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Saturday, 22 September 2018


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It is a rotten shame that as living photographers none of them could get even 1% of those prices.

Mike, thanks for that link! There´s an informative catalogue at https://www.christies.com/PDF/catalog/2018/NYR16381_SaleCat.pdf

[Thanks Dierk. I can't believe I missed this! I added it to the post (with a hat tip to you). --Mike]

As beautiful as these photographs are (and they are among my favorites), all it takes, in my opinion, is a copy of Beaumont Newhall and a whole lot of money to build a collection like this: great images reduced to being ingredients in a recipe for "Standard Collection, Photographic Masterworks." I looked at the catalog: not a surprise in the lot.

Actually, it could have been a perfect gift to an institution just starting a photographic collection.

I like Pepper #30. The bodybuilding pepper. For the first time though I notice a notable blemish on the bottom right of the photo. Edward must of purchased said pepper at my local supermarket because all the peppers there look that way it seems.

Looks good, Mike, and a question:

Is the auction for prints of these classic shots made by the photographer? Or are the future usage rights up for sale too, like the rights to use Beatles recordings in a tv commercial?

That this is a valid question (I think) shows that there is not yet perfect clarity (for me as well as others) in answering the question, what does it mean to own a photograph?

Related point: Far as I've noticed, it is not yet the fashion to use classic photographs like these in contemporary advertising - maybe that's one difference between visual works and music. Would using these shots in ads take any of their greatness away from them? Paintings are a different story, or at least a few. Or at least one: we do see the Mona Lisa in advertising many times. No harm in that, her portrait remains elusive and enduring. Will Charis Weston, clothes-doffed doyenne of a hundred History of Photography textbooks, ever have a deferred career as a model on Madison Avenue?

Jeff Clevenger

[No, the auctions would just be for the physical prints, no rights attached. For some of the pictures the rights are in the public domain, or owned by the American people (FSA photos for instance).

And, the rights to a famous song in a commercial would typically just be negotiated for that specific usage, nothing further.

For photographic prints by others that you might possess, you (again, typically) just own the physical print--no rights unless you specifically bought the rights. That goes for portraits of yourself as well, although you can withhold permission for your image to be used for certain (usually commercial) purposes (you typically cannot control your own image if it is exhibited as art, even if prints are sold for substantial sums. See Nussenzweig v. Dicorcia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nussenzweig_v._DiCorcia ). For prints of pictures you took, you own the rights and continue to own them even if you sell a print to someone else. --Mike]

One tell that modern auction house art sales are just an elaborate tax evasion and money laundering vehicles is that while they are careful to list the provenance of each print offered noone seems to be concerned with the existence or lack thereof of a negative, its possession and the right to make new prints - the fiction of a photo print deriving its value from the vintage of its printing is adhered to by all players involved and a tradeable security is created.

Funny thing, I already have books on the shelf with each of these pictures. They must be some of the most reproduced photographs in the comparatively short history of the art. I think that is part of the thrill at some folks' thought of owning prints held by the artists' hands. It is all magical thinking, of course. But then again much of the art market rests on it and if you get enough folks with the same magical thinking you can accomplish anything. Like trading chlorophyll colored paper for goods and services.

My reactions in order: 1) Whoa! So many paragons by so many artists 2) For not very much money compared to comparably famous paintings 3) But these are photographic prints and there are many copies of each 4) Which explains some of the pricing difference between photos and paintings 5) But some of these works are as powerful as any painting 6) So much for fossilized cultural bias.

I’ve been to the site of Adams’ Moon Rise, Hernandez, NM. It’s in the catalog. The foreground - 10 years ago - was engulfed by suburban sprawl, but the mission church, the graveyard, the river valley and the mountains complete with alpen glow, are still there. Adams expressed the soul of that part of the Rio Grande Valley, and I doubt that the piece will ever be exceeded in any medium.

Oh, my, these are some of the nicest jpgs I've ever seen of some of the great works of photography. I look at some of these (minor white's Grand Teton image forex) and think to myself "what a ******** that negative had to have been to print!!!". These jpgs are almost as good as hard copy prints for teaching given that what we mostly do now is online anyway.

Thank you Mike. As always, 5 minutes here rewards me more in my pursuit of art than hours elsewhere.

Great stuff and not too many zero DoF pictures with less than an eye lash sharp. Maybe there's a message there.

The perennial discussion about how far and in what way photography is a genuinely creative art - compared to for example painting and sculpture - is for me neatly articulated in these images. Similarly the large question of the monetary values which can, or should, be placed on art for its own sake rather than as an exercise in ostentation
The Weston nude is genuinely creative in its posing and representation : the Lange and the Strand images show social concern, outrage and empathy in a way that perhaps is only equalled in painting by Goya ; the Weston pepper is a wonderful example of unusually perceptive observation and subsequent brilliant presentation. They are all intriguing and thought-provoking images which are artful but personally I do not see deep artistic creativity and the idea that repeatable- and repeated - prints should be so valued monetarily is surely ludicrous - even in the mad world of the multimillion painting (even if that is unique).

I think it just shows what a nonsense the art world has made of photography.

I love photography as a thing I do, that some others have done that inspires me in some way, but as expensive wall decoration - no thanks; I rather hang my own.

As speculation, sorry, too poor to play.

Remember, too, the "a reproduction is not the original." Experiencing the work of art (the thing itself!) is quite different (and superior to) any photomechanical reproduction, no matter how well done. And viewing a jpeg on your phone? Don't make me laugh.
I'd love to be able to live with any of those original works for a long period of time; great works of art such as these continue to show you more, the more you look at them, and their meaning grows over time.
The nature of the modern world is such that there is a great deal of money around, desperately looking for meaning. Which partly explains why these prints will cost so much when sold.

I'm not so sure I'd condemn all monitor viewing as a poor relation to the print. Much of the problem we face is making the print match the monitor, not the other way around: the standard of excellence is made on that screen, by us.

Of course, print has a tangible quality all its own, but hey, don't finger my prints!

I think nothing matches a real, wet darkroom print on double-weight smooth white glossy, perfectly glazed. I dislike textured papers and think of them as camouflage for poor printing.

I never found a digital paper that got near my WSG experiences.

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