Top Lots: Turn-of-the-Century Cyanotypes and Jimmy De Sana’s Submission

Last week Swann Galleries held an auction devoted to Vernacular Photography, which was the first sale of its kind.


Two items led the auction–bringing $22,500 each–and they could not have been more different from each other. One was a group of 63 cyanotypes documenting the construction of a vast trestle bridge in the southern French countryside near Carmaux with views of the day-by-day building of the foundations, trestles and spans, through the various seasons, 1899-1902.


The other was the 1979 maquette for Jimmy De Sana’s book Submission, containing 31 erotic silver prints, many sadomasochistic. De Sana collaborated with William S. Burroughs on the self-published cult classic, and this maquette was from the collection of a gallerist who represented De Sana. 


Also generating interest were a group of 19 photographs–most taken by Orville Wright–of the Wright Bros. No. 2 glider flying at Sims Field with and close-ups of machinery, and with handwritten notations, 1901-1928. It brought $20,000.


An album containing 250 photographs of the store windows at Buffalo’s Kleinhans Co., a men’s clothing store, 1919-1926. The pictures include sartorial displays devoted to seasonal trouser suits, neckwear, fashion knits, headware, luggage, overcoats, and shoes and slippers. It sold for $15,000.