NEW YORK—Philadelphia auction house Freeman’s first- ever dedicated sale of photographs and photobooks on Oct. 21 offered a mix of old and new pictures—by famous and less-well known photographers alike—and yielded modest results overall. Despite some solid prices, the level of buy-ins was near 50 percent.
However, according to photography specialist Kate Molets, “for a first sale, we were pretty comfortable with the numbers.” She noted that the auction house has sold photographs in the past, with images included in other sale categories, but this was its first sale dedicated to photography. Overall, the sale earned $236,566, with 157, or 53 percent, of the 299 lots finding buyers.
Among the older images were ones taken by relatively unknown Philadelphia photographers. “We wanted to promote the work of local photographers,” Molets explained.
The top-selling lot in the auction was two Harry Callahan prints framed together, Weed Against Sky, Detroit, 1948, and Eleanor, Chicago, 1947, both printed “before 1965,” according to the catalogue. Together they sold for $15,000, compared with an estimate of $10,000/15,000.
Other lots that met expectations included Andreas Feininger’s Queen Elizabeth in New York Harbor, 1958, printed in 1998, which realized $9,375, on an estimate of $4,000/6,000, and two photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe, a black-and-white print titled Ajitto, 1981, which sold for $8,750 compared with an estimate of $8,000/12,000, and a color print, Ken Moody, 1984, which was estimated at $6,000/8000 and also sold for $8,750.
A 1905 copy of Alfred Stieglitz’s magazine Camera Work with ten photogravures, sold for $5,938, compared with an estimate of $2,000/4,000, while a Swiss landscape, ca.1845, attributed to either Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey or John Ruskin, sold for $5,440 on an estimate of $5,000/7,000.
Other notable lots included: a daguerreotype of a Shakespearean actor, ca. 1848, which sold for $3,712, compared with an estimate of $2,000/3,000; Peter Henry Emerson’s platinum print titled Ricking the Reed, 1886, which sold for $3,125, compared with an estimate of $3,000/5,000; and Alfred Cheney Johnston’s portrait of actress Fanny Brice, 1918, which sold on its low estimate for $2,500 (estimate: $2,500/3,500).