Do You Speak Photography?

This post was written by our Vice President and Director of Photographs & Photobooks, Daile Kaplan.


Photography is ubiquitous in visual culture. Whether you prefer contemporary works by Alec Soth or classical photographs by Ansel Adams, artists who employ this popular art form distinguish between the electronic or digital image — as on this page — and the physical, finished photograph.


Lot 272: Ormond Gigli, Girls in the Windows, NYC, chromogenic print, 1960, printed later. Estimate $14,000 to $18,000.


Shooting a photograph can feel spontaneous, but it is the result of thoughtful choices: framing, lighting, subject matter, composition, et cetera. Creativity and imagination are key to developing a unique artistic style. Similarly, there are numerous aesthetic decisions involved in the realization of a photographic print, the three-dimensional object.  For example, an artwork’s size results in an immediate experiential and spatial relationship while the print’s palette or tonal qualities create mood or atmosphere.


Lot 278: Jan Saudek, The Story of Flowers, series of six hand-colored silver prints, circa 1987. Estimate $3,000 to $4,500.


Everyone loves taking a quick peek at cell phone images, but making or looking at art requires a commitment of time. Slowing down to engage with a photograph offers the viewer a meaningful experience, a deeper understanding of an artist’s approach to image-making and, ideally, new insights into oneself. By recognizing the physicality of the photographic object we begin to see color and black-and-white photography differently, as a tangible art form that is not unlike painting and sculpture.


Lot 49: Margaret Bourke-White, U.S.S. Airship Akron, World’s Largest Airship, silver print, in original duralumin frame, 1931. Estimate $3,000 to $4,500.


For more inspiring photographs, browse the catalogue for our October 19 auction of Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks.