Records & Results: 70 Years of Photographs at Swann

On February 10, 2022, we held Fine Photographs: Celebrating 70 Years of Photographs at Swann, not only did the sale mark the 70th anniversary of photography auctions at the house but in the United States as well. In 1952 Swann offered the single-owner sale of the collection of Albert E. Marshall, or The First Complete Auction of Photographica in America, which saw albums and photobooks dominate the offering, seven decades on the market has grown dramatically.

“The results of our 70th anniversary auction speak to the strength of the continuously expanding and diversifying market for photography. From daguerreotypes to nineteenth-century albums from India, and classical twentieth-century work to contemporary practitioners, the auction showcased a broad range of material that performed strongly throughout. It is thrilling to see this community of collectors continue to investigate the medium and I was honored to be a part of this historical moment for photography at Swann.”

Deborah Rogal, Director of Photographs


Strong results were seen by portfolios including Lisette Model’s 1937-46 portfolio Twelve Photographs, printed 1977, one of 15 proof copies, which led the sale at $32,500; and Berenice Abbott’s New York, 1931-38, printed 1979, a complete with 12 of Abbott’s iconic city views, at $30,000.

Ansel Adams & Landscape Photography

Ansel Adams found success with each of the five photographs on offer selling. Most notable was a rare example of Oaktree, Snowstorm, Yosemite Valley, 1948, which brought $25,000. The silver print was the same size as Adams’ Portfolio I prints and is believed to be designated by the photographer as the standard for all prints made for that first portfolio. Also of note was Evening Clouds, Sierra Nevada, 1936, printed 1963-70, at $16,250. Additional landscape photography included Richard Misrach’s Golden Gate Bridge, oversize chromogenic print, 2000, which earned $11,250.

Related Reading: California Modernism: Photography from Group f/64

American Documentary Photography

Snapshots of American life were among the top lots of the sale with works by Diane Arbus, Helen Levitt, Robert Frank and Gordon Parks proving to be favorites. Arbus’ Female Impersonator with Jewels, N.Y.C., 1958-60, sold for $23,750; Levitt’s New York (Foreign Legion), 1940, printed 1940s, at $25,000; Frank’s Los Angeles, 1956, printed 1960s, at $22,500, and Café, Beaufort, South Carolina, 1955, printed 1960s, at $18,750; and Parks’ American Gothic, Washington D.C., 1942, printed 1990s, which brought a record for the image at $18,750.

Related Reading: American Street Photography of the 1940s-50s

Additional Highlights

Carrie Mae Weems, May Flowers, c-print, 2002. Sold for $16,250, a record for the image.

Early photography, vernacular and contemporary works rounded out the sale. Contemporary highlights included Carrie Mae Weems’ May Flowers, c-print, 2002, which realized $16,250, a record for the image; and Barbara Kasten’s Construction 33, Cibachrome print, 1986, at $11,050. From the offering of early photography and the vernacular was a comprehensive album of 60 photographic depictions of a nineteenth-century maharaja and his court from 1890, at $15,000; a set of five Delaware and Hudson Canal views from 1860 to 1870, at $21,250; and a group of 23 photographs from four of the Apollo missions, including Apollo 11, the first to land men on the moon, at $11,875.

Related Reading: Collecting Works by African-American Photographers

Consign with Swann.