So, these days you have no money problems.
That’s great to hear.
Sorry, I couldn’t really hear what you said… You want to do what?
To buy some photographs?
To buy a lot of photographs.
You want to create a collection.
But you know nothing about photography.
Oh, I see, that’s why you’re calling.
Uh huh. Yeah.
It’s kind of you to say so but really, I’m no expert.
OK. Perhaps I can help you, there.
Yes, you see, rather conveniently, there are a couple of auctions next week, both in New York, at Christie’s and at Sotheby’s, respectively – somewhat confusingly, each called ‘Photographs’ – in which a large quantity of work from those photographers regarded by the real experts as photography’s all time greats, is on sale.
You like the sound of that? Good.
You’ll be completely spoiled for choice. There are 350 items in the Christie’s sale, 204 at Sotheby’s.
No, no. I know you can. I understand that you can afford it. That’s not the problem. You can’t just buy everything, that’s all. It would just be crazy! Besides, I’m sure you’d prefer to be seen as a discerning sort of person – someone with a bit of taste – who doesn’t just throw their money around but on the contrary, has a keen eye for investment value.
That doesn’t bother you?
But surely, you don’t want to end up with a load of crap that you can’t offload on some other sucker, later.
Well, for one thing, in practical terms, you’ll have a fair number of duplicate prints, albeit each with different attributes: signed/unsigned, number within edition, etc. Then there’s condition to consider: excellent/very good/good/poor.
Yeah, you know some of the stuff is pretty old.
Old, you know, O-L-D. Early stuff…
Well, from my recollection, for instance: there’s a picture in the Sotheby’s sale taken by a guy by the name of Edward S Curtis. It’s called An Oasis in the Badlands. American. It’s of a Native American chief on horseback – very iconic but, in my opinion, his style often verges on the kitsch. It was photographed in 1905.
You didn’t know photography was that old? Well, here’s a surprise: it’s a hell of a lot older! The first permanent photograph was an image produced in France in 1826.
Kodak! Nooohhh! Much earlier than Kodak.
Anyway. Can I suggest you stick to one genre?
You don’t know what a genre is?
Yes, it’s all black and white.
You think black and white landscapes are boring. OK, there are some in colour by William Eggleston, who’s not really my cup of tea, but perhaps we should forget about landscapes.
Nudes? Yes, there are quite a few nudes. But, wouldn’t portraits be good? There’s a remakable Chuck Close, self-portrait called 5C – made from five unique, large-format, overlapping Polaroid prints – several Richard Avedon’s and some by Irving Penn, and loads of others at both venues.
Yeah, Avedon and Penn do nudes, too. Penn’s still life is amazing! A print of his Still Life with Grape and Moth, being sold by Christie’s is one of my all-time favourites. Then there’s…
Of course! Of course, nudes are certainly worth thinking about. However, how about starting to collect early modernist photography; Lásló Moholy-Nagy’s Alpenveilchen (Photogramm) will be in the Sotheby’s sale and his Scandinavia, shot in 1931 is at Christie’s. Christie’s are also selling Fire Escape, an amazing Alexander Rodchenko, photographed in 1927.
You don’t like ‘funny’ names.
No, no, nudes are certainly a possibility.
Flower pictures might be good, too, though. There’s the the Moholy-Nagy Alpenveilchen, I just mentioned – to you and me that’s a cyclamen – and Alma Levenson’s voluptuous Auratum Lily is at Sotheby’s. But there are a whole group of Robert Mapplethorpe’s flower pictures up for grabs in that sale, too.
Yes, he does do nudes.
So, if I understand you correctly, it’s just nudes, then, that you want to go for?
OK, yeah, I think I get it. You’d prefer more erotic stuff.
Female, I suppose?
I see. No preference. In their infinite variety, right? Big names as well as less well-known photographers – even a few with ‘funny’ names?
Well, it’s great that you’ve made a decision.
Yes, of course. It’s your money; I wouldn’t dream of telling you how to spend it. Glad I was able to help. Let me know how you get on but… er… could I ask a little favour in return?
I’m sure you’ll understand that… I shouldn’t really be seen… you know, to be associated with that sort of material. So I’d be grateful for your discretion… as a man of the cloth… I…