In the Billy as angel camp there are those who remember him as fiercely loyal, a brave and reliable soldier fighting on behalf of ranchers who were being railroaded by city folks. On the other side there is Sheriff Pat Garrett, employed by the big city interests to clear the county of riff-raff. The city interests won and per usual wrote most of the history so that Billy comes off as a bad man. In time Hollywood weighed in and Billy, of melodic name, began to appear again and again on the big screen, his motives and character always-soft clay in the hands of scriptwriters.
In the later stages of his brief life he made a single exception to the rule “if you shoot me I shoot you.” The exception was to let a photographer make a daguerreotype image. In it he appears young, almost innocent save for the rifle.
This image was recently sold at auction for $2.3 million. The buyer no doubt bought a symbol rather than an image. In doing so Billy may have provided some further evidence that he is still stealing from the rich. Certainly Mr. Koch, the Tea Party billionaire, paid a pretty penny for a pretty picture.
The world’s most expensive photographs at auction:
1 Untitled #96 by Cindy Sherman. Sold for $3.8m at Christies, New York in May 2011.
2 99 Cent II Dipychon by Andreas Gursky. Sold for $3.3m at Sotheby's, London, in February 2007.
3 The Pond Moonlight taken in 1904 by Edward Steichen. Sold for $2.92m at Sotheby's, New York in February 2006.
4 Billy the Kid tintype, circa 1880. Sold for $2.3m at Brian Lebel's 22nd Annual Old West Show & Auction, June 2011.
5 Kremlin of Tobolsk taken in 2009 by Dmitry Medvedev. Sold for $1.75m at a charity auction in St. Petersberg in January 2010.
6. Nude taken in 1925 by Edward Weston sold for $1.6m at Sotheby's, New York in January 2008.