Tag Archive for: photography

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

View the auction.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

In Focus: Linda McCartney

Linda McCartney photo, The Beatles, London 1968, gelatin silver print, 40 x 50 cm, stamped on verso, signed by Mary McCartney from the Linda McCartney Estate. Image obtained from LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Westlicht Photographica Auction

If it were not for photographer Linda McCartney (American, 1941-1998), the history of rock music would be missing a vital part of its visual record from the 1960s and ’70s. While she had only minimal formal training – once modestly referring to herself as a “punk photographer” – McCartney had a gift for putting performers at ease, then dissolving into the background to snap what are now considered classic photos of music superstars.

Linda McCartney was born Linda Louise Eastman to an upper-crust family from Westchester County, New York. Although some may have presumed it to be so, she was not related to the Eastman family of Eastman Kodak fame, and never made any suggestion that she was. Her father, Lee (Epstein) Eastman was a prominent entertainment lawyer in New York City. Her mother, Louise Lindner Eastman, was the daughter of Max J. Lindner, founder of the Lindner Company department store in Cleveland, Ohio.

After graduating from Scarsdale High School, Linda enrolled at Vermont College, where she earned an Associate of Arts degree. She then moved to Tucson, where she attended the University of Arizona. She started dabbling in equine and nature photography and became an avid hobbyist. Even as a student, she was known to use a high-quality Leica camera.

After her mother died tragically in a 1962 commercial airline crash, Linda moved back to New York and eventually went to work as a receptionist and editorial assistant for the society magazine Town & Country. During that time, she also went along on photo shoots with her then-boyfriend, photographer David Dalton. She closely observed the techniques he used in composition and lighting. Later, as she pursued her own career, Linda became known for her accomplished use of natural light when shooting her subjects.

Linda’s career path took a fortuitous turn in 1966 when an invitation arrived at Town & Country’s offices, inviting the publication to send a representative to a Rolling Stones record promotion party on a yacht. Linda jumped at the chance and ended up being the only photographer allowed on the yacht.

Linda McCartney photo of Mick Jagger, 1966, taken aboard a yacht in New York Harbor, #38/150, signed by the photographer in pencil at lower right. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers

“I just kept clicking away with the camera,” Linda is quoted as saying in the Howard Sounes biography Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney, “and they enjoyed it and I enjoyed it, and suddenly I found that taking pictures was a great way to live and a great way to work.”

A few months after her Stones shoot, Linda was allowed backstage at Shea Stadium, where the Beatles performed. She also became an unofficial house photographer at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East, where she took pictures of scores of artists, including Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, the Doors, the Who, Grace Slick, and many others. A portrait she took of Eric Clapton became the first by a woman photographer to be chosen for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. She developed a reputation as not only a fine photographer but also a music industry insider whom recording artists could trust.

Linda McCartney photo, John Lennon, circa-1969 gelatin silver print, printed circa 1974, photographer’s stamps and negative number in red crayon on verso. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com and Bloomsbury Auctions

Linda McCartney signed lithograph of Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship). Edition of 150. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com and Simon Parr’s Auctions

In 1967, while on assignment in London, Linda Eastman met Paul McCartney at the Bag O’ Nails, a club frequented by musicians. They met again four days later at the launch party for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band at Beatles manager Brian Epstein’s house. In May of 1968, they reconnected at the US launch of Apple Records in Manhattan. Less than a year later, the couple married in a small civil ceremony in London. They would go on to live a normal, non-celebrity-oriented type of life on a farm, far from the insanity of Beatlemania. Throughout their 29 years of marriage, their primary consideration was always their four children: Heather, Mary, Stella and James.

Signed candid photo of Paul and Linda McCartney taken at a sports venue. Their marriage was one of rock music’s most solid, lasting 29 years until Linda’s death in 1998, at age 56. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com and Heritage Auctions

While she also became a musician, playing keyboards and singing with McCartney’s post-Beatles group Wings, Linda had many other interests. She was a vegetarian and animal activist. She developed a successful line of vegetarian frozen foods that made her independently wealthy, and she both wrote and photographed the images for two bestselling vegetarian cookbooks.

Linda never lost her passion for photographing interesting people, including her own family. Her photographs have appeared on album covers and been exhibited in more than 50 galleries worldwide, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Her experiments with making sun prints – a 19th-century photo-developing process that dates to the early days of photography – earned Linda McCartney an invitation to have her work exhibited at the Royal Photographic Society in Bath, England.

In 1992, a book of Linda’s photos from the earliest decade of her career – titled Linda McCartney’s Sixties: Portrait of an Era – was published by Bulfinch. The photos have been praised for their warmth and ability to capture the essence of each subject at a precise moment in time. A testament to Linda’s talent behind the lens and the respect she garnered from those she photographed, the book remains one of the definitive photo records of rock music legends from that period in time.

Linda McCartney’s Sixties: Portrait of an Era, deluxe signed limited edition book in slipcase, #312/500, Bulfinch, 1992. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Heritage Auctions

Famous Photographers And Their Provocative Images

Some of the most significant names in 20th-century photography – from Diane Arbus to Edward Weston – are represented in this collection of unmounted gravures.

While Diane Arbus was famous for her provocative images of marginalized people such as dwarfs, giants, transgender people, nudists, circus performers, her image titled A Young Brooklyn Family going for a Sunday outing is disarming. The image of the stoic couple and their two young children was shot in 1966 and printed in Italy in 1979. Arbus was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century and the best-known female photographers of her generation.

Diane Arbus, ‘A young Brooklyn Family going for a Sunday outing,’ New York, 1966, heliogravure, printed in 1979, Italy, 9.75 in. x 9.75 in. Estimate: $800-$1,000. Jasper52 image


Edward Henry Weston (1886-1958) often focused on the people and places of the American West. However, over the course of his 40-year career Weston photographed an increasingly expansive set of subjects, including landscapes, nudes, portraits, genre scenes and still lifes. Tree Root is a fine example of the latter. The sheet-fed gravure in the auction was printed in the early 1970s.

Edward Weston, ‘Tree Root,’ sheet-fed gravure, early 1970s, printed in the USA,
7.25 in. x 9.25 in. Estimate: $300-$450. Jasper52 image


While German-born photographer Erwin Blumenfeld is best remembered for fashion photography published in magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar throughout the 1940s and 1950s, his body of work also includes fine art photography, drawings and collages. He is considered one of the most innovative photographers of the past century, as the image titled Wall Street, New York, 1943, demonstrates.

Erwin Blumenfeld ‘Wall Street, New York, 1943,’ heliogravure, printed in 1981 in Italy, 8.75 in. x 11 in. Estimate: $250-$350. Jasper52 image


Yousuf Karsh is hailed as one of the greatest portrait photographers of the 20th century. He photographed icons of Hollywood, art, literature and politics. Included in the collection is a Karsh portrait of an elderly Helen Keller (1880-1968), who was both blind and deaf. Her teacher, Anne Sullivan, broke through the isolation imposted by a near complete lack of language, allowing the girl to blossom as she learned to communicate.

Yousuf Karsh, ‘Helen Keller,’ photogravure, printed in Switzerland 1982, 10 in. x 8 in. Estimate: $600-$700. Jasper52 image


Man Ray’s gravure of a model combines his signature elements: fashion photography and a special effect called solarization. Born Emmanuel Radnitzky is 1890, Man Ray was the only American to play a major role in both the Dada and Surrealist movements.

Man Ray, ‘Fashion Photography, Partial solarization,’ heliogravure with tissue guard, printed in 1980 in Italy, 7 in. x 9.75 in. Estimate: $400-$500. Jasper52 image


Edouard Boubat (1923-1999) was a French photojournalist and art photographer. He took his first photograph after coming back from the war in 1946 and was awarded the Kodak Prize the following year. He traveled the world for the French magazine Realites, and later worked as a freelance photographer. He is represented in the collection with a gravure titled Paris, 1949, Montmartre.

Edouard Boubat, ‘Paris, 1949, Montmartre,’ sheet-fed gravure, printed in Spain, 1983, 6.5 in. x 6.5 in. Estimate: $50-$100. Jasper52 image


Photogravure is an intaglio printmaking process used for rich photo reproduction. Take a look at the fully illustrated catalog of unmounted gravures.

6 Impactful Vintage Photoengravings

Photography as an art form became available to a wider audience through photoengraving, which is a photomechanical process for making halftone cuts by photographing an image on a metal plate and then etching. A photoengraving is a plate made by this process, and a print made from such a plate is also called a photoengraving. This week, our specialists have curated a collection of these prints, including the work of some of the foremost photographers of the 20th century.

In this process of photoengraving, the continuous tones of a photograph image were translated into dots through repographic technique that produces a halftone. By means of a basic optical illusion the human eye blends these dots of differing size and spacing back into their continuous tone.

This photoengraving collection boasts some of the most significant names in photography, as well as their distinguished models. Subject matter ranges from portraiture to street photography.

Two names forever linked are American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) and singer-songwriter Patti Smith, who lived together in New York City from 1967 to 1972. Mapplethorpe’s photographs of her became the covers for the Patti Smith Group albums, and they remained friends until Mapplethorpe’s death in 1989. An iconic Mapplethorpe portrait of Smith is included in the auction.

Robert Mapplethorpe, ‘Patti Smith,’ 1988, duotone photoengraving, printed in the U.S. in 1989. Jasper52 image


Bertram “Bert” Stern (1929-2013) was an American commercial photographer, whose best-known work is arguably “The Last Sitting,” a collection of photographs taken for Vogue of Marilyn Monroe weeks before her death in 1962. The auction includes an intimate portrait of the actress, a black and white photoengraving printed in 1964.

Bert Stern, ‘Marilyn Monroe,’ photoengraving, printed in the U.S. in 1964, 8 x 10 in. Jasper52 image


Irving Penn (1917-2009) was an American photographer known for his fashion photography, portraits and still lifes. Penn’s career included work at Vogue magazine. He is represented in the auction with an arresting image titled Chanel Sequined Suit.

Irving Penn, ‘Chanel Sequined Suit,’ quad-tone photoengraving, printed in the U.S., 1991. Approx. 7 x 7 in. Jasper52 image


Not as widely known today, Geroge Hoyningen-Huene was a seminal fashion photographer of the 1920s and 1930s. He was born in Russia to Baltic German and American parents and spent his working life in France, England and the United States. Beyond fashion, he was a master portraitist as well from Hollywood stars to other celebrities. His portrait of French fashion designer Madame Lucien Lelong (1889-1958) is one of the stars of this collection.

George Hoyningen-Huene, ‘Madame Lucien Lelong,’ photoengraving, printed in Germany in 1932, 5.5 x 8 in. Jasper52 image


Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) was a German photographer, sculptor and artist. He is best known for his close-up photographs of plants and living things, published in 1929 as, Urformen der Kunst (Primal forms of Art). ‘Japanese Golden Ball Tree‘ is a classic example of his work.

Karl Blossfeldt, ‘Japanese Golden Ball Tree,’ photoengraving, 1936, printed in: Germany, 7 x 10 in. Jasper52 image


Also from Germany is a silhouetted image of people on an amusement park ride. Hans Nordhoff’s image titled Sky was printed in 1936.

Hans Nordhoff, ‘Sky,’ photoengraving, printed in Germany in 1936, 8.5 x 5 in. Jasper52 image

7 Man Ray Images That Dazzle

Seven works by American artist Man Ray highlight this week’s photogravure auction, which boasts some of the most revered names in photography alongside Man Ray. (Want a quick briefer on photogravure? Check this post out about the intaglio printmaking process and influential artists.) 

Man Ray (born Emmanuel Radnitzky; Aug. 27, 1890 – Nov. 18, 1976) was a significant contributor to the Dada and Surrealist movements. His photogravure titled Multiple Exposure, 1934, demonstrates his ties to the latter movement.

Man Ray, ‘Multiple Exposure,’ 1934 sheet-fed gravure printed by Neogravure Co., France. Estimate: $350-$450. Jasper52 image


Ray spend most of his life in France and all but one of his photogravures in the auction were printed by the Neogravure Co., France.

Man Ray, ‘Interior With Painting,’ 1934, sheet-fed gravure printed by Neogravure Co., France. Estimate: $350-$450. Jasper52 image


One of the Man Ray gravures features solarization, a photographic technique he reinvented. Solarization is a phenomenon in photography in which the image recorded on a negative or on a photographic print is wholly or partially reversed in tone.

Man Ray, ‘Solarized Woman,’ cropped, small vintage gravure printed by editions Mana – Paris in 1937. Estimate: $240-$280. Jasper52 image


Some other Ray images in this collection feature an uncommon exterior composition. See below for two such examples where we step into the outdoors.

Man Ray, ‘Trees,’ 1934 sheet-fed gravure printed by Neogravure Co., France. Estimate: $350-$450. Jasper52 image


Man Ray, ‘Rock Formation,’ 1934 sheet-fed gravure printed by Neogravure Co., France. Estimate: $350-$450. Jasper52 image


The final two of the collection of Man Ray images show off the beauty of the human figure.

Man Ray, ‘Neck,’ 1934 sheet-fed gravure printed by Neogravure Co., France. Estimate: $350-$450. Jasper52 image


Man Ray, ‘Shadow Nude,’ 1934 sheet-fed gravure printed by Neogravure Co., France. Estimate: $350-$450. Jasper52 image


Want to see more of this fantastic collection? Click here to view and bid on more works from artists like Margaret Bourke-White and Laure Albin Guillot.

4 Names To Know When Collecting Photogravures

Early photographs are appealing for several reasons. They have artistic value, sometimes historical relevance, and often a connection to personal and societal moments captured in time. An element sometimes forgotten among the other qualities of early photographs is the scientific innovation within photographic processes. Remarkably intricate processes shaped the evolution of photography, and one of those processes is photogravure.

When asked about the simplest definition of the complex process of photogravure, Wm. B. Becker, director of The American Museum of Photography, provided this explanation:

“It’s a way of printing photographs in ink instead of using chemicals. There is no dot pattern like you’d see in a photo printed in a newspaper or magazine.”

Karl Blossfeldt (German, 1865-1932), lot of 30 black and white photogravures of flowers, 1928, 1932, 1942. Estimate: $350-$450. Featured in the Feb. 4, 2017 Fine Prints & Multiples Auction by Jasper52. (Jasper52 image)

Becker, who has curated exhibitions and published two books and dozens of articles about the history of photography, further explained that the photomechanical process results in prints that are made in ink on a printing press. The process involves transferring the photographic image onto a copper printing plate. The plate is then etched to retain ink in areas corresponding to the black sections of a picture.

The process, patented by Karl Klič in 1879, has inspired generations of  photographers and produced a multitude of impressive gravures. The process Klič formalized expanded on the method of photoglyphic engraving developed by William Henry Fox Talbot.

RIGHT: Karl Blossfeldt (German, 1865-1932), Anemone Blanda, First Edition, 1829. Estimate: $100-$250.
CENTER + LEFT: One of a group lot of 30 Karl Blossfeldt, black and white photogravures of flowers, 1928, 1932, 1942. Group lot estimate: $350-$450.
Featured in the Feb. 4, 2017 Fine Prints & Multiples Auction by Jasper52. (Jasper52 images)

As with many forms of art, there are names that are commonly cited as leaders in the field. The history of photogravure is no exception, and among its most referenced pioneers and champions are:

Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) is an American photographer whose contributions to the advancement and appreciation of photography are numerous. He founded the Photo-Secession Movement, which, according to information from The J. Paul Getty Museum site, is defined as an attempt “to prove that pictorialist photography was a fine art form.”

Alfred Stieglitz (American 1864-1946), The Terminal, photogravure on tissue, dated 1892 in lower right margin. Sold for $72,000 + buyer’s premium on Dec. 1, 2012 by Leland Little Auctions. (LiveAuctioneers/Leland Little Auctions image)

Stieglitz’s archive of early work seems to serve as a diary of his travels. In the 1890s his photographs included scenes taken in various European countries as well as the bustling streets of New York City, just ahead of the turn of the 20th century.

Upon his return from studying in Germany, Stieglitz’s father helped secure a job for him at the New-York Photogravure Co., Becker explained. It’s believed that this company published Stieglitz’s first portfolio. Stieglitz went on to also head the very popular periodical, Camera Work magazine.

Gertrude Kasebier (American, 1852-1934), Portrait of Miss Minnie Ashley from Camera Work 10, 1905, photogravure on laid tissue. Sold for $200 + buyer’s premium on May 20, 2011 by Skinner Inc. (LiveAuctioneers/Skinner Inc. image)

Gertrude Kasebier (1852-1934) was among the early modernists who were members of the Photo-Secession group, said Becker. Before producing revered photographs, she was an art student at the Pratt Institute. She was also one of the first two women to be elected to the British Linked Ring (also referred to as The Brotherhood of the Linked Ring).  The group’s focus, similar to that of the Photo-Secession Movement, was to present and promote photography as a form of fine art, that drew on science to continually improve and evolve.

Becker cites “The Manger” and “Blessed Art Thou Amongst Women” as some of Kasebier’s most creative photographs turned into gravures for Camera Work magazine.

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) was a native of Luxembourg, who moved with his family to the United States when he was a child. Early on, teachers identified his artistic talents. Eventually he worked as an apprentice at the American Fine Art Company, which resulted in his exposure to photography. In short order, he was exhibiting his photography at shows. According to information at the International Photography Hall of Fame website, he participated in his first show when he was just 19, and the single juror of that show was another famed photographer and practitioners of the photogravure process, Clarence White.

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973), Gloria Swanson, photogravure, 1924, printed 1930. Sold for $1,200 + buyer’s premium on Oct. 15, 2016 by Stanford Auctioneers. (LiveAuctioneers/Stanford Auctioneers image)

At the age of 20, Steichen sold his first photographs to none other than Alfred Stieglitz, and a couple years later he joined Stieglitz in forming the Photo-Secession. His work appeared in Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Art et Decoration. Subjects of his portraits included Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin, and George Gershwin, among others.

Becker points to works including “The Flatiron,” “J P Morgan,” and “Pond – Moonlight,” as beautiful and innovative examples of Steichen’s work.

Peter Henry Emerson (1856-1936) began life in Cuba, lived in the United States for a time during his youth, and ultimately moved to England as a teen. His dedication and promotion of the naturalistic approach to photography is at the cornerstone of his career portfolio.

As Becker points out, Emerson was among the first to use photogravure as a means of distributing his photographs. They were included in bound volumes and at least one portfolio. His book titled Naturalistic Photography for Students of the Art was published in 1889. Among the profound statements Emerson makes in this highly sought-after reference is, “Many photographers think they are photographing nature when they are only caricaturing her.”

Whether looking for examples by these oft-referenced iconic photographers, or contemporary photographers, Becker says the collector should start by knowing exactly what they are buying — and the best way to do that is to ask questions. He suggests these queries:

  1. Where did the gravure originate?
  2. If it was taken from a book or magazine, which one, and how many copies were printed?
  3. Is it signed by the photographer — and if not, why not?
  4. Was the intent of the photographer to see it removed from the context of the book and framed on someone’s wall, or was it intended to be seen in a particular order with other illustrations?
  5. Is there any advantage to purchasing a photogravure of this image over a modern-day print that might, because of improved technology, more accurately capture the nuances of the original (darkroom-made) photograph?

View this week’s Vintage Gravures auction and find your next artwork.

Wm. B. Becker is a journalist, writer, collector and historian of photography. In addition to serving as director of the award-winning online museum The American Museum of Photography, images from his collection have been exhibited at museums in the United States and Europe, and have appeared in numerous publications. His 25-year career in media resulted in four Emmy® Awards and led to two terms as a National Trustee of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He currently serves on the board of the Michigan Photographic Historical Society.

Online Resources: The American Museum of Photography, Museum of Modern Art, Collectors Weekly, The J. Paul Getty Museum, International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum, Art of the Photogravure

11 Stunning Portraits of Famous Writers

The writer is often hidden behind the pen. However, in this stunning curated collection of photogravure portraits, authors, poets, and playwrights reveal themselves to the camera lens. In these photogravure portraits, the printmaking process ensures high-quality reproductions, lending gravures a rich, velvety texture. Face time with black-and-white portraits of the authors and writers behind some of the characters who have shaped our culture.

William Faulkner by Henri Cartier-Bresson

William Faulkner by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1952. Est. $180-$220

William Faulkner by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1952. Est. $180-$220

Henry Miller by Brassai

Henry Miller photographed by Brassai, 1968. Sold for $75

Henry Miller photographed by Brassai, 1968. Sold for $75

Ernest Hemingway by Yousuf Karsh

Ernest Hemingway by Yousuf Karsh, 1967. Sold for $120

Ernest Hemingway by Yousuf Karsh, 1967. Sold for $120

Susi Wyss by Robert Mapplethorpe

Susi Wyss phorographed by Robert Mapplethorpe, 1985. Sold for $190

Susi Wyss photographed by Robert Mapplethorpe, 1985. Sold for $190

Robert Frost by Yousuf Karsh

Robert Frost photographed by Yousuf Karsh, 1967. Sold for $110

Robert Frost photographed by Yousuf Karsh, 1967. Sold for $110

Jean-Paul Sartre by Henri Cartier-Bresson

Jean-Paul Sartre by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1952. Est. $180-$220

Jean-Paul Sartre by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1952. Est. $180-$220

Carl Sandburg by Yousuf Karsh

Carl Sandburg by Yousuf Karsh, 1960. Est. $180-$250

Carl Sandburg by Yousuf Karsh, 1960. Est. $180-$250

James Joyce by Man Ray

James Joyce by Man Ray, 1934. Est. $250-$350

James Joyce by Man Ray, 1934. Est. $250-$350

Normal Mailer by Yousuf Karsh

Normain Mailer by Yousuf Karsh, 1976. Sold for $20

Normain Mailer by Yousuf Karsh, 1976. Sold for $20

Caterine Millinaire by Robert Mapplethorpe

Caterine Millinaire by Robert Mapplethorpe, 1985. Sold for $40

Caterine Millinaire by Robert Mapplethorpe, 1985. Sold for $40

Vladimir Nabokov by Yousuf Karsh

Vladimir Nabokov by Yousuf Karsh, 1976. Sold for $380

Vladimir Nabokov by Yousuf Karsh, 1976. Sold for $380

Fan of gravure photography? Be sure to follow @byjasper52 on Instagram for more images and updates.

All Aboard For Vintage Gravure Auction

Famous photographic images of the 20th century are being offered in a Jasper52 auction of photogravures on Sunday, Oct. 9. Photogravure is an intaglio printmaking process used for rich, high-quality photo reproduction. This 149-lot sale boasts some of the most revered names in photography. Below are a few standouts from the sale:

Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Behind the Gare St. Lazare, the major railway station in Paris, is one of the most famous photographs ever taken. Using a Leica 35mm camera, Cartier-Bresson captured a man leaping over a large puddle in 1932. The sheet-fed gravure in the auction was printed in Paris in 1952.

Henri Cartier-Bresson innovated street photography, bringing it to a new level in modern art. He thought of his photos as ‘capturing a decisive moment,’ as in ‘Behind the Gare St. Lazare.’

Henri Cartier-Bresson innovated street photography, bringing it to a new level in modern art. He thought of his photos as ‘capturing a decisive moment,’ as in ‘Behind the Gare St. Lazare.’

Many of the images in the gravure auction carry a transportation theme, which captivates the attention of photographers. Hungarian photographer Erno Vadas (1899-1962) was one of the most successful photographers in Europe in the 1920s-1930s. His photographs are characterized by the bold contrasts of light and shadow. Vadas’ Locomotive was printed as a sheet-fed gravure in 1936.

Erno Vadas, ‘Locomotive,’ image size: 6 x 8 inches

Erno Vadas, ‘Locomotive,’ image size: 6 x 8 inches

Although American artist Man Ray (1890-1976) considered himself foremost a painter, he is best known for photography. In addition to one of his “rayograph” self-portraits in the auction, is a gravure titled Sailboat printed in 1931.

Man Ray, ‘Sailboat,’ image size: 9 x 11 inches

Man Ray, ‘Sailboat,’ image size: 9 x 11 inches

The use of small hand-held cameras and improved film helped photographers freeze action with short exposure times. Hungarian-born photographer Martin Munkacsi (1896-1963), who started his career as a sports photographer, applied innovative compositions for his action shots. An example is Motorcycle Rider, which was printed in 1931 by La Neogravure Co. of France.

Martin Munkacsi, ‘Motorcycle Rider,’ image size: 9 x 11 inches

Martin Munkacsi, ‘Motorcycle Rider,’ image size: 9 x 11 inches

Rounding out the selection of travel-related images is a striking gravure credited to Photo-Union Berlin titled Aeroplane. It was also printed by Le Neogravure Co. in 1930.

Photo-Union Berlin, ‘Aeroplane,’ image size 8.5 x 6.5 inches

Photo-Union Berlin, ‘Aeroplane,’ image size 8.5 x 6.5 inches

All lots in the Jasper52 auction of gravures have estimates of $75-$150, but because there are no reserves will sell to the highest bidders. Register now.