“With photographica sales like this, digital has to be the way,” says Austin Farahar, Chiswick Auctions’ photographica specialist, as he shows ATG around the crammed cabinets of lots in the West London saleroom’s first-ever dedicated sale of photographs and photographic and film equipment.
Digital? In a sale featuring Victorian albumen prints, World War One photo albums, very rare lenses from the 1930s…oh, and a c.1910 stereoscope viewer containing French erotica images? Surely not!
“I mean, the catalogue has to be digital, not printed,” Farahar quickly clarifies. The former Special Auction Services photographica auctioneer, and a professional photographer himself, explains that he made the “conscious decision not to print a catalogue that people can collect, instead create a PDF one that’s going viral".
Farahar knows where to seed the digital catalogue amongst the communities of collectors and photographers’ estates, with the hope of generating sales for this sale and future consignments for three more such sales in 2019.
It's clear that much is riding on Farahar’s debut sale for Chiswick Auctions, one of several new specialisms the auctioneer has launched this year.
There are lots that have wide appeal, such as a Terry O’Neill print of Sean Connery and Brigitte Bardot (lot 566) and a Bill Zygmant signed 1968 print capturing John Lennon and Yoko Ono on the King's Road.
Instantly recognisable is a Brian Duffy 1973 David Bowie Aladdin Sane (Closed Eyes) archival pigment print, and the stars in a box of David Bailey half-tone prints: 1960s icons the Beatles, Mick Jagger and Terence Stamp (lot 419).
Then there are lots – prints, albums and equipment – for the photographica cognoscenti. From amongst 200 or so lots, ATG asks Farahar to pick out a few key ones that span the price spectrum.
1) Henri Cartier Bresson's book Images A La Sauvette – Lot 417
“This is considered THE seminal book on photography, in its French first edition, from one of the most influential image makers of the 20th century and a co-founder of the magnum photo agency,” Farahar says.
2) Negretti & Zambra whole plate tailboard camera – Lot 489
Negretti & Zambra London were originally known for scientific instruments. In a sale where French photographic history vies with British, this is an original example of a Negretti & Zambra tailboard camera "displaying all of the splendour of British craftmanship of this period,” Farahar says.
3) Thurston Hopkins’ La Dolce Vita Knightsbridge (1953) – Lot 542
“A very slightly larger copy of this celebrated image was offered at Sotheby’s in March of this year with a guide price of £1500-£2000 and it made £7500," Farahar says. "We have offered this print at £600-£800.”
Estimate £1800-2200 (ARR)
4) Robert Capa’s US troops’ first assault on Omaha Beach during the D-Day landings, Normandy, France, June 6, 1944 – Lot 526
One of the most famous images of the Second World War, Farahar says it shows “a different breed of 20th Century image maker prepared to sacrifice anything in order to share with those back home the terrifying realities of the war in Europe”.
This silver gelatin print by photo journalist and war photographer Robert Capa (1913-1954) was made in 2000, “obviously not by Capa himself, but with a card on the back stating the print was made under the direct supervision of his younger brother, Cornell Capa,” Farahar says. “It is signed and editioned, which makes it very sellable.”
Working for Life magazine at the time, the story of how this Capa image and a total of four rolls of film taken by him on D-Day were then nearly destroyed in a London darkroom is part of photo history legend.
5) Ross Xpres 3” f/1.9 lens – Lot 502
A very rare and scarcely-seen-at-auction cine lens from makers Ross London, serial no 143776. Consigned by the daughter of one of the leading members of the documentary film movement in Britain, the Chiswick sale features other cameras and lenses from his collection.
The sale can be viewed at 11am today (Wednesday, November 28) on thesaleroom.com.