$1.6M photograph

Artdaily.org reports that an Edward Weston photograph (from 1925) was just sold for $1,609,000 at a Sotheby’s auction.

Nude (1925)

I must admit that I don’t know how any photograph could actually be worth $1.6M. Paintings seem different to me. An original painting is truly one of a kind, whereas a photograph can be reproduced endlessly.

On the other hand, a work of art never has an objective value. It is worth whatever someone will pay for it.

During Weston’s lifetime, his photos sold for $7-$10.

Weston is well known for his nudes. Some strike me as rather inelegant; others I quite like. Here’s my personal favourite (from 1936):

nude, 1936

There’s something to be said for black and white nudes. A black and white photograph places the emphasis on the form of the body. The balance shifts away from brazen sexuality, toward erotica or perhaps aesthetics.

Even such an unblinking study as this one is clearly art, not pornography:

nude, 1923

Weston is also famous for finding a kind of sensuality in natural objects:

Pepper #30; Shell

Pepper #30 (above left) is one of Weston’s most famous studies:

Its sensuous undulating form is reminiscent of the human form with its curves and folds. Yet this is an object which stands alone. Weston states in speaking of this pepper, “It has no psychological attributes, no human emotions are aroused”. But what is human emotion? Indeed, the pepper is an inanimate object devoid of emotion, yet in its form it defines human life and emotion. Life abounds in its sensuous folds, with the certain knowledge of death in the decay that is evident at its base.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Random
    Apr 09, 2008 @ 05:24:01

    Fascinating stuff, you’re quite right about this being art.

    “I must admit that I don’t know how any photograph could actually be worth $1.6M.”

    The free market purist inside me would say the picture is “worth” that because somebody was prepared to pay it and it’s their money, but then you basically say this yourself in the next paragraph.

    However I’d also note that this one is signed and dated by the photographer, which is apparently unusual and doubtless helped things along (on the same principle Picasso apparently used to put his name to all sorts of dreadful stuff because he understood perfectly well that people were paying for the prestige of owning an original Picasso, not for the actual picture itself).

    “Paintings seem different to me. An original painting is truly one of a kind, whereas a photograph can be reproduced endlessly.”

    This isn’t really true. Firstly, you can only reproduce a photograph if you still have the original negative (which isn’t a given with pictures of this vintage as old film stock tends to decay on a timescale of decades), otherwise you are going to have to take a photograph of the photograph and develop that – which you can do justs as easily with a painting (and modern techniques for printing on canvas can be so good that that it would be almost impossible to tell the copy from the original from further away than a couple of feet). Secondly, even if you do have the negative there are all sorts of variables to do with things like exposure times and paper composition that will ensure that no two prints are exactly identical. And then of course there’s the artist’s signature, as well as the indefinable thrill of owning something touched by the actual artist.

    Reply

  2. Zayna
    Apr 09, 2008 @ 19:54:08

    The pictures are beautiful and it actually surprises me that they were taken so long ago. But then I wouldn’t say that I’m very cultured.

    Just a thought…

    It seems today, unlike the time which these pictures were taken, that the subject is worth more than the artist’s perspective.

    Nowadays a picture of Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan, especially a snapshot of them at their worst, is worth thousands of dollars while having nothing to do with the insight, talent or ability of the photographer.

    In essence, I think that our modern “paparazzi” society gives the art of photography a bad name.

    Reply

  3. yorikbag
    Jul 12, 2010 @ 02:38:36

    If you can fap to it, it’s pr0n.

    Reply

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