Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2015 Issue

A New Record Price Set for a Photograph - $6.5 Million

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Peter Lik's Phantom.

A record price has apparently been paid for a photograph – a whopping $6.5 million. We say “apparently” as it was a private sale, and it is impossible to know for certain whether there has been a larger such sale in the past, though it is quite unlikely. This was not a picture from the dawn of photography, a photographic equivalent of a Gutenberg from Daguerre's Brownie. It is a fairly recent photo from the camera of Peter Lik, a photographer who melds scenic views with art. He is sort of a contemporary Ansel Adams, except he isn't afraid of color. Ironically, the winning photo is a black and white, perhaps a bow to Adams.

 

The photograph is titled Phantom, and it was taken in Antelope Canyon, Arizona. The canyon is on Navajo land, near Page, Arizona, and the Utah border. It is a spectacularly scenic canyon, and at this particular spot, an opening above the walls enables a shaft of light to penetrate to the floor. In this shot, dust within the shaft of light creates a ghostly image, the “Phantom.” It is a black and white version of the photograph Ghost.

 

Speaking of his photography, Mr. Lik said, “The purpose of all my photos is to capture the power of nature and convey it in a way that inspires someone to feel passionate and connected to the image.”

 

The buyer has chosen to remain anonymous, but is already a collector of Lik's photographs. He was represented by a Los Angeles law firm, which may or may not tell us something.

 

This sale is an important milestone even for a site about books. It taps into two major trends within the field, which is evolving and expanding. The field is becoming more one of “works on paper,” rather than just traditional “books” alone. Whether it is what dealers are selling or collectors collecting, we find pamphlets, broadsides, manuscripts, photographs, prints, and other forms of ephemera added to the mix. Collectors today often desire objects that can be hung on a wall to complement those that are placed on a shelf.

 

The other trend is to the concept of “books as art.” Books are functionally a vehicle for ideas, which is usually expressed in text. However, even as far back as Gutenberg, and you can't go farther back then that in the world of printed books, his type was designed to be aesthetically appealing, rather than simply relaying words. This soon expanded to beautiful bindings. Barely a half century after Gutenberg, the most famous of collectors of fine bindings, Jean Grolier, began having his books bound as works of art, rather than of function.

 

Late in the 19th century, spurred on by William Morris and his Kelmscott Press, we saw the development of the private, fine press movement. The focus of the private press works was the artistic qualities of the book – type, colors, paper, etc., rather than the underlying text, which often would be a familiar title readily and inexpensively available in ordinary-looking editions for those who wanted to read them. If anyone ever tried to read a Kelmscott Chaucer, the immediate question would be, “why?”

 

The melding of different forms of works on paper, art, and books can be seen in the forms in which Mr. Lik makes his photographs available. For those who can afford $6.5 million, a standalone photograph is an option. For those not quite so financially endowed, Peter Lik's photography can be enjoyed in the books of photographs he has published. Yes, Peter Lik is an “author” too, even if he lets his images do most of his speaking for him.

 

Book collecting may not be quite as widespread today as it once was. Technology and a desire for the visual have, if not changed our interests, certainly broadened them. Books today are more likely to be part of a collection rather than the collection. It's all good. There is room for everyone. Peter Lik can publish books, and book readers can appreciate art and other forms of paper. And, who could look at a Lik photograph of a beautiful scene and not want to read more about that spectacular place?

 

Peter Lik's books of photography are available on his website: www.lik.com/shop/books.html.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Textile of the Great White Fleet, with portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans & successor Charles Stillman Sperry, 1908. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> William J. Stone, <i>Declaration of Independence,</i> Force printing, 1833. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Shugart family papers including documentation of the Underground Railroad, 63 items, 1838-81. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, over 2000 items, with extensive slave labor correspondence, legal records & receipts, bulk 1820-1865. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Gloria Steinem, typescript for her speech <i>Living the Revolution,</i> with related letters and documents, 1941-77. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> <i>Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression,</i> depicting the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, c. 1774. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, <i>Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae, libris XVI distincta,</i> Antwerp, 1635. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Antonio de Mayorga, manuscript map of Mexico City, 1779. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall, <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America,</i> first edition, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1842-44. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Samuel Walker, diary of the entire first cruise of the USS Kineo, a gunboat on the Mississippi, 1854-69. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Scrapbook on early Stanford football, with letters from Walter Camp, 1893-95 & 1931. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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