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Icons of fashion photography snapped up by collectors at Sotheby's
Peter Lindbergh, ‘Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz, Christy Turlington, Estelle Lefébure, Karen Alexander, Rachel Williams’, Vogue US, Beach Los Angeles, 1990. Silver print, printed 2005. Estimate: £60,000-80,000. Sold for £81,250 ($118,462).

LONDON.- At a time when beauty was defined as an intoxication of perfection, a time when photography was related to elaborate props and settings highlighting the false façades a camera could create, a handful of photographers brought about a revival in fashion photography. Irving Penn, Peter Lindbergh and Richard Avedon are among the exceptional photographers who brought about this change and whose works led today’s Photographs sale at Sotheby’s in London.

Rarely seen at auction, Irving Penn’s breath-taking Mouth (For L’Oreal), New York commanded the top price, selling for £221,000. His portrayal of female lips marks a legacy of timelessly elegant photographs which captured an unexpected and surreal beauty. Smeared with numerous shades of lipstick, the lips appear to mimic an artist’s palette. The model’s somewhat ironic pout suggests that Penn aimed to mock the concept of traditional ‘perfect beauty’ as presented by beauty brands. By breaking the rules, Penn pushed fashion photography into the realm of fine art, paving the way for today's masters in the field.

An iconic photograph of supermodels laughing on the beach by Peter Lindbergh – encapsulating his fresh, pioneering style, and his ability to capture effortless, natural beauty – sold for £81,250, a new auction record for this subject by the photographer. The photograph features supermodels Estelle Lefébure, Karen Alexander, Rachel Williams, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz and Christy Turlington on a shoot in Los Angeles in 1990. Created during an era when fashion photography meant meeting standards of beauty through retouching, Lindbergh felt it was the responsibility of photographers to “free women, and finally everyone, from the terror of youth and perfection”. The image was considered so avant-garde that the commissioning magazine Vogue US said they could not use it.

Richard Avedon aimed to reveal the true character of his subjects in his portraits. Whilst photographing Marilyn Monroe in his New York studio in May 1957, he was able to capture the ‘real’ Marilyn Monroe. Estimated at £30,000-50,000, his image of one of the world’s most photographed stars whose charms, splendour and flirtations with tragedy were made wildly public – sold for £77,500.

Brandei Estes, Sotheby’s Photographs Specialist, said: “These fashion photographers broke conventional rules and tastes for their time. We were thrilled to offer a such a strong and powerful selection, a reflection of the surge in interest of fashion photography – an area in the market that has grown from strength to strength. As with previous sales, we were again delighted to welcome so many new collectors into our world today.”

The sale of Photographs brought a total of £1,422,375 ($2,073,823), with 25% of the buyers new to Sotheby’s.

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