Top Prices for Portfolios in October 2020 Fine Photographs Auction

“Our market continues to be dynamic and varied. We saw strength in the FSA and other Depression-era photography as well as in other classical material. The bidding was also lively for Mexican photographers, and of course, the vernacular material continues to attract both niche and fine art collectors.”

Deborah Rogal, director of the photographs and photobooks department, noted of the October 22 sale of Fine Photographs at Swann Galleries.

Estate of Evelyne Z. Daitz

The house offered a selection of works from the Estate of Evelyne Z. Daitz, a pioneering photography gallerist who helped set the foundation for the market and the ways in which the medium is considered and collected today. Top offerings from the collection included the portfolio Robert Doisneau, complete with 15 silver prints of Doisneau’s humanist photographs. The portfolio led the sale at $37,500. Edward Weston Portfolio, complete with nine silver prints and one dye transfer print of Weston’s extraordinary images brought $15,000; and Barbara Kasten’s 1980 Polaroid Construct III-A saw $9,375


Additional portfolios of note included Man Ray’s Éliectricité, 1931, with 10 photographs after the artist’s rayographs, at $22,500; and André Kertész’s A Hungarian Memory, 1914–24, printed 1980, complete with 15 silver prints of Kertész’s homeland, at $16,250.

A custom case of 11 iconic Walker Evans FSA photographs documenting the effects of the Great Depression throughout the United States, each taken 1930s, printed 1970s, sold for $18,750. Paul Taylor’s circa 1935 portrait of Dorothea Lange on a shoot in Texas, printed circa 1980, brought $12,5000.

Mexican Photographers

Mexican photographers drew significant interest from collectors with a signed and inscribed deluxe edition of Manuel Álvarez Bravo’s Fotografías, Mexico, 1945, with three silver prints, earned $20,000. Each of the three of Flor Garduño and Graciela Iturbide lots on offer found buyers. Top lots from the run included Iturbide’s 1990 silver print Cholos, Harpys, East Los Angeles, selling for $5,000 over an $800 to $1,200 estimate, and Garduño’s Retrato de Familia, Guatemala, silver print, 1989, printed 1991, which brought $2,500.

Related Reading: Mexican Photography: Graciela Iturbide, Flor Garduño & the Influence of Manuel Álvarez Bravo

Vernacular Photography

Vernacular highlights included an 1861–64 half-plate ambrotype of an unidentified Confederate officer, attributed to C. R. Reese & Co., that garnered significant interest from bidders bringing in $16,250 over a $3,000 to $4,500 estimate. A 1930s album on quilt making showcasing quilts made by women across the Midwest earned $2,500, and a 1937 album featuring photographs of the Sante Fe Railroad Super Chief train sold for $2,375.

Further Highlights

Additional photographs of note featured Josef Koudelka’s Czechoslovakia, silver print, 1968, printed 1990s ($30,000); Alma Lavenson’s Shadowed Wall, Biltmore Hotel, Santa Barbara, 1929 ($15,000), and Rigging, silver print, 1932 ($10,000); Minor White’s Easter Sunday, silver print, 1963 ($10,000); and Helen Levitt’s N.Y. (Children with a Broken Mirror), silver print, circa 1945, printed 1970s ($8,125). 

Consign with Swann