 2005, also set a record at $14,400.

Top selling photobooks included Jack Smith’s cult classic The Beautiful Book, first edition, New York, 1960-62, $16,800; and a copy of Camera Work Number 23, edited by Alfred Stieglitz with 16 photogravures after works by Clarence H. White, New York, 1908, $7,200.

Also from the early years of photography were Edward S. Curtis’s Vash Gon–Jicarilla, platinum print, 1904, $9,600; Henrich Kühn’s Hötter, platinum bromoil print, circa 1908, $9,000; and a group of 29 cyanotypes by Charles Lummis of the southwestern United States, 1888-91, $7,800.

In addition to Ansel Adams’s classic image, The Grand Tetons and the Snake River, silver print, 1942, printed 1970s, which brought $10,800, there was also a group of 14 Polaroid portraits by Adams, including photos of Dr. Edwin Land, Eliot Porter and a self-portrait, 1958-1960s, $9,000.

Other classic 20th century highlights included Edward Weston’s Nude (Tina Modotti on the Azotea), silver print, printed by Cole Weston, 1923, printed 1970s, $8,400; Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Hyères, silver print, 1932, printed 1980s, $9,600; Dmitri Baltermants’s Grief (Ditch of Kertsch), oversized ferrotyped silver print, 1942, printed 1960s-70s, $7,800; and Bill Brandt’s Nude, silver print, 1950s, printed 1970s, $12,000.

More contemporary were Helmut Newton’s Nu en renard argenté, Nice, silver print, 1981, $9,600; Sally Mann’s Easter Dress, silver print, 1986, $9,000; and Salgado’s South Sudan, oversized silver print, 2006, $8,400.

*All prices include buyer’s premium.

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