Swann Galleries' February 25 auction Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks brought over $1,640,000, lead by a storied print by Ansel Adams.
The Adams, a 1950s mural-sized silver print of his dramatic Moonrise, Hernandez, NM, 1948, sold for $221,000, including buyer's premium (all the prices here include the 25% buyer's premium). This particular print boasted a weighty provenance, having been owned by both Edwin Land, co-founder of the Polaroid Corporation, and Edward Mills Purcell, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1952.
Photographs of famous and influential figures were among the top lots, with Garry Winogrand's portfolio 15 Big Shots, with each of the silver prints signed, selling for $45,000. Richard Avedon's oversized silver print Suzy Parker and Robin Tattersall, evening dress by Grés, Moulin Rouge, 1957, showing the photographer's muse with accomplished sailor and surgeon Robin Tattersall, sold for $35,000.
Works from documentary photographs performed well in the sale, with Dorothea Lange's silver print The General Strike, Policeman, 1934, selling for $81,250, while Margaret Bourke-White's 1937 silver print At the time of the flood, Louisville, Kentucky realized $32,500. Lewis W. Hine's image of a child laborer, Sadie Pfeifer, a Cotton Mill Spinner, Lancaster, South Carolina, silver print, 1908, brought $20,000.
The photo books section also saw particular success, with a signed and inscribed first edition of Man Ray's Photographs 1920-1934 Paris realizing $18,750. A first edition set of Edward Emerson Barnard's 1927 A Photographic Atlas of Selected Regions of the Milky Way, Parts I & II, brought $17,500, eclipsing its high-estimate after competitive bidding.
Two albums set auction records: William Saunders' Sketches of Chinese Life and Character, 1871-72, which included 50-hand colored albumen prints sold for $65,000, the top price ever realized for the artist at auction. The other record was set by an album of 25 gold-chloride toned microphotographs of snowflakes by Wilson A. Bentley, which brought $52,000.
Among vernacular lots, a group of more than 100 photographs of residents of a trailer park in the 1950s, all taken by the same unnamed photographer, sold for $8,750, outpacing its high estimate after fierce bidding. An album of gas and pipeline photographs entitled Northern Natural Gas Company Pipelines, sold for $4,000, while another album of 106 photographs documenting filling stations throughout Kentucky sold for $8,750.
Daile Kaplan, Swann Vice President and Director of Photographs & Photobooks, said, "We are thrilled with the success of this sale. Iconic photographs sold competitively, auction records were set for 19th and 20th-century images, and clients new to the photography marketplace were successful bidders. Auction prices for vernacular imagery continue to be noteworthy as numerous lots sold well above estimates, demonstrating a continued rise in interest in this corner of the market."
The department's next auction, Images & Objects: Photographs & Photobooks, will be held on April 19.