AN AMERICAN IN EUROPE: A VERY RAMBLING (HOPEFULLY INTERESTING) PERSPECTIVE ON PHOTOGRAPHY, WITH AUCTION TALLIES FROM LONDON, PARIS AND A REPORT FROM ART BASEL PART ONE: LONDON; SOTHEBY'S LONDON SALE: MEDIOCRE RESULTS FOR MEDIOCRE MATERIAL; CHRISTIE'S PHOTO BOOK SALE: NOTHING TO WRITE HOME ABOUT; BLOOMSBURY AUCTIONS STILL LOOKING FOR ITS GROOVE; OVER 330 NEW PHOTOS AND BOOKS, PLUS SPECIAL EXHIBITS GO UP ON I PHOTO CENTRAL; PHOTOGRAPHER JENNIE GUNHAMMAR DIES AFTER DOCUMENTING ILLNESS; PHOTOGRAPHY BOOKS AND CATALOGUES; PHOTO NEWS BRIEFS
AN AMERICAN IN EUROPE: A VERY
RAMBLING (HOPEFULLY INTERESTING)
PERSPECTIVE ON PHOTOGRAPHY, WITH
AUCTION TALLIES FROM LONDON, PARIS
AND A REPORT FROM ART BASEL;
PART ONE: LONDON
By Alex Novak
As I have usually done for the last ten years, I spent part of May and June in Europe, attending the various London and French auctions, Art Basel, Bièvres' open air photo market, and gallery and museum exhibitions. I also spent much of the time visiting with photography dealers/galleries, collectors and my own artists. It is one of my primary buying trips. All-in-all, it does give me a good sense of the European photography marketplace and puts the American experience into perspective.
Despite some slowness in the market and several particularly poor and weak London auctions, there is a sense of getting by here. The French auctions did pretty decently, in fact better than expected. Art Basel lacked Americans (except for Brad Pitt, who bought a million-dollar painting, and Eli Broad, who advised him), but more than made up for it with Europeans. Europeans may be in worse shape than we are here in the U.S. economically (largely because of most of their governments' slowness to respond the financial crisis and the lack of a unified European effort of consequence), but they don't seem to let it affect their everyday living or decision-making. They tend to buy photography because they love it and not just for an investment, although they want good values.
My European buying trip this year started off in London, visiting with dealer friends and galleries. One of my first stops was Arnaud Delas' stand at the Harris Arcade, which is just past the Admiral Vernon arcade at 161-163 Portobello Road. The stand is just inside and is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Arnaud is a French transplant to the London scene, but he is a long-time friend. Afterwards, we went out to dinner at the nearby Osteria Basilico with Arnaud, his girlfriend and ephemera dealer Jane Orde, collector and friend Cecile Tailbot, and part-time dealer and friend Daniella Dangoor. This is an old Italian standard in the Portobello area that is quite good.
Arnaud, like a lot of small private photo dealers, continues to do ok, but complains of a lack of good material coming into the market. As a trend over the last ten-plus years, this lack of quality source material is certainly going to eventually have an impact on pricing of the remaining higher caliber vintage material. The few good pieces showing up are going for very competitive prices. Then they have quickly gone into institutional and major private collections, eliminating them from the market and making remaining quality pieces that much rarer.
Another long-time friend Michael Diemar and author Laura Noble showed their optimism and recently opened a new gallery in London at 66/67 Wells Street in the West End, which is an up-and-coming area for art galleries. It's also not far from the auction alley of New Bond Street. At the time of my visit the gallery was showing Jennie Gunhammar's large-scale color work (see accompanying story about the artist's recent passing).
Diemar and Noble have chosen to show very important, but often very difficult work at the gallery, from Gunhammar's documentation of her illness to fortress-like structures of Northern Ireland. It's a gallery for serious collectors and institutions. Their latest show is on surrealist Marcel Marien's photographic work from the 1970s-80s, which runs through July 25th. Marien was a friend and assistant to Rene Magritte. His own work is fairly rare and is a prime example of late surrealism.
The gallery also stocks and exhibits work from the whole canon of photography--from 19th-century masters to contemporary artists. Courses in photography and collecting are also available at the gallery. You can phone: +44 (0)207 636 5375. The gallery is usually closed on Sunday and Monday, but open the other days from 10 am-6 pm.
I had lunch with ex-pat Brad Feuerhelm of Ordinary Light at Patterson's on Mill Street. The prix-fixed meal wasn't bad. The talk turned to the photo market. Both Brad and I have noticed an uptick in interest in Asian ethnographic material.
I also stopped by Bernard Shapero Rare Books on 32 St. George Street to see Roland Belgrave, who runs Shapero's photography group. Shapero's has always focused on 19th-century and early 20th-century ethnographic photographs and albums, and is a popular stop-off for photography collectors of this material.
While I didn't get by Quaritch Books this trip, I did see its photography expert Lindsey Stewart at the Sotheby's auction (more on that later). It too is a good stop-off for the photography collector in London. Quaritch is located on 8 Lower John Street, Golden Square. While the company focuses on 19th-century photography, it has also branched out to 20th-century work. Last year I saw a very good vintage Bill Brandt show there, but at prices that frankly shocked me at times--and they were selling well here.
Americans (and Europeans) assume that the value of their respective currency is stable. It's not. The American dollar has eroded to nearly half its value in terms of European currency over the last ten years. Now that doesn't account for inflation--just currency exchange differences. What this means for Europeans (excluding Brits, whose pound sterling with its recent drop in value is now virtually at the same rate of exchange with the dollar as it was ten years ago) is that their currency can now buy nearly twice as much in dollars as it could then. As more and more European collectors and dealers are added to the competition for fewer and fewer quality pieces, the competition for the few rare photographs will tend to increase the value of those photos--at least in weaker dollars.
I expect that in the short term the dollar/euro exchange rate will remain fairly stable within a narrow range (the dollar may even go up briefly), although much longer term (2-5 years in the future) the dollar is expected to drop considerably, as this country's debt load adds to its currency exchange problems and potential inflation. That doesn't count the impact of a switching away from the dollar as the currency of choice as the standard for the world, as China, Russia and others have been suggesting.
What does all this mean? For one thing it means you should be careful about your currency purchases and their timing. I use several services for this, including Travelex Business Payments and Tempus. Never use your bank to wire funds in other currencies or you credit card if you can help it. That will cost you about 7% more with the inevitable bad exchange rate (it isn't the commission or lack of commission that usually gets you).
In this regard, Sotheby's tried a new scam on me in London: it was called dynamic currency conversion. It basically has a third-party (Fexco) change the pound sterling charges on your Sotheby's account into your currency of choice for your credit card when charging your purchases. Now this could actually be a reasonably good idea, because of the high rate of exchange on virtually all credit cards today (and going higher every time I check). As I noted above, such third party services could save you potentially more than 7% versus what your credit card charges you for currency conversion. Fexco, at least according to the Sotheby's cashier, even "guarantees" that your rate will be better than the rate through your credit card. Sounds good, but I actually tried it both ways before I put my charge through directly on my own credit card. Fexco was adding about 2-3% OVER my credit card's bad exchange rate. But try to prove that to get the guarantee. These kinds of currency exchanges can vary even within a few minutes, and you won't have your actual credit card's exchange rate to compare, only the "reference" exchange rate that Fexco gives you. Good luck on the guarantee. This new "service" appears only to benefit Sotheby's and Fexco. Too bad, because this could have been an excellent service all around. But at least Sotheby's London is still taking credit cards, unlike its NYC office.
More to the point on the effects of currency exchange on today's market. The dollar's drop in value against the euro and other currencies make for a more competitive international market. To put it another way, I recently sold back two Man Rays to a French dealer friend, who paid nearly the same in euro that he sold them to me six years before, yet I made a healthy profit on the sale. To Europe, we have been on sale for the last several years, and that doesn't look to change. More and more of my business--as other American photography dealers have also found--has been going to international clients. As the photo market grows internationally in general, Americans will be looking at ever increasingly expensive photography, art and other hard goods in the long term due to purely the drop in the value of the dollar against nearly every other currency in the world. Factor in inflation, which I think will eventually catch up to us--but again two to five years from now--and you have a lot of pressure on hard good prices, including photography.
On Facebook (please add me as a friend by searching Alex Novak+Chalfont) I have had a few conversations on economics. A few have challenged my more "optimistic" view of an inflationary cycle as opposed to a deflationary one. But I think I have the benefit of historical precedent. When countries print too much money, as ours is doing at the moment (and even the Brits and Europeans are doing too), inflation (and eventual recovery) is inevitably the result. That doesn't preclude a brief period of downward pricing pressure (especially on lower to mid-level easily available material), which you could and should take advantage of, but I wouldn't count on it much, especially for upper level material. We would have to have extremely serious economic consequences for this to happen in any kind of serious way. Bumps in the road are inevitable in this recovery, but I am much more confident that we will continue to recover--albeit very slowly--than not. Very long term (with burgeoning deficits) is another story entirely and the future depends on so many factors as to make me dizzy thinking about it.
Back to my trip: There were a couple of photography auctions and a photo book auction here in London, and I guess I have to talk about them, although, frankly, they were hardly worth a mention, considering the general lack of decent material in these auctions and the inevitable poor results.
SOTHEBY'S LONDON SALE: MEDIOCRE
RESULTS FOR MEDIOCRE MATERIAL
Frankly, I was a bit embarrassed for Sotheby's here. The company had apparently fired its head of department prior to the sale. It was hard to know how much he had to do with the resulting mess. The vintage material was largely mediocre and terribly overpriced for the quality. The back cover image turned out to be a copy print. Sotheby's called it a 19th-century copy print of a Charles Negre image, but I don't think it was that early at all. In fact, it looked very 20th-century to me.
The results weren't much better: a total of 476,500 pounds sterling (or about $733,800 at the interbank exchange rate during the sale) and a sold rate of about 36%. And that was the good news! Up and until the contemporary part of the sale, the vintage material was selling at a rate of less than 25%. But let's be clear about the reason for this failure: this had NOTHING to do with economy, and everything to do with the selection of poor material and overblown estimates. Worse, consignors, whom I expect were mainly French dealers (or that peculiarly French affectation, the private collector who sells like a dealer), were holding tough after the sale. A number of bidders, including myself, tried to buy items after the sale, but quite reasonable bids were rejected by consignors, who apparently hadn't heard about our economic slowdown.
Normally I would just cover the lots that with buyer's premium (of a whopping 25%) would be around 12,000 pounds sterling, or about $18,500 at the time of the sale (the pound, which was $1.54 at the Interbank rate--something we mortals never actually receive--has recently rallied back to about $1.64). That wouldn't, however, even get us coverage of the top ten items in this sale--all but one of those being contemporary work.
Remember that the prices below include the buyer's premium. For the first time I believe that there were only two Americans (not counting ex-pats) in the room, myself and San Francisco dealer, Jeffrey Fraenkel, who was there to bid on one Robert Adams lot and the Bechers' maquette (he didn't get either), and because it was on his way to Basel. I remember times in the recent past when there would be 40-50 Americans bidding actively here. I really think that the traditional auction houses here and in New York have shot themselves in the foot with some of their approaches that have almost chased clients out of their physical auction rooms.
London is unfortunately becoming more irrelevant to the traditional photography market. I suspect that adding the cost of droit de suite, a dearth of decent material (and the related leadership void at the auction houses here), the cancellation of the Photo London show, the concentration on fashion and contemporary images by some of the auctions here, and the Internet have all conspired to damage the once dominant London photo auction market. It is truly a shame.
In fact, the Sotheby's photography auctions will now move alternatively between both London for the May auction and Paris for November's auction. Simone Klein is the senior specialist in the photography department out of Cologne. Klein works with Caroline Bessiere and consultant Gregory Leroy in Paris. Jocelyn Phillips is deputy director of photography out of the London office. I must admit that it is a pleasure to work with this staff which is trying awfully hard to make Sotheby's Europe more customer-driven than it was under the last London head of department.
Newcomers (or old-timers that have moved into photography in a bigger way) Bloomsbury, Dominic Winter, Bonham's and Phillips de Pury will take up some of the London slack, along with Christie's, who--rubbing salt in the wounds--ran its photo book auction at exactly the same time as the Sotheby's photo sale and moved its photography sale to July! That will work. Not! By the way, I refuse to call it a photobook auction, as did Christie's. There is no such word in the English language.
In any case, the Sotheby's auction started off with a group of daguerreotypes that appeared to be quite overpriced. The first one though actually sold for 6,250 pounds (or about $10,000) including the premium. For a simple half-plate group portrait of children that was from about 1855 (not the 1840-45 date that Sotheby's put on it), I thought this was about triple what this piece was actually worth. There was only one phone bidder against a very high reserve at the low estimate.
The other three daguerreian lots were bought in (unsold) without any bids that I could detect. Considering their insane reserves and estimates, this was not particularly surprising.
Perhaps the most interesting 19th-century lots were the paper negatives by Rev. George Wilson Bridges. The better individual negatives sold in good order. Lot 5, Temple of Jupiter sold to Lindsey Stewart of Quaritch Books for 5,250 pounds. Lot 6, a very good negative of Erechtheum, Western Portico, went to a commission bidder for 5,000 pounds, who also got the next lot (an "unknown temple undergoing construction") for only 3,500 pounds. Lot 8, Southwest View of the Erechtheum, an important view which possibly includes fellow photographers, Kit Talbot and Rev. Calvert Jones, sold to U.K. dealer Robert Hershkowitz for 6,250 pounds. This was one of my personal favorites of the group. Finally, Lindsey Stewart was back for lot 9, a view of the Great Pyramid, which she picked up for just below the low estimate at 3,500 pounds.
Lot 12, a very strong salt print of W. H. F. Talbot's "Loch Katrine", sold to Hershkowitz for a very reasonable 9,375 pounds.
Then there was a string of buy-ins only interrupted once from lot 12 through to lot 41, all rather mediocre, and/or boring and/or overpriced 19th-century images, including the "copy" print that was the back cover of this catalogue. Lot 36, which was identified incorrectly as a self-portrait of Louis-Remy Robert, was withdrawn.
The 20th-century didn't fare any better and the material was similar: overpriced and/or boring/problematic. One of the bigger failures for Sotheby's was the collection of 86 miniature albums from James A. Sinclair, who was better known for being a camera dealer than photographer. The ridiculous estimate of 40,000-60,000 pounds (and the equally silly reserve of 35,000 pounds) killed any chance of sale. Several buyers were interested, but not at these estimates. If they had started at 5,000 pounds, there might have been some buyers, and it might have gotten into low five figures.
An early portrait of Alfred Stieglitz by Heinrich Kuhn (lot 52) sold to a man in the room for a whopping 15,000 pounds--nearly double the low estimate, which indicates that there are bidders for decent things, even at relatively high prices. The image tied for sixth place overall in this sale.
Lot 75, which was initially said to be a vintage print of Alicante by Henri Cartier-Bresson in the catalogue, turned out to be a print from the late 1950s with serious condition problems (at least Sotheby's announced the date adjustment). It went unsold at 13,000 pounds.
It wasn't the only higher profile lot to buy in. Paolo Gasparini's Cuba maquette bought in at 24,000 pounds; Diane Arbus' (Selkirk print) Retired Man and His Wife at Home in a Nudist Camp One Morning, NJ bought in at 16,000 pounds; and Helmut Newton's Mannequins Quai D'Orsay, Paris bought in at 10,000 pounds.
But Daido Moriyama's Brigitte Bardot (lot 107) sold to commission bidder for well over the estimate range at 10,625 pounds, which put the lot into a tie for tenth place here.
Then two British collectors battled it out for lot 109, John Minihan's Samuel Beckett. One wound up paying 11,250 pounds (a tie for ninth place).
An Araki black and white print, "Yakusa" (a Japanese gangster having intercourse with a woman), sold for 12,500 pounds (or eighth place overall).
Peter Beard's work defied the odds and sold except for one print (lot 133). Don't ask me why anyone would be interested this work. These were certainly not his iconic pieces. Beard is erratic. At his best, he is spectacular, but so much of his work (like these lots) just looks slipshod. Most of the lots that sold went to phone bidders. His Cheetah Cub Orphans in Mweiga went for the low estimate including the premium at 18,750 pounds, which put it into fourth place in this sale. Lot 130, Giraffes in Mirage on the Taru Desert, Kenya, sold for 13,125 pounds, putting it into seventh place. The next lot, Spitting Cobra in Tsavo sold for a whopping 22,500, which put this one into second overall. A woman at the back of the room finally battled off the phones to take lot 132 for 17,500 pounds, which placed this lot into fifth place.
The big lot in this sale was #136, the Bechers' maquette of 13 loose sheets cut from contact sheets. The winning bid from a phone bidder put the magic number right in the middle of the estimate and over Fraenkel and another phone bidder. At 73,250 pounds, or at about $113,000, this was the top lot of this sale.
Two Thomas Ruff nude studies (lots 37 and 138) then bought in at 10,500 and 15,000 pounds respectively. But lot 139, Rineke Dijkstra's two beaten-up matadors sold to a commission bidder for the midpoint in the estimate range at 12,500 pounds (a tie for eighth place).
Wolfgang Tillmans' "Doing Well" (lot 144) did very well at 10,625 pounds, which was over the estimate range and good enough for a tie for tenth place in the sale.
Idris Kahn's disgusting rip-off of Krzysztof Pruszkowski's work from nearly 15 years before sold for 21,250 pounds (third place in the sale). Sometimes I have to call them as I see them. Several major curators who are familiar with both their work have expressed similar feelings. Another of Kahn's derivative works, lot 148, sold for 15,000 pounds (sixth place).
Mercifully, after a few additional lots, this sale was finally over.
CHRISTIE'S PHOTO BOOK SALE:
NOTHING TO WRITE HOME ABOUT
On the same afternoon, Christie's photography book sale took in just over 285,000 pounds (about $489,000) with its 25% buyers' premium. The sell-through rate was just under 63%--nothing to write home about, but not terrible either. Estimates on many of the lots seemed higher than retail--some ridiculously so.
As you might expect, there weren't very many lots that broke over 6,000 pounds, even with the buyers' premium. And most lots sold within or below their estimates.
Lot 2, Peter H. Emerson's "Marsh Leaves" sold for 6,250 pounds. Three volumes of "Neues Baueun in Der Welt" (lot 15) sold for 8,750. Lot 30, Georges Hugnet's "La Septième Face du Dé" sold for the auction's top price of 11,250 pounds (although a later lot matched this figure). Laure Albin-Guillot's noteworthy "Douze Chansons de Bilitis" sold for just a bit more at 6,875 pounds as did the last copy that sold at auction during the 2002 Paris Jammes sale (8000 euro at about $1.15 to the euro at the time).
One lot (#49) that did considerably better than its catalogue estimate range was Zdenek Tmej's "Abeceda Dusevniho Prazdna", which sold for a cool 10,000 pounds against an estimate of 4,000-6,000 pounds.
One of the few Ed Ruscha items to sell well was lot 111, "Dutch Details", a portfolio that was largely destroyed. It sold for its low estimate at 11,250 euro.
Another item that handily beat its pre-sale estimate was lot 126, a rare complete set of the influential Japanese publication, "Workshop". Estimated at 2,000-3,000 pounds, the set sold for a whopping 8,750 pounds.
Finally, Stephen Shore's "Uncommon Places" with an original signed Ektacolor print sold for under its estimate at 6,875 pounds.
BLOOMSBURY AUCTIONS STILL
LOOKING FOR ITS GROOVE
Bloomsbury has been a more recent addition to the photography auctions here in London. It has not yet exhibited the success of some of its larger auction brethren, probably due to a smaller, less developed mailing list and lack of pricier items for auction. Perhaps this will come with time, but I still find the house's offerings interesting and often a great value. Zoe Bingham is the expert here.
The auction did not have many block-buster lots, so I can quickly hit those lots that broke over 5,000 pounds sterling with the more reasonable 20% buyers' fees here. The results weren't exactly exciting, totaling about 147,000 pounds, or about $228,000 with the buyers' premium. The sold rate was only about 43%, but that was still better than Sotheby's on this outing. A few lots sold after the sale.
The auction did get off to a good start. Lot 1, a fine group of Stieglitz Camera Work photogravures went easily over its high estimate and was the top lot of the sale at 10,800 pounds. Lot two, some more Stieglitz Camera Work photogravures, also sold well and went at the top of its estimate range for 5,160 pounds. Both lots were still great steals on Stieglitz's best images. An even better value was lot 4, another good group of Camera Work photogravures and color halftones (including Strand's Wall Street and Steichen's three-color half-tone Flatiron-Evening), which apparently went over my commission bid at 7,200 pounds.
Lot 7, a silver print of La Poupée by Hans Bellmer, sold for its low estimate at 7,200 pounds.
Lot 151, two vintage photographs (plus a book) of Fidel Castro in Cuba by Alberto Korda, which were estimated at a silly 400-600 pounds, sold for 5,760 pounds sterling.
Five digital color prints in an edition of 30 of Erwin Blumenfeld's work sold at the low estimate of 6,000 pounds. I don't think very much of these posthumous editions, which have, to me, no real integral value except for decoration.
Lot 248, Paul Nadar's scarce series of photos of what has been called the first photography interview, which took place between Nadar senior and Michel Chevreul on his 100th birthday, sold for 7,200 pounds.
The last lot in the sale, an album with some work by Baker and Burke, sold for 4,080 pounds--way over its estimate of 800-1200 pounds. If the condition had been just a bit better, it would have sold for a great deal more than even this.
But I had already fled to Paris via Eurostar and the Chunnel by the time Bloomsbury was in the throes of its auction. More next week when I send out the next E-Photo Newsletter.
OVER 330 NEW PHOTOS AND BOOKS, PLUS
SPECIAL EXHIBITS 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 330 new photographs and books and several new Special Photography Exhibits and completely revamping other Exhibits. You can see these new items at: http://www.iphotocentral.com/search/result_list.php/16/30/0
There are now over 2,000 different photographers and over 8,700 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 images posted include fine ethnographic portraits; paper negatives of shipbuilding in La Rochelle in the 1850s by the Varin Brothers; a series of Auguste Belloc nudes; a rare Julia Margaret Cameron image of William Michael Rossetti; two architectural images by the Bisson studio; a very rare 1854 salt print by Alphonse De Launay and printed by his teacher Gustave Le Gray of a Mosque in Algeria; a superb print by Altobelli and Moulins of Rome; a William Henry Jackson mammoth plate; two scarce Hugh Owen salt prints from the 1851 "Reports by the Jury, The Great Exhibition of Works of Industry of All Nations"; and an early albumen print from a paper negative of Cordoba, Spain.
Mid-century work includes a great series of very large heliogravures of the moon by Loewy & Puiseux (plus other fine astronomical photographs) and new autochromes, including several attributed to the Lumiere studio itself, the medium's pioneer Fernand Monpillard and Jules Gervais Courtellemont.
Twentieth-century images include: several prints by Atget, Brassai, Boubat, Albin-Guillot, Blanc et Demilly, Capa, Cartier-Bresson (a very large group of important images), Clergue, Cunningham, Doisneau, Giacomelli (a nice group of landscapes), Kessels, Lartigue (a nice group of eight related vintage images, including one that has been published), McBean (a large group of vintage images--some exhibition size), Misonne (both early large prints and smaller contacts), Tina Modotti, George Rodger (a group of mostly vintage prints), Seymour (Chim), Sougez, Steiner (a rare study from 1929), Stone Studio (important nudes and clowns that were not from the recent auction), and two vintage color photographs of Marilyn Monroe from the mid-1950s. Plus numerous images that will knock you out from lesser known or anonymous photographers. There's something here for every budget.
New important contemporary color work by Alice Attie (click here to see her work: http://www.iphotocentral.com/search/result_list.php/32/Attie/0
) and Jerry Spagnoli (click here to see his work: http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/209/1/0
) has also been posted up to the site.
To see all the new work just posted over the last month, just click here: http://www.iphotocentral.com/search/result_list.php/16/30/0
We have also continued to change images and add to our essays for all our Special Exhibits, so they are worth another peek, especially if you have not looked lately. And, if you see one you like, let a friend know too!
For instance Charles Schwartz recently completely updated his offerings of Angus McBean photographs, adding a number of his most important, iconic images in exhibition sized prints, along with some that are lesser known and a part of his Christmas card series. You can see this Special Exhibit at: http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/175/3/1
Gad Edery, a new member of I Photo Central, has posted up a contemporary color Special Exhibit entitled "Richard Heeps: Man's Ruin", which you can find here: http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/206/17/0
Edery also added the talented photographer David Rubinger in a Special Exhibit entitled "Israel: The birth of a Nation", which can be seen here: http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/205/17/0
; and also "Aldo Soares: Simple Happy People", which can be viewed here: http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/204/17/0
Contemporary Works/Vintage Works added a new Special Exhibit, "Astronomy and Photography: The Skies Above", which has wonderful images of the moon, comets and galaxies. You can see this one here: http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/208/1/1
. Contemporary Works/Vintage Works has also substantially revised most of its Special Exhibits online.
You can see all of these fine new exhibits and others (now a total of 134 Special Exhibits in all, including those in the archive!) at: http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase.php
. Don't forget to check out the archived exhibits at the bottom of the page as well.
PHOTOGRAPHER JENNIE GUNHAMMAR
DIES AFTER DOCUMENTING ILLNESS
By Michael Diemar
It is with great sadness that Laura Noble and I have to inform you that our friend, the Swedish-born photographer Jennie Gunhammar, passed away on the 23rd of June. She was 34 years old.
Jennie had bee suffering from lupus since 2002. Jessie, her identical twin sister, was diagnosed with the same illness in 2004. Lupus attacks the immune system and is incurable. Lupus charities receive far less funding than other well-known diseases such as cancer, due to lack of public awareness. Lupus often goes undiagnosed as the symptoms can be extremely varied. Weight loss is common and the first time I met Jennie I was shocked by how thin she was. Jennie was always very straight forward, a Swedish trait she was proud of and when meeting new people would explain "I have lupus" so as not to be mistaken for being anorexic. While she was thin and frail she was also extremely beautiful, and she had the grace of a renaissance queen. I soon discovered that she also had a will of iron and an absolute sense of purpose, namely her photography.
I had fallen in love with Jennie's photographs long before I met her. They were images from a project called "somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond" (published in a book by Damiani), a moving portrait of Jessie and Stan, a Parkinson's disease sufferer, their lives together, the love and tenderness between them but also the difficulties and the pain they had to live with. They are remarkable images, beautiful, sensitive but also unflinching in their honesty. Honesty was the most important thing to Jennie when making images, far more than any notion of art.
When Laura and I decided to open a gallery in London we knew we wanted to show her images as the first exhibition. Jennie and I had long discussions about art as well as the gravity of her illness. I think she found our discussions something of a relief. Many people found the subject of her illness difficult and awkward: "They ask me if I'm getting better as if I had a cold! They can't seem to accept that there is no cure!"
My acceptance of her illness and the realisation of its consequences had much to do with me being the son of a doctor and having worked at hospitals while I was at college. Jennie had grown up in Vaxjö in Småland in the southern part of Sweden. As it happened, I had lived there as well as a child, and sometimes when we met I would poke her gently and say "Småland!" and then we'd laugh.
Jennie and Jessie came to London in 1992 and supported their studies by working as fashion models. It made them both committed feminists.
Art was an extremely serious matter for Jennie and she abhorred photography that was mere eye candy. Art was for her about a total investment of herself, her emotions and sensibility. She also had extremely high standards. Despite producing one extraordinary image after another, she was never satisfied and was always striving to do better.
She was making images for the exhibition right up until the last minute. We would meet once a week to look at the contact sheets and discuss which images to include. We shared a magical moment when we went to the printers to see the finished prints. Images we had only seen as contact prints or on screen during post-production were rolled out in front of us as 30 by 40 inch prints. We were both speechless. Jennie got up on a stool to see the prints better and she, who was usually so critical, was now hovering above me quietly whispering, "They're beautiful."
Laura and I only knew Jennie when she was very ill, but with her focus and iron will we began to think of her as indestructible. She wasn't. Four days after the exhibition came down she called her friend Andrew Clinch and told him she couldn't breath. By the time the ambulance and the medics got to her it was too late. She hadn't gone willingly. She had fought like a lion to the end.
Jennie had been anxious and restless to move on to her next project, which was to be about identical twin-ship and personal identity. She had already collected a vast amount of material including family snapshots, letters and diaries from her and Jessie's childhood in Sweden, fashion photographs from their modelling years, etc. And she had filled a notebook with ideas for images she wanted to make.
I had also suggested a third project to her, a series of self-portraits. We talked about starting it with a classical self-portrait, carefully composed and perfectly lit. A studio and an assistant, was hired. The session went ahead. Afterwards Jennie sent us an email that she was shocked by the images and that she hated the look and the lighting.
I deeply regretted suggesting the idea in the first place, thinking that seeing photographs of herself had been too difficult, brutal in a way that looking at herself in a mirror wouldn't have been. But I was wrong. It really was the look and the lighting she hated.
Two days after her death, Andrew Clinch discovered a group of 65 images, self-portraits taken in her home in North London over a three-month period leading up to her death and showing her gradual physical deterioration. Beautifully made up, wearing her favourite jewellery, her two cats playing by her feet, intensely looking into the camera.
Jennie, Beautiful, Unflinching, With a will of iron.
Our thoughts go out to Jennie's sister Jessie, their family and to Andrew Clinch who did so much for her during her long illness.
PHOTOGRAPHY BOOKS AND CATALOGUES
By Matt Damsker
ANGELA WILLIAMS ARCHIVE: NORMAN PARKINSON,
VINTAGE SILVER PRINTS, 1950-1964; ANGELA WILLIAMS,
MODERN PRINTS, 1964-1966.
96 pages; 73 black-and-white and color plates. Information: http://www.angelawilliamsarchive.com
Teeming with the glamour of '50s fashion and the charm of '60s celebrity, this new catalogue of vintage work on offer from Angela Williams combines the celebrated commercial images of the late, great Norman Parkinson with a number of fine portraits by Williams herself, but it is clearly Parkinson--as guiding spirit to Williams, and overall spirit of a bygone age--who stars in this series.
The catalogue features a decade of Parkinson's work for "Vogue" magazine, when he was among Alexander Liberman's elite, along with lovely images of British aristocrats at home, the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Ian Fleming, The Beatles, Rolling Stones and some rare prints of superb fashion shots taken in Tahiti for "Queen" magazine. Admirers of Parkinson--and how can one not admire his facile eye, the humor and affection he focuses on his subjects?--will recognize many of these wonderfully imaginative Vogue shots and advertising campaigns, in which the photographer, a la Avedon, found fresh, naturalistic contexts, razor-sharp lines and expressive geometries for his models. At the same time, his formal fashion portraits are timelessly elegant.
More timely, of course, are his romps through '60s iconography: The Beatles, their young round faces pressed together in a portrait that captures their mercurial personalities and unmistakable individuality, as few images of the Fab Four have ever done; the dangerous insouciance of the Rolling Stones clustered around a demure model in schoolgirl garb; or a cool Ian Fleming and Lady Anne Rothermere in dignified profile.
Angela Williams' portraits of the famous are certainly worthy of inclusion here, for they are strongly inspired by Parkinson's artistry, while her color work really stands out: a close-up Robert Kennedy in 1964, leaning into the camera with his "bloodhound eyes"; a buff Anthony Perkins in Central Park; or a bearded Paul Newman peering over his sunglasses somewhere in Los Angeles. All in all, this is great fun in the highest style.
UNKNOWN JAPAN: RECONSIDERING 19TH-CENTURY
By David Odo. Vol. 4, Rijksmuseum Studies in Photography, Manfred & Hanna Heiting Fund. 60 pages; approximately 24 color plates; ISBN No. 978 90 71450 19 8. Information: http://www.rijksmuseum.nl
LOUIS HELDRING: AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHER
IN THE MIDDLE EAST 1898.
By Rakia Faber. Vol. 3, Rijksmuseum Studies in Photography, Manfred & Hanna Heiting Fund. 56 pages; approximately 24 color plates. ISBN No. 978 90 71450 18 1. Information: http://www.rijksmuseum.nl
These recent additions to the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum's fine series of concise scholarly studies of its photography collection shine new light on various unexplored, or underexplored, avenues of art history. David Odo's examination of 19th-century Japanese photography takes issue with what he calls the "dualistic view" of these images that "limits the way entire collections are researched and exhibited." Odo argues that by dividing early Japanese work into a fixed category of either tourist or domestic images, we are overlooking "the interstitial spaces," by which he means primarily the photographic souvenirs, or "sojourner photography," of long-term visitors to Japan, mainly diplomats and businessmen.
Odo feels that these virtually unstudied collections can contribute much to our total understanding of early Japanese work. Thus, he explores such important Rijksmuseum troves as the anonymous "German set" of 104 individual photographs, including fine views of Mount Fuji, Nagoya Castle, formal portraits of man, women, Sumo wrestlers, and the like. Comparing the German set with better known "views and types" albums by Felix Beato, for example, Odo makes the case that it is considerably more than just another cache of tourist photographs. Adding evocatively to Odo's careful study are fine reproductions of important period masterworks such as Kusakabe Kimbei's hand-tinted albumen print of a village near the foot of Fuji, or Raimund von Stillfried hand-tinted shot of a geisha.
Then there is Rakia Faber's study of Louis Heldring's amateur Middle East photography, shot during the autumn of 1898 on a guided tour. Equipped with a small hand-held camera, Heldring was a Rotterdam-based clergyman who helped advance early travel photography, Faber argues, by recording not only the best-known tourist and pilgrimage sites of his journey but also lesser known communities and landscapes in the eastern Mediterranean. Writes Faber: "His small views, technically imperfect and inexpertly composed, are more spontaneous and less flat than the canonical, frozen moments recorded by studio photographers of the day with wet-plate collodion photography and albumen prints."
That said, Heldring's gelatin images on printing-out paper compare quite well with such classic Middle East photographs as Felix Bonfils' 1872 images of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, or the necropolis of Douris, near Baalbek. Drawn not only to these monumental sites (including fine views of the Sphinx and the pyramid of Cheops) but also to the everyday, Heldring transcended mere amateurism with excellent exposures and sensitive compositions, such as his capacious view of the interior of a wealthy Jewish house in Damascus, or of the tribal inhabitants of the village of Umm Qais. This volume contains generous examples of Heldring's work as well as the comparative studies that provide important context.
Speaking of vintage Japanese photography, Charles Schwartz Ltd. of New York has a new catalogue of "JAPANESE AMBROTYPES - 1860 TO 1890", several of which Schwartz recently exhibited at the AIPAD show in Manhattan. The catalogue is a well-annotated and beautifully printed color representation of more than two dozen ambrotypes (a collodion wet-plate negative mounted in front of a dark background to create a positive image), each in lovely kiri wood frames. The subjects, all formally posed by either anonymous photographers or attributed to prominent Japanese studios, range from Samurai warriors to beautifully dressed families, all of it rich with the flavor of classical Japanese culture. Information: email email@example.com
; phone: +1-212-534-4496.
Jolting forward to a 21st-century Japanese sensibility, consider the dynamic photography of Shinichi Maruyama, on view recently at New York's Bruce Silverstein gallery. The accompanying "KUSHO" is a superbly printed catalogue that documents Maruyama's experimental energies. His Kusho series consists of 23 large-scale color photos that represent the interplay of black ink and water, colliding in midair and on white surfaces and photographed in that millisecond before they merge into gray. What might seem merely gimmicky is redeemed by the strong association with Japanese calligraphy, vibrant abstract expressionism, and even Alfred Stieglitz's famed "Equivalents" series of black-and-white cloud images. Obviously, Murayama brings a great awareness of tradition and tremendous technical skill to these artworks, and the result is bold and bracing, one of the best examples of how the utterly representational--liquid, after all, is unmistakably itself--can function as pure abstraction. Information: http://www.silversteinphotography.com
EUROPEANS--PHOTOGRAPHS BY VLADIMIR BIRGUS,
JINDRICH MARCO AND JINDRICH STREIT is the catalogue of the recent Czech Photography VIII exhibition held at Manhattan's Leica Gallery (670 Broadway, New York, NY) in association with Czech Center New York. It's a solid, glossy documentation of the work of three first-rate Czech artists, beginning with the World War II photojournalism of Marco, who indelibly locates indefatigable humanity in the bombed-out ruins of Dresden, Berlin, and Warsaw. Then come the more recent images of Streit, whose Czechoslovakia, Germany and France of the early 1980s are filled with hopeful souls. Finally, there are Birgus's more experimental compositions--especially his sunlit color work of the 1990s-2000s--which place his lively Europeans against the stark urban and yearning seaside geometries of Russia, France, Spain and the Netherlands.
Matt Damsker is an author and critic, who has written about photography and the arts for the Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant, Philadelphia Bulletin, Rolling Stone magazine and other publications. His book, "Rock Voices", was published in 1981 by St. Martin's Press. His essay in the book, "Marcus Doyle: Night Vision" was published in the fall of 2005.
(Book publishers, authors and photography galleries/dealers may send review copies to us at: I Photo Central, 258 Inverness Circle, Chalfont, PA 18914. We do not guarantee that we will review all books or catalogues that we receive.)
PHOTO NEWS BRIEFS
NEW AIPAD MEMBERS ANNOUNCED
AIPAD (The Association of International Photography Art Dealers) has announced five new members of the association: Amador Gallery, New York, NY; Gallery 339, Philadelphia, PA; Higher Pictures, New York, NY; Monroe Gallery of Photography, Santa Fe, NM; and Rick Wester Fine Art, New York, NY.
GETTY THREATENED BY BRUSH FIRE
The Getty Center had to be closed for several days due to a brush fire near the center that threatened some of the roads leading up to the center but not the center itself.
ART MIAMI SOLD
Art Miami LLC, a business created to operate Art Miami, reached an agreement with Summit Business Media to acquire all of the assets of Art Miami, pending the execution of a definitive asset purchase agreement. The principal investors in Art Miami LLC are Mike Tansey and Brian Tyler, two media industry veterans. Tansey is a long-term collector and supporter of contemporary art initiatives. Fair director Nick Korniloff is a partner in the new enterprise and will continue to serve as the fair's director.