Photography News and Archive
Current News             Issue Archive             Article Archive E-Photo Newsletter   Issue 168   1/6/2010

19th Annual Photo L.A. Runs Jan. 14th Until Jan. 17th At Santa Monica Civic Center With Hosts David Lachapelle and Actor Chris Lowell as Hosts

The 19th Annual International Los Angeles Photographic Art Exposition, Photo L.A. 2010, returns January 14-17, 2010 to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica, CA, during Golden Globes Weekend. Over the past 18 years Photo L.A. has earned a reputation as one of the foremost art fairs and the leading photo-based event in the country.

"Los Angeles continues to be home for more and more artists and it has become a major creative center for the production of photography and photo-based art," says Stephen Cohen, producer of Photo L.A., owner of the Stephen Cohen Gallery in Los Angeles. "Photo L.A. 2010 presents an international array of galleries and artists giving to curators, collectors, critics and art enthusiasts the opportunity to enjoy the best photography that our city and the world have to offer. Now in its 19th year, it is the longest running art fair in Los Angeles, and it will be a major cultural event in the Los Angeles fine art landscape."

Photo L.A. will feature the photographic art from the earliest 19th-century photographic experiments to the most contemporary photography and photo-based art. Many of the world's leading galleries and private dealers representing international and U.S. artists will display work at photo l.a. 2010. International galleries, including Galeria Sicart (Spain), Queensland Centre (Australia), Gallery Suite 59 (Netherlands), Czech Center for Photography (Czech Republic) and MR Gallery (Beijing), will participate in the fair.

Contemporary Works/Vintage Works will also return once again to the fair, along with such major dealers as Halsted Gallery, Monroe Gallery, Susan Spiritus Gallery, Stephen White Gallery, Scott Nichols Gallery and DNJ Gallery--among many others.

The opening night reception on Thursday, January 14, from 6 to 9 pm, will benefit the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department at LACMA and will be hosted by noted photographer David LaChapelle and actor/photographer Chris Lowell. Reception tickets are $75 and can be purchased directly from LACMA at http://www.lacma.org/art/photola.aspx , or by email at: photola@lacma.org .

The La Brea Matrix, produced by the Lapis Press and Schaden.com, with the support of MAK Center for Art and Architecture and the Goethe-Institut, will have its debut at Photo L.A.

The Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA) will present a preview of their exhibition: Changing the Focus: Latin American Photography (1990-2005). Its curator, Idurre Alonso, will talk about the exhibition and give an on-site collecting seminar, as will Gordon Baldwin, former curator of photography at the Getty Institute. Photographer Lynn Saville will lecture on her new book. Onsite collecting seminars are $80 (include a three-day pass). Seminars have limited enrollment and tickets should be purchased in advance. Student discounts for lectures and the fair are available with valid I.D.

On Saturday, January 16, LACMA will also present a curated program of lectures, free to the public with day-of tickets, limited attendance. Lectures will take place in the Marquee Ballroom of the Doubletree Guest Suites across from the Civic Center at 1707 Fourth Street. Please check the website (http://www.photola.com ) for updated programming and information on the LACMA curated lectures.

Photo L.A. will be open to the general public on Friday, January 15th, and Saturday, January 16th, from 11 am to 7 pm, and Sunday, January 17th, from 11 to 6 pm. Tickets are $20 for a one-day pass, $30 for a three-day pass and $10 for lectures. All exhibition, lecture and opening night benefit reception tickets are available for purchase in advance or at the door. For additional information on Photo L.A. 2010, including the opening benefit reception and advance ticket sales, visit http://www.photola.com .

Fall Itinerary Is a Full One With Dag Society Meeting, Paris Photo, Auctions Galore, and Art Basel Miami Week

First Stop: Daguerreian Society Symposium and Trade Show in Philly

"I'm a travelin' man. I've made a lot of stops, all over the world"

--Ricky Nelson

By Alex Novak

It's really feeling like I have been doing much more traveling than staying at home these last three or four months. First the New York City October auctions, including the later one at Swann. Then the Daguerreian Society Annual Symposium and Trade Show, which was closer to home but not quite close enough. Then on to Paris for the auctions, a small vintage photo show and Paris Photo itself. Back home briefly, but then on to Miami and Art Basel Miami week (with a stop-over in Atlanta). A dash over to NYC for Swann's December photo literature and photography auction. Another quick trip into New York to preview Bonham's travel auction. And next week on to Photo L.A.

Yes, it can get a bit tiring after a while, but, as they say, it comes with the job. There are certainly the perks of seeing good friends, eating well (at least sometimes) and doing a little business (at least sometimes).

While we covered the October auctions in previous newsletters, I didn't get to follow-up on the rest of my crazed itinerary. First up: the Daguerreian Society's Symposium and Dealer Show.

This was the Dag Society's 21st annual meeting, and, I believe, the first ever in Philadelphia, the city that had more to do with daguerreotypes than any other in the country (with perhaps a nod to Boston). Since Philly is really my home base now, I felt I had to make more than just an appearance here. The society's president and a good friend, Len Walle, had approached me during Art Chicago about I Photo Central and Vintage Works, Ltd. sponsoring the gala reception to support the event. Len was very persuasive and the arm behind my back was only modestly in pain when I agreed.

The Gala Reception (my thanks to Sally Anyan and Diane Filippi, who really did all the work to pull this nice event together) wound up being held in the historically significant Library Company of Philadelphia, where Sarah Weatherwax is curator of prints and photographs. To enhance the perfect historical setting for the reception, Sarah had put together a special exhibition entitled, "Catching a Shadow: Daguerreotypes in Philadelphia, 1839-1860". You can still see this important show until February 26th. The Library Company, the oldest, continuous library in the country, is located at 1314 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA; 1-215-546-3181. It is free and open to the public from M-F 9:00 am to 4:45 pm, although new members are also always welcome to join. The institution has a wonderful research library that is also available.

After a little more "persuasion" from Len Walle, I found myself also in charge of the lead-off panel session on conservation and daguerreotypes. Fortunately I was able to enlist the help and expertise of Eastman House's Grant Romer, the Library of Congress' Adrienne Lundgren and Jiuan-Jiuan Chen from Paul Messier, L.L.C. My many thanks to this fine group of conservators for their kind help. I know that both I and the audience learned an awful lot that morning on the latest state of the art techniques on conservation. Look to the Daguerreian Society's newsletter for future articles on this topic. The session covered evaluation, preservation, and current and future conservation techniques for the daguerreotype, including issues relating to identification, coloring, what treatment to use under what circumstances, proper sealing and glass materials, etc.

You definitely came away with a further appreciation for professional conservation. I always advise clients to get professional help on any photographic work that needs conservation. There has been too many excellent photographs and daguerreotypes (and their related research) destroyed by amateur attempts at cleaning and conservation.

I am always impressed with the Daguerreian Society's program, which is simply the best in photography, and I truly wish one of the photography shows would put on something equally educational. Frankly, I am a bit tired of the self-serving photographer speeches, and the erudite and either too narrow or too broad focus of some of the other programs, where I rarely learn anything practical or important. There have been some modest attempts to produce collector programs, but more thought as to the speakers, their topics and presentations needs to be made if collectors, curators and, even dealers are to progress and learn.

AIPAD and the New York Met had a wonderful program a few years ago that served as a brief introduction to conservation and identification and dating of photographs, but it was unfortunately limited almost solely to AIPAD dealers (or rather their staff, because those who most needed this information failed to sign up for the program themselves). Certainly most committed collectors, curators and trade should be interested in topics that directly effect their collections and the value of their photographs. Just a thought.

In any case, the Daguerreian Society was loaded up with gems, including Cliff Krainik speaking on John Plumbe in Philadelphia, and Jeff Richman presenting some interesting information about Green-Wood Cemetery's great daguerreians, many of whom are buried here in this famous Brooklyn cemetery.

Jean-Pierre Spilbauer, mayor of Bry-sur-Marne, France discussed some of the discoveries made in the restoration of Daguerre's Diorama. Sarah J. Weatherwax talked about the Library Company of Philadelphia's current exhibition noted above, "Catching a Shadow: Daguerreotypes in Philadelphia, 1839-1860". Elena Simonova-Bulat, photograph conservator at Harvard University Library, gave a presentation on "Preservation of Daguerreotypes at Harvard".

But among those presenters here, the one that could be said to be giving this symposium his all was Matthew R. Isenburg, collector extraordinaire and chairman of the Society, who talked about "The Many Faces of Daguerre", as shown in trade cards, statuary, stamps, coin medals, steel and wood engravings, lithographs, collectors cards, cigar rings, post cards, Crystalotypes, cdvs, Woodburytypes, cabinet cards and, of course, daguerreotypes of Daguerre. Matt had collapsed just after the Gala Reception the night before and had been rushed to University of Pennsylvania Hospital for observation. He literally checked himself out of his hospital bed to come back and make this highly animated and very funny talk. Most of us who knew the situation were more concerned about Matt's health, despite Matt's wonderful discussion. He wound up back in the hospital the following evening. Fortunately he is recovering at home now. Our very best to this trooper, who--more than anyone else--has built and kept the Daguerreian Society together and stronger. We wish you a complete and speedy recovery, Matt, and thank you for your dedication (although we sure don't want you to take such chances again!).

I was also impressed with the caliber of the attendees at this year's event. Some of the curators included: Ann Shumard from the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery; Weston Naef from the Getty; Keith Davis, Hallmark Collection and Nelson-Atkins; Peter Barberie, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Brian Wallis, ICP; Douglass Paschall, former curator for Woodmere Art Museum; Sarah Weatherwax, Philadelphia Library Company; Grant Romer and several others from the George Eastman House; Carol Johnson, Library of Congress; among others, plus many associate curators and conservators.

The Symposium had people from as far away in the U.S. as Seattle, and internationally, Canada, France and Australia. And those are just the ones that I know about.

All in all, it was a great conference/symposium and an excellent trade fair (on the Saturday), with a number of "big" items being sold at the fair. Many major collectors joined the curators, especially at the Trade Fair, including two of the biggest collectors in Canada, who were represented here. I and many other dealers did extremely well for this one-day table-top show. Next year the symposium is planned for Atlanta, GA, and 2011's symposium may just be Paris or Bry-sur-Marne, a close-by suburb.

For more information on the Daguerreian Society and how to join its international membership, just go to: http://daguerre.org .

On to Paris: The Ilse Bing Auction

By Alex Novak

I left the Daguerreian Society Symposium immediately after the trade show, unfortunately missing the dinner and auction that night. You can see the auction results, which go to benefit the association, here: http://daguerre.org/symposia/auction2009.php . The most expensive item was a rare daguerreian cane that concealed three different daguerreotypes, which sold for $4,000 (no extra buyer's premiums at this sale).

My plane to Paris was the very next day. I took a ragged Delta-fied Air France flight (small uncomfortable jet, wine in cartons, crappier food, no more ear plugs/sleeping masks, charges for bags, etc.), which is a recent and serious downgrade of the normally-ok Air France flight. The changes just made me determined not to fly very much any more--and this was even before the latest air scare. (Anyone else out there feel like that these days?)

From Charles de Gaulle-Roissy I took a taxi and got to my rented apartment on rue Reaumur in the third arrondissement. I simply dropped off my bags and scurried down to Drouot Montaigne via the metro.

Drouot Montaigne is the ritzier auction location in Paris when compared to the Wal-Mart-like Richelieu Drouot, the normal location for most Paris auctions. Montaigne shares its locale with all the major haut couture houses on this very upscale street. Unfortunately the bistro across the way wasn't quite so chic, but I used it later for a quick bite before the auction. I frankly don't even remember what I ate.

It was a very long day of previewing and later attending the actual auction. The sheer number of photographs here was nearly overwhelming, and, to make matters even more challenging, many of the images were top-rate. Expert Christophe Goeury did another great job on this auction's catalogue. As I've said in the past, his catalogues are troves of information on the photographers whose estates he has auctioned off, including Brassai, Blanc et Demilly, and Studio Stone. The information includes biographies in French and English, extensive bibliographies and copies of the artists' stamps and signatures, so these catalogues are really useful well beyond the auction.

In the past, Goeury--as virtually all auction "experts"--has made mistakes from time to time about dating prints. In Christophe's case I always felt that the mistakes were always even-handed and honestly made. In other words, he would as often misdate a print later as earlier, which is not the case for many other auction "experts". But for this sale, he "really did the job", as my good friend Arnaud Delas would say. All the photographs in the Bing sale were black-lighted, which for her prints in particular is an excellent way to date those prints. (For more information on this technique click here: http://www.iphotocentral.com/collecting/article_view.php/12/10/1 ) I saw virtually no misdating of prints here, except possibly for a few that might actually be considered to be a bit earlier than cited in the catalogue.

Condition here overall was excellent with mostly only minor handling crimps, primarily on the largest unmounted prints. Add in the rarity of most of the images, Bing's fine printing and the relatively low estimates here, and you had--for me--an unprecedented opportunity to buy some of the top work from one of the greatest underrated photographers in the market. But that also meant that there were nearly 300 lots that needed to be viewed carefully, including many lots with multiple images. To view this many lots quickly in and out of frames was a very tough assignment. My thanks to Christophe and Béatrice for all their kind help. It was a very busy day for all of us.

The auction didn't start until 7:30 pm, despite the earlier notice in the catalogue. This was done to help a number of clients who were obviously on the West Coast of the U.S.

The room was initially packed with people--mostly French, but with some American dealers during the early going. It was also stifling hot. The whole process was to take four hours. A very long day indeed.

The sale sold virtually all of its decent lots. The total percent sold was 72% and the sale brought in approximately 520,000 euros total, which at the time of the sale was nearly $800,000. It was to be the best selling percentage of any of the four Paris auctions going off during Paris Photo week.

That consignment came from a single collector, who ostensibly bought the images from the Konrad Wolff-Ilse Bing Estate (Bing was married to Konrad Wolff, a noted pianist and teacher). Well, sort of. The collector had reportedly bought much of the collection from Wichita State University, KS, which had been the recipient of much of Bing's largess over the years (well into the millions of dollars). In fact in 2001 alone the estate made a $1.5 million bequest to endow scholarships for chamber music students at Wichita State University. Photographs from Bing's personal collection were also sold at Sotheby's to benefit the foundation in 2003. It is somewhat sad though that the University did not deem it important enough to hang on to what was certainly one of the most important collections of her work. Perhaps it was the foundation that approved the sale, but the University's lack of foresight is certainly the market's (and that collector's) gain.

I will review some of the lots that broke over a 7,500 euro hammer price (add on nearly 28% to the hammer price totals if you were European and about 22% if you were outside the EEC and shipped). Because this consignment actually came from the U.S., you could get a substantial VAT return when you shipped outside of Europe/UK. Oddly enough there were that many inexpensive lots here, and you could get some amazingly good buys if you were patient enough to sit through this excruciating auction. I was either patient or stubborn enough to do so.

The first lot to hit my 7,500 hammer minimum (and just barely) was lot 24. This was an odd image of two light fixtures, but it was a VERY large print with a nice matt surface, except for a few light surface marks over it. A woman in the room grabbed this one for well over its estimate of 2,000-3,000 euro for that 7,500 euro hammer price.

Lot 56 was the series of a dozen smaller images from the Moulin Rouge. It went to a phone bidder at more than double its high estimate at 42,000 euro (over 53,000 euro with the premium and VAT and more than $80,000).

One lot that was a big temptation was lot 65, an image of the New York elevated and a reflection of the photographer. It was estimated at a mere 2,000-3,000 euro, but it quickly floated upward, finally settling down to a phone bidder for a whopping hammer price of 25,000 euro. But certainly a great piece, although not my absolute favorite of this sale.

Another lot that easily tripled its estimate of 2,000-3,000 euros was lot 117, which went again to the phone (when the phone was active, lot generally soared in price; but the phone was an erratic participant). The image of children dancing in front of a decorative barrel organ in Amsterdam was simply lovely, but it came at a price: 9,000 euros hammer.

Another image that was highly sought after was lot 210, a Street Cleaner's Broom, Paris. Estimated again at a very low 1,000-1,500, it attracted many bidders. It was a bit more neutral in color than in the catalogue, and I frankly didn't think the print quality was as high as on some other images, but it was still a stunner with its large size. But it became again a battle of the phones. Finally one nailed it down with a 7,200 euro hammer bid.

By the time I checked out and grabbed a taxi back to my apartment, the time was past midnight. I slept the sleep of the dead that night.


Over 300 New Photos Go Up On I Photo Central

The photography dealers on I Photo Central have been extremely busy over the last month or so, putting up over 300 new photographs. You can see these new items at: http://www.iphotocentral.com/search/result_list.php/16/30/0 .

There are now nearly 2,000 different photographers and over 8,800 items listed for sale on I Photo Central, making it the most important place to buy photography in the market. You can search all of these here: http://www.iphotocentral.com/search/search.php .

Lots of top vintage and contemporary pieces are included in the many images added to the site. Some of the important 19th-century photographers and images posted include: Disderi (uncut cartes-de-visite plates); Baldus (a single-plate salt print from a missing six-plate panorama of the Avignon Floods); James Anderson (early large salt prints of Rome); several beautifully hand-colored Japanese images by Kimbei, Von Stillfried, Reiji and others; Nadar (portrait of female author George Sand); Taber (a fine group of Western views, including the "Grizzly Giant", "Dupont Street, Chinatown, San Francisco" and "Cascade Falls, Yosemite"); Clifford (a rare, early salt print of Jarandilla, Ruins of Castle of Duke of Frias); Louis Godefroy De Lucy (a magical image of a rabbit); A. Zeiser (a rare German salt print of "Schöner Brunnen mit Kathol. Kirsche Zu Nurmberg"); Felix Bonfils (a very rich and dark albumen print of "Veiled Turkish Woman"); Bourne (scarce image of "Snowcapped Deodars, Simla, India"); and Andrew Russell (two from the rare large "Great West Illustrated" portfolio).

Mid-century work includes a great series of very nice group of cyanotypes from about 1900 that are part of a survey group of Chehalis, WA; a small selection of autochromes by the Lumiere brothers; a larger group of spectacular autochromes including three large nudes with blue veil, interiors and exteriors in Venice, several images of children (one dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood) and an interesting autochrome image by Mary Olive Edis.

Twentieth-century images include: experimental photograms by Gyorgy Kepes, Charles W. Niedringhaus and Arthur Siegel; two strong surrealist images of hands by Japanese photographer Osamu Shiihara; a small, gem-like photographs from Lartigue of his illegitimate daughter dancing and other scenes; a group of mid-century images from Jean Prével, including several "wall-of-death" racing images; fabulous portraits by Zamora (of Diego Rivera), Ilse Bing (of a young woman and a self-portrait); a small select group of San Francisco and other images by pictorialist Sigismund Blumann; also photographs by Kertész, Brigman, Doisneau, Cartier-Bresson, Blanc & Demilly, Levitt, Mapplethorpe, Herve, Eisenstaedt, Mili, and Stone Studio. Plus numerous images that will knock you out from lesser known or anonymous photographers. There's something here for every budget.

Two Prints of Ansel Adams "Moonrise" Top Swann Dec. 8th Auction, Which Breaks Over $1.1 Million, Selling 66%

By Alex Novak

Swann Galleries' auction of Photographic Literature & Fine Photographs on December 8th brought in a respectable $1,115,394 with about two-thirds of the lots selling. Prices all include the buyer's premium. Considering that there was a whopping 16 people in the room, the results are relatively impressive. Much of the action came on the phone or Internet, or through commission bids that were left with the auction house.

The Photographic Literature session included a fine example of Francis Frith's photographically illustrated volume "Egypt, Nubia and Ethiopia", with 100 albumen stereoviews, which brought $10,200 from a dealer. All the other lots in this section of the sale failed to get over the $10,000 mark, but some Japanese books of note were Kazuo Kenmochi's "Narcotic Photographic Document", Tokyo, 1963, and Shomei Tomatsu's "Nagasaki 11:02", Tokyo, 1966, $4,560 each; and Yutaka Takanashi's "Toshi-e" [Towards the City], 2 volumes, Tokyo, 1974, $4,080.

Classic modern books included a deluxe limited edition of Berenice Abbott's American Photographer, one of 420 signed by Abbott and issued with a signed silver print, New York, 1982, $4,560; a signed copy of David Heath's A Dialogue with Solitude, New York, 1965, $4,560; and Robert Frank's The Lines of My Hand, Tokyo, 1972, $4,800. A Camera Work Number 20, featuring three images by Stieglitz, New York, 1907, brought $6,000.

The top lots in the auction--and where most of the drama was centered--were two versions of Ansel Adams's iconic image of Moonrise, Hernandez, NM, 1941. Each sold to different collectors. A very rare vintage print created in 1948 that was signed and inscribed by Adams to Valentino Sarra, a photographer and W.P.A. poster designer and friend of Adams, sold for $360,000. It was one of only a very small number of vintage prints that Adams rendered with a delicate tonal quality.

The bidding came down to a dealer in the room bidding for a collector, who reportedly was the underbidder in the 2008 Sotheby's sale, a phone bidder and myself bidding in the room for a client. My collector came out on top after several bids in quick succession.

I think the opposition just wasn't prepared for other bidders and were hoping to steal the lot at the reserve (or perhaps less if it bought-in). It was interesting that there were two other bidders on this piece. The ultimate price for the high quality of the print I think was perhaps at a 40-50% discount to the market, especially when you compare it to the print in October 2006, which sold for $609,600.

Before the sale here, Swann's Daile Kaplan reported to me that experienced observers had told her that they felt this was actually a better print than the one that sold at Sotheby's in October 2006, although I personally think the two are very comparable and that both are excellent prints. The print at Swann's was certainly a much better print than the Moonrise in the 2008 Sotheby's October sale, which sold for $362,500 with numerous fairly serious condition issues and at the lowest point in the market.

Early prints of Moonrise, such as these, are all extremely rare because of the difficulty that Adams had in printing this image. Most are in institutional or major collections and are not likely to come out on the market.

The other version of the image, printed in the 1960s, showed greater contrast and a dramatically dark sky. It brought $48,000 from a collector. It was an excellent, relatively early print and another good buy in my opinion.

A Heath image, "Washington Square", a close-up portrait of an African-American boy, 1958, brought a record $16,800 from a dealer in the room buying for a client. Other mid-century highlights included Harry Callahan's poetic view of trees set against a white background, Chicago, silver print, 1950, printed early 1970s, $16,800 (same dealer and collector); and André Kertész's view of snow-covered Washington Square (Winter), silver print, 1954, printed early-mid 1970s, $10,200 (bought via a commission bid by a collector).

Among a number of Edward Weston highlights were Wm. Edmondson, Stonecutter of Nashville, ferrotyped silver print, 1941, $9,000 (bought by a collector in the room); and two images printed by Cole Weston, Shell, silver print, 1931, printed 1970s, $15,600, and Nude [Charis, Santa Monica], silver print, 1936, printed no later than 1971, $10,200 (both bought by a dealer in the room buying for a client).

A select group of 36 images by Walker Evans from American Photographs and other early projects, 1929-71, printed 1976-79, were bought over the phone by a dealer for $19,200. The silver prints by John Hill and Amos Chan from the original negatives were made for two posthumous publications.

Other images sold included: "In Chicago", a portfolio with 12 photographs by Harry Callahan, Barbara Crane, John Szarkowski, and others, 1935-79, printed 1983, $13,200 (commission bid by collector); and six silver prints from Helmut Newton's Private Property, Portfolios I-III, containing portraits of David Hockney, Karl Lagerfeld and Sigourney Weaver, among other celebrities, 1973-83, printed 1984, $14,400 (phone bid by a dealer).

Rounding out the Photographs session were early images, such as Lewis Carroll's Portrait of Emily Cecilia Harrison, albumen print, circa 1860, $7,800, and group of 24 studies from Le Nouvel Opéra de Paris by Louis-Émile Édouard Durandelle, albumen prints, circa 1865-74, printed 1875-76, $6,960; several of Lewis W. Hine's images of child workers, among them Oyster Shuckers, Port Royal, SC, silver print, 1908-12, $9,600; Alfred Eisenstaedt's Premier at La Scala, Milan, silver print, 1933, printed 1995, $16,800; Yousuf Karsh's portrait of Sir Winston Churchill, silver print, 1941, printed 1960s, $9,600; and Steve McCurry's photo of an Afghan Girl with piercing eyes, cibachrome print, 1985, printed circa 2003, $7,200.

Daile Kaplan, Vice President and Photography Specialist, said, "Our sale results reflect the growing market for works by classical photographers, with two different versions of Ansel Adams's Moonrise Over Hernandez selling for competitive prices. And for the third time, a photograph by David Heath set a record at Swann."

Cowan's Dec. Sale Breaks Over $665,000, With Several Important Photo Lots Breaching $20,000 Mark

Cowan's American History auction on December 9, 2009 brought in $665,000 on 400 lots. An album of carte-de-visite photographs of Abraham Lincoln's funeral procession was the top-selling lot of the auction, nearly tripling its $8,000-10,000 estimate by selling for $27,025. Comprised of 97 CDVs, the album featured images of three of the nine cities on the funeral route--Columbus, OH, and Chicago and Springfield, IL. While valuable for its rarity as a whole, the album includes several cartes-de-visite which are exceptional individually, including an image of the processional arch in Chicago, and an image of Lincoln's bedroom in his Springfield home. Additionally, several photographs are not illustrated in "Twenty Days", Kunhardt and Kunhardt's comprehensive 1965 account of Lincoln's assassination and funeral.

Two other important photography lots in the sale included a rare quarter-plate daguerreotype of Seneca Chief Governor Blacksnake by artist F.C. Flint of Syracuse, New York, which realized $22,325, well above its $10/15,000 estimate; and the Julia Tuell collection of 19 Plains Indian photographs, which brought $21,150, exceeding its $12/15,000 estimate.

Remembered as Weston's Muse, Charis Wilson Passes Away in Santa Cruz At Home of Friend

Charis Wilson, who was photographer Edward Weston's model and muse during their 11-year relationship, died November 20, 2009, in Santa Cruz, CA, at the home of Joseph Stroud, a friend. Her daughter Rachel Fern Harris is her only immediate survivor.

Wilson was Weston's companion from 1934 to 1945. By 1935 they were living together; they married in 1939 and separated in 1945, divorcing the following year.

She appears in more than half of Weston's nudes, including some his best-known photographs. She wrote about Weston's photography and helped him with writing assignments, including an application for a Guggenheim fellowship in 1937, which was the first such grant to be given to an art photographer. They then used the money to travel, co-writing "California and the West" in the process, which included about 100 of Weston's photographs.

More recently Wilson held several different jobs, including union secretary and creative writing teacher, but she had spent much of her life writing and speaking about her time with Weston. In 1977 she wrote about this period for a book of photographs, "Edward Weston Nudes," and in 2007 she appeared in a film documentary, "Eloquent Nude." Her memoir, "Through Another Lens," which was written with Wendy Madar, was published in 1999. She was also interviewed in "The Model Wife," a 1999 book and exhibition by Arthur Ollman.

Shpilman Art and Culture Foundation Endows Biennial Prize to Catalyze Groundbreaking Work in Photography

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem has established the Shpilman International Prize for Excellence in Photography, which will provide photographers and scholars with the support needed to pursue new ideas and work in the medium. The first of its kind, the prize is awarded for the creation of new work, rather than the recognition of previously completed work. It will be presented every two years to an artist or scholar who aims to expand the boundaries of the medium. Recipients will receive a cash prize of 30,000 ($45,000) to support the realization of new work, which will subsequently be published or exhibited by the Museum. The first Shpilman Prize recipient will be selected in August 2010.

The prize is created and supported with an endowment gift of $1 million from the Shpilman Art and Culture Foundation, which will expand the core activities of the Museum's Noel and Harriette Levine Department of Photography, while also contributing to the museum's ongoing endowment campaign in memory of founder Teddy Kollek. The Shpilman gift also matches a challenge grant from the Schusterman Foundation, which sought to encourage Israeli support by pledging $1 million toward the endowment campaign if matched by a donor in Israel. The Schusterman Foundation is also supporting the Museum's concurrent Campus Renewal Project with a gift of $5 million, also offered on condition that it be matched by donors in Israel.

Recipients of the prize will be selected by a jury of leading international photography experts, chaired by Nissan N. Perez, Horace and Grace Goldsmith senior curator of the Israel Museum's Noel and Harriette Levine Department of Photography. Inaugural jury members will include: Dr. Shlomo Lee Abrahmov, photographer and teacher, Holon Institute of Technology and Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, representing the Shpilman family; Peter Galassi, chief curator, department of photography, the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Marta Gili, director, Jeu de Paume Museum, Paris; Prof. Hanan Laskin founder, photography department, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Tel Aviv, and academic advisor to art schools and other cultural institutions in Israel.

Prospective candidates may include artists and scholars in photography with an established record of past achievements who intend to create new work or undertake new research in the field. Proposals must include a statement on the nature of the work that applicants would want to develop in the future. Candidates must be nominated by a peer in the field. Applications must be received by April 2010.

Inquiries concerning the Shpilman Prize can be addressed to shpilmanprize@imj.org.il .

Calif. Conceptual Photographer Larry Sultan Dies of Cancer

Conceptual artist Larry Sultan died at his home in Greenbrae, CA, last month due to cancer. He was 63.

Born in Brooklyn in 1946, Sultan was raised mostly in the suburban San Fernando Valley of California, after his father moved the family to the Los Angeles area in 1949.

He earned a BA in political science from the University of California at Santa Barbara (1968) and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute (1973). He was the recipient of a U.S. State Department International Arts and Lectures Grant (2000); four National Endowment for the Arts Photography Fellowships (1977, 1980, 1986 and 1992) and an Art in Public Places Grant (1976); and a Guggenheim Fellowship (1983).

Sultan's first major project was a collaboration with the artist Mike Mandel, which consisted of a book of appropriated photographs titled "Evidence" and a subsequent exhibition organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1977. The "found" pictures came from the files of government agencies, corporations and research organizations, and offered a droll, provocative look at contemporary American culture.

Beginning in the early 1980s, Sultan began work on a project about his mother and his father, who had been forced into early retirement. Like other bodies of work by Sultan, this one played off truth against fiction. As Sandra Phillips, senior photography curator at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, notes about other of Sultan's works, "The true subject of Sultan's pictures is how photography is used in the construction of that fantasy."

From 1992 to 1996 the traveling exhibition "Larry Sultan: Pictures from Home" was shown at Bronx Museum of Art, New York; Scottsdale Center for the Arts, Scottsdale, Arizona; The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Chicago Cultural Center; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; and San Jose Museum of Art, California.

Drawing from his environment once again, Sultan produced a coffee-table photography 2004 book called "The Valley" that explored the conversion of LA-area suburban homes into porn sets. At the same time the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was again the first venue for these photographs by Sultan.

He was a distinguished professor at California College of the Arts (CAA) in both the undergraduate photography program and the graduate program in fine arts, and had taught at CCA since 1988.

His work is part of numerous public collections, including those of the Art Institute of Chicago; Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, AZ; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; National Museum of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Hollywood Photographer Bob Willoughby Dies of Cancer

Yet another California photographer succumbed to cancer last month at his home in Vence, France. Bob Willoughby, 82, was one of the better-known film photographers working through the 1950s to 1970s during what was termed "The Golden Age of Hollywood".

Born in Los Angeles in 1927, Willoughby studied cinema at the University of Southern California and design with Saul Bass at the Kann Institute of Art. His career began in New York, where he photographed performing jazz musicians. His first magazine assignment came in the early 1950s for Harper's Bazaar.

He became the still photographer on numerous major films, including A Star Is Born, My Fair Lady, The Graduate and Catch-22. His use of new techniques and equipment included the first successful sound blimp to reduce shutter noise and radio-controlled cameras.