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Famous photographers’ images showcased at auction Nov. 26

Jasper52 will conduct an online auction of gravures and photolithographs that showcases an array of important photographers and the iconic images they captured through the 20th century. The sale is filled with clean, well-printed images shot by renowned photographers. Combined with the limited-edition lithos, this auction contains both beautiful and hard to find prints.

Edward Steichen, ‘The Flatiron Building – Evening, New York, 1905,’ gravure printed in Switzerland in 1963, 7.6 in x 9.5in mounted on 11in x 14in conservation board. Estimate: $175-$275. Jasper52 image

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Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Ansel Adams – an iconic American photographer

NEW YORK – The first half of the 20th century produced many fine American photographers, but few with the name recognition and respect accorded Ansel Adams (1902-1984). The landscape photographer and environmentalist was famous for his crisp and dramatic black and white images of the American West. He was also a co-founder of Group f/64, an association of photographers that advocated for “pure” photography, favoring sharp focus and the use of a photo’s full tonal range.

“Part of the attraction of Ansel Adams is the star power,” said Nigel Russell, director of Photographs at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas. “He got that name recognition by being the first 20th century photographer to capture the majesty of the American West in pure black and white crystal-clear photographs, in contrast to the pictorial soft-focus photography that was popular in the 1920s. His photographs were never simple landscapes; they were taken at dawn or dusk, or as storms approached, and have a drama that is lacking in other photographers’ work.”

Ansel Adams, ‘Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, 1937. Sold for $47,500 at an auction held June 5 by Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Teas. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Russell expressed admiration for Adams’s resumé and accomplishments. “He was on the board of the Sierra Club and worked with the Department of the Interior to help expand the National Park system,” Russell said. “There was an exhibition of his work at Stieglitz’s An American Place gallery in New York in 1936 and he was an adviser on the founding of the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art. Through his workshops Adams also taught many photographers who followed in his footsteps but none have achieved the public recognition.”

As for market demand, Russell said Adams’ photographs enjoyed a steady increase in value from the start of the photography art market in the 1970s up until the Great Recession of 2008. “Since then, while many other photographs went down in price, Adams’ photographs for the most part have retained their value,” he said. “There continues to be demand for his most desirable images and I would imagine they’ll slowly increase in value over time. If I were to make any predictions it would be that there might be a softening of the market for his less appealing works and the strongest increase in value will be for the rarer early prints or prints in unusually large sizes.”

Ansel Adams, ‘Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico,’ 1941, sold for $50,000 at an auction held April 5, 2014 by Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Adams was born into privilege, the only child of Charles Hitchcock Adams and Olive Bray. He was named after his uncle, Ansel Easton. His paternal grandfather founded a successful lumber business that his father later managed, but which Adams condemned because it contributed to the cutting down of many of the great redwood forests. His early years were spent living in San Francisco, and he was 4 years old when the 1906 earthquake struck the city. Adams had his nose broken in the quake, requiring him to be a mouth breather for the rest of his life.

The following year the family moved a few miles away, to just south of the Presidio Army Base. The home had a spectacular view of the Golden Gate and Marin Headlands, which sparked the young Adams’s interest and appreciation of nature and beauty. He was given his first camera – an Eastman Kodak Brownie box camera – while on a family trip to Yosemite National Park, in 1916, at age 14. It would be the first of many subsequent trips to Yosemite for Adams, where he took many of his most famous photographs, ones that are still admired and coveted by collectors.

Ansel Adams, ‘Old Faithful,’ gelatin silver print mounted to card, signed in pencil on card lower right, image 13½ x 10in. Sold for $4,250 at an auction held June 29, 2019 by Clark’s Fine Art & Auctioneers in Van Nuys, Calif. Image courtesy Clark’s Fine Art & Auctioneers and LiveAuctioneers

Remarkably, photography was not Adams’s first career choice. He loved music, and strived to be a professional pianist. He became quite good, and even taught piano to save up for a grand piano, to match his grand dreams, but ultimately his small hands limited his repertoire and he proved to be a poor accompanist. So, with some regret he relegated his piano playing to hobby status and devoted himself full-time to a life of camping, hiking and, of course, photography.

Adams’s first photographs were published in 1921, and Harry Best’s Studio began selling his Yosemite prints the following year. His early photos already showed careful composition and sensitivity to tonal balance.

Original Ansel Adams photograph, from Special Edition, ‘Photographs of Yosemite,’ signed by the artist in the lower right with initials, 9½ x 7in. Sold for $2,800 at an auction held Oct. 29, 2011 by Royka’s in Leominster, Mass. Image courtesy Royka’s and LiveAuctioneers

During the mid-1920s, the fashion in photography was pictorialism, which strove to imitate paintings with soft focus and diffused light. Adams experimented with these and other techniques and for a short time even used hand-coloring. But he stopped the practice in 1923 and by 1925 he’d rejected pictorialism altogether for a more realistic approach that relied on sharp focus, heightened contrast, precise exposure and darkroom craftsmanship.

In 1927, Adams began working with Albert Bender, a San Francisco insurance magnate and arts patron. Bender helped Adams produce his first portfolio in his new style, Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras, which included his famous image Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, taken with his Korona view camera, using glass plates and a dark red filter to heighten the tonal contrasts. One biographer called Monolith Adams’s most significant photograph because the “extreme manipulation of tonal values” was a departure from all previous photography.

Ansel Adams, ‘El Capitan, Yosemite Valley,’ print 115 of S.E.Y. No. 3. Displayed in a floating acrylic frame. Photograph measures 6¾ x 9½in. Sold for $1,400 at an auction held Feb. 25, 2017 by Scheerer Auctioneers in Fort Wayne, Ind. Image courtesy of Scheerer Auctioneers and LiveAuctioneers

Between 1929 and 1942, Adams’s work matured and he became more established. The 1930s were an experimental and productive time for him. He expanded the technical range of his works, emphasizing detailed close-ups as well as large forms, from mountains to factories. On visits to Taos, New Mexico, Adams met and made friends with the poet Robinson Jeffers, artists John Martin and Georgia O’Keeffe and photographer Paul Strand. His talkative, high-spirited nature combined with his excellent piano playing made him popular among his new artist friends.

His first book, Taos Pueblo, was published in 1930, and he put on his first solo museum exhibition – Pictorial Photographs of the Sierra Nevada Mountains by Ansel Adams – at the Smithsonian Institution in 1931. It featured 60 prints taken in the High Sierra and the Canadian Rockies. He received a favorable review from the Washington Post, which said, “His photographs are like portraits of the giant peaks, which seem to be inhabited by mythical gods.”

Ansel Adams, ‘Jeffrey Pine on Sentinal Dome,’ silver gelatin print, 8¾ x 6¾in. Sold for $225 at an auction held Sept. 24, 2019 by Black River Auction in Pennsville, N.J. Image courtesy of Black River Auction and LiveAuctioneers

In 1941, Adams contracted with the Department of the Interior to make photographs of National Parks, Indian reservations, and other locations managed by the department, for use as mural-sized prints to decorate the department’s new building. The contract was for 180 days and was nicknamed the “Mural Project” with commissions for the U.S. Potash Co. and Standard Oil. While in New Mexico for the project, Adams photographed a scene of the moon rising above a modest village with snow-covered mountains in the background, under a dark sky. The photograph became his most famous and is titled Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico.

This photo of Ansel Adams, taken by J. Malcolm Greany, first appeared in the 1950 Yosemite Field School Yearbook. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Adams continued to work tirelessly through the war years and into the 1950s, but by the ’60s he suffered from arthritis and gout and had to cut back. He died from heart disease in 1984, at age 82. Many works by Adams have been sold at auction, including a mural-size print of Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, which sold at Sotheby’s New York in 2010, for $722,500. It was, and remains, the highest price ever paid for an original Ansel Adams photograph.

Leading photographers keep on rockin’ in June 11 online auction

Jasper 52 will conduct an online auction on Tuesday, June 11, of vintage photolithographs shot by some of the great rock ’n’ roll and music photographers of all time. From important photographers such as Annie Leibovitz and Jim Marshall, to their iconic models such as John Lennon, Freddie Mercury and Janis Joplin, this auction shows that in the words of Neil Young, rock ’n’ roll can never die.

Annie Leibovitz, ‘John and Yoko Ono,’ 11.6in. x14in., heat wax mounted on 14in. x 18in. conservation board. Estimate: $200-$300. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Movie stars, noted photographers linked in Jasper52 sale April 17

Movie buffs can relive the behind-the-scenes glitz and glamour of the Golden Age of Hollywood with an art photography auction that will be conducted by Jasper52 on Wednesday, April 17. Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn are the stars of the auction, as are photographers Ed Feingersh and Bert Hardy.

Ed Feingersh, ‘Marilyn In New York Taxi Cab,’ silver gelatin, 1955, 12in. x 16in., from an edition of 300, 1950-59. Estimate: $700-$800. Jasper52 image

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Stars come out March 13 for Hollywood’s Golden Era in Photography sale

Jasper52 will present an encore of the Golden Age of Hollywood – both on and off the silver screen – in an online auction of photo enlargements of the stars on Wednesday, March 13. Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Marlon Brando, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe are just a few of the iconic faces in this sale.

Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s,’ 1961, photo by Bud Fraker,
11in. x 14in. silver gelatin print. Estimate $700-$800. Jasper52 image

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Famous faces grace Jasper52 photo auction Aug. 22

More than 60 lots of original photographs will be offered in a fine art auction presented by Jasper52 on Wednesday, Aug. 22. The featured artist is British photographer John Stoddart, who has taken scores of photographs of famous faces.

John Stoddart enlarged photo contact sheet, ‘Catherine Zeta-Jones,’ 2002, edition of 20, 40in x 30in., signed bottom right. Estimate: $2,000-$2,500. Jasper52 image

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20th-century USA recalled in photogravures auction April 11

Twentieth-century America is the theme of a Jasper52 online auction of vintage photogravures that will be conducted Wednesday, April 11. This diverse sale focuses on photographers with an American sensibility and captures the landscapes, cities and people of the USA.

Robert Frank, ‘New York City,’ sheet-fed gravure, printed in France in 1958, 4.5 x 6.75 in. Estimate: $140-$200. Jasper52 image

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Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Richard Avedon: Life through the lens

“If a day goes by without my doing something related to photography, it’s as though I’ve neglected something essential to my existence, as though I had forgotten to wake up.” — Richard Avedon

This quote from iconic 20th-century photographer Richard Avedon speaks to the deep passion he felt toward photography. It was a passion he summoned in capturing on film the essence of people, the various experiences and emotions of life, and the evolving landscape of culture.

The Beatles Portfolio: John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and Paul McCartney, circa 1967, London, four dye-transfer prints, printed 1990, 21 5/8 x 17 3/8 in. each, signed and numbered 1/6 in ink in the margin. Sold for $600,000 at auction in October of 2011. Phillips and LiveAuctioneers image.

During his 60-year career, Avedon produced portraits of leaders and legends, including Marilyn Monroe, Malcolm X, Gloria Vanderbilt, Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. He revealed the glamorous world of fashion in its most authentic state, and, in stark contrast, the somber realities of life inside a mental institution.

One thing that is evident in Avedon’s work is that it didn’t matter if the subject was famous, infamous or unknown. From his perspective behind the lens of a camera, all were of equal importance.   

Portrait of elderly woman, borderless gelatin silver print, unmounted, 6¾ x 9¼ in. Sold for $340 during a January 2018 auction. Jasper52 and LiveAuctioneers image

Fun fact: Avedon was a pioneer in America’s mid-century advertising culture. His photography helped shape campaigns that made Calvin Klein, Revlon and Versace, among others, household names on an international scale.

Born in 1923 to parents with familial ties to fashion – one in manufacturing and the other in sales – it’s easy to see how Avedon’s interest in clothing came about. A love of photography took hold in his pre-teen years after joining New York City’s Young Men’s Hebrew Association Camera Club, according to Biography.com.

Avedon’s interest in photography continued to grow throughout his high school years, and he honed his skills after joining the Merchant Marine. He served as a photographer’s mate second class, from 1942 to 1944, assigned to shoot photo portraits for mariners’ identification cards. After fulfilling his commitment to the Merchant Marine, Avedon continued to study the mechanics of photography, both in academic settings and on the job. This resulted in a variety of opportunities that allowed him to photograph world leaders, entertainers and everyday people.

Groucho Marx, gelatin silver print, taken in 1972 and printed in 1975, signed, numbered 11/50 in ink, 15¾ x 15 in. Sold for $8,500 during an October 2011 auction. Phillips and LiveAuctioneers image

Fun Fact: Securing a job as a photographer at either Harper’s Bazaar or Vogue would have been a career pinnacle for Avedon, but he actually worked at both, for extended periods of time. His career highlights also included joining The New Yorker as its first full-time staff photographer.

After a 1955 exhibition of his work at the Museum of Modern Art, Avedon became a global name, with his photographs appearing at many other prestigious institutions around the world. They included the Smithsonian Institution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Minneapolis Institute of Art, University Art Museum at Berkeley, and the Carnegie Museum of Art, as well as countless galleries.

JudyGarland exhibition portrait taken at the Palace Theater, New York, in 1951, gelatin silver matte, photographer signature on recto, 11 x 13¾ in. Sold for $3,750 during a March 2010 auction. Profiles in History and LiveAuctioneers image.

In March, an exhibition featuring 27 photos of President John F. Kennedy and family taken by Avedo, concluded at the Springfield Museum in Massachusetts. According to information on the Springfield Museum’s website, Avedon was the lone photographer granted permission to take official White House-approved photos of the Kennedy family during the time between Kennedy’s election and Inauguration Day.

From various accounts, it appears Avedon lived his life the way he had hoped he would, and it seems his death kept with the script. On Oct. 1, 2004, Avedon died from a cerebral hemorrhage – while shooting photographs for The New Yorker in Texas.

“If each photograph steals a bit of the soul, isn’t it possible that I give up pieces of mine every time I take a picture?” — Richard Avedon

Sources:

https://www.biography.com/people/richard-avedon-9193034; https://www.avedonfoundation.org/history/; https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/sep/20/big-picture-richard-avedon-women

Weegee: Gritty photos of urban life

Heralded and criticized for revealing the darker side of society through the lens of cameras, pioneering photojournalist Weegee captured the reality of a world he knew only too well.

Born in 1899 in what was Lemberg, Austria, Usher Fellig, who would later adopt the professional name “Weegee,” emigrated from his homeland to the United States with his family in 1909. The 11-year-old’s given name was changed to Arthur during immigration processing at Ellis Island. Just two years later he would run away from home, joining the throngs of children living on the streets of New York, the very streets on which he would later photograph the subjects and scenes that made him widely known.

‘Mother and Child, Harlem,’ 1939, gelatin silver, printed later, annotated ‘printed by Weegee from the original negative, Louis Stettner’ in pencil with the photographer’s stamp on verso, 13 1/8 in. x 10 5/8 in. Sold for $1,900 at an April 2016 auction. Heritage Auctions and LiveAuctioneers image.

His early years living in the belly of the concrete jungle prepared him for his career as a crime photographer, a job that kept him busy, given the upheaval present in New York City during the Great Depression. As reported by The Art Story, Weegee made use of his familiarity of the city, its more colorful spaces and characters, and his ability to get in good with the local police to get the jump on other photographers as crime stories were breaking. His connections and street savvy may have put him in the prime position, but it was his eye and photography skills that secured his place in American photojournalism history.

To gain a better understanding of the impact and influence of Weegee, we spoke with Christopher George, the imaging technician at the International Center for Photography, an institution dedicated to photography and visual culture. Through exhibitions, school, public programs and community outreach, ICP provides an open forum for dialogue about the role that photographs, videos and news media play in society today.

For the past 15-plus years, George has managed the scanning of more than 20,000 photos by Weegee. The archive of photos originally came to the organization in 1993. Some 16,000 photographs and 7,000 negatives by Weegee were bequeathed to ICP by Weegee’s longtime companion, Wilma Wilcox. The New York Times has called the ICP ‘Weegee Central.” During his years at ICP, George has also gathered materials such as newspapers and magazines, continuing to build on the work set in motion by Miles Barth and his team to research and best represent Weegee’s work.

Rare example of a photograph of Weegee; inscribed ‘To Joe;’ dated 1949, mounted on photo board, previously belonged to Joe Jasger, a fellow photographer, 11¾ in. x 9 1/8 in. Sold for $1,400 during a May 2013 auction. Kaminski Auctions and LiveAuctioneers image.

What photography techniques and processes used by Weegee are most influential?

His ingenious techniques were ahead of their time. Early in his career, he was processing film in a repurposed ambulance and in a subway, when speed and getting a photo published first was crucial. Late in his career, he used kaleidoscopes and other techniques – both on camera and in the darkroom – to produce “distortions.” These were prescient and not unlike Photoshop and app filters of today, except it was in the 1950s and early ’60s. Plus, he was known for his use of flash photography and his instinct for self-promotion.

Gelatin silver print, circa 1960, stamped studio mark to verso ‘Credit Photo by Weegee the famous,’ and inscribed to lower margin, 10 in. x 8 in. Sold for $300 during a June 2016 auction. Wright and LiveAuctioneers image.

FUN FACT: Legend has it the name “Weegee” came about in response to Fellig’s uncanny ability to be the first on the scene of an accident, sometimes even before authorities. Word spread that it was because he turned to a Ouija board for information. Hence his choice to change his name to the phonetic spelling of the popular board game. Weegee was the first citizen in New York to be granted a police radio, and would tune into the police frequency for leads to chase up.

In your estimation, how did Weegee help shape the practice of crime photojournalism?

In the words of Ralph Steiner: “… I can say something about why he is a great photographer, which he certainly is. His greatness as a crime photographer grows out of three things: First his willingness to live entirely for his work. Second, his ingenuity in carrying it out. Third, his very intelligent approach to a kind of material which other photographers treat in a routine manner. And there is the all-important fact that Weegee, unlike the majority of photographers I have met, is a rich personality. You can’t squeeze blood from a stone; nor can you an editor squeeze good pictures out of a stony photographer. Weegee moves in a world of violence, brutality, bloodshed and horror, but the pictures he brings up out of it do not depend entirely on the drama of the event. They are good because Weegee adds a little of himself – a little of Weegee is really something.” This commentary appears in an article that appeared in the March 9, 1941, issue of PM Daily.

Also, George went on to say:

He pioneered the use of a police radio, both in his car and apartment/studio. Often when he photographed an “event” or “crime,” he made sure to include the people affected by the crime, an “audience” or spectators. For example, the photo Their First Murder shows people who were affected, and also not affected or oblivious to, a crime, a death, a dead person in their proximity and field of vision. Weegee also photographed that dead body, but it’s the people’s reaction to the crime that is remembered today… .

After concluding that most fires and people who were no longer living look pretty much alike, he would often look for a “human element,” things that were ironic or funny.   

His use of “found” language and signs is unparalleled. In the photo Joy of Living there’s a dead body – a traffic accident victim – covered in newspapers, a crowd of people (an audience), and above it all is a movie marquee that reads, in part: “Joy of Living.”

Vintage gelatin silver print dated Feb. 24, 1942, 11¼ in. x 14 in. Sold for $6,000 during a Nov. 2013 auction. Santa Monica Auctions and LiveAuctioneers image

How did society of the day and the culture Weegee was part of present itself in his work?

Something that is perhaps lesser-known, or underappreciated, or underrecognized (about his work) is the influence of World War II. Like most people alive in the early ’40s, the war was ever-present. Even in one of his most famous photos, The Critic, World War II plays an important role.

What noted photographers and artists appear to be influenced by Weegee’s work?

Diane Arbus was greatly influenced. Perhaps Louis Faurer was as well, in addition to Leon Levinstein. wwwzBeginning in the early 1930s and continuing throughout his life, Weegee took many self-portraits (or had friends take his photo). Sometimes he would wear different clothes and play different roles: the reporter, the curious passerby, an arrested criminal, an ice cream seller, a protester, a best-selling author, etc. One time he dressed up as a circus clown and photographed the circus and circus audience as a camera-holding clown. I don’t know if Cindy Sherman was influenced by these photos, they aren’t well-known, but Weegee and Cindy have made similar photos.

Gelatin silver print of a human cannon ball (a woman being fired from a cannon), circa 1943, Weegee Collection stamp on lower left, and written in pencil on verso, 25 in. x 21 in. Sold for $2,000 during a November 2016 auction. Clars Auction Gallery and LiveAuctioneers image.

What makes Weegee’s work appealing to photographers and collectors more than 90 years after his professional photography career began?

Because the photos are so great! There’s a lot of “depth” to his best photos. They can be funny, and sad. Most of his well-known photos were made from about 1937 to 1945 — a relatively short amount of time). Perhaps all were “commercial” — made to be sold to newspapers and magazines, but it was about more than that. Weegee began his life in poverty, as an immigrant from Eastern Europe; lived and struggled through the depression; was financially comfortable for a few years; and then lived with very little money and in not-great health, for about 20 years.

What do you believe today’s photographers and photo artists can learn from Weegee’s work?

He was an individualist and a humanist. Perhaps one thing that is not always acknowledged is how hard and how much he worked. He was incredibly prolific. Like most geniuses, he was born at the right time and place. He grew up in poverty, dropped out of school early, found his “calling,” worked extremely hard, became successful — when he was around 45 — and then lived another 25 hardscrabble years — with not a lot of success.

Gelatin silver print, ‘Girls at the Bar,’ circa 1946, artist’s representative’s credit stamp on verso, 13 3/8 in. x 10½ in. Sold for $6,000 during an April 2006 auction. Phillips and LiveAuctioneers image.

Weegee’s own words answer the question with first-person examples.

“Most photographers always use the same old methods. We’ll assume that a horse-drawn wagon is going over the Williamsburg Bridge. A car hits it, and the driver is tossed into the water and gets killed. The other photographers will take a picture of the bridge and then have an artist draw a diagram showing how the guy fell into the water. What I do is go and see what happened to the poor old horse.”

“When I take a picture of a fire, I forget all about the burning building, and I go out to the human element. If I see a woman standing by a fire engine and crying, it’s much better than a picture of the building. The building is just a spectacle.”

“A photographer should have confidence in himself, and if he gets a good idea, he should go take it, even if everybody laughs at him.” PM Daily, March 9, 1941

George offers one final gem of insight about Weegee: In June of this year, the first extensive biography about Weegee will be released: FLASH: The Making of Weegee The Famous, by Christopher Bonanos. It will be published by Henry Holt & Co., a division of Macmillan Publishers.

To view the book, visit https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781627793063.

Books published by Weegee that contain his photographs include Naked City (1945), and Weegee’s People (1946) and Naked Hollywood (1953).

Iconic images grace Jasper52 gravure auction Nov. 21

Famous photographic images from the 20th century are available in a Jasper52 online auction to be conducted Tuesday, Nov. 21. Among the pictures are a Yousuf Karsh portrait of President John F. Kennedy, a prime example of Diane Arbus street photography and an unforgettable glimpse of Depression-era life by Dorothea Lange.

Dorothea Lange, ‘Migrant Mother,’ Nipomo, California, printed 1936, USA, 8in. x 11in. Estimate: $500-$600. Jasper52 image

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Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.