Early 20th Century "Camera Work" Magazines

Value (2006) | $60,000 Auction$90,000 Auction

It was a gift from my mother about 40 years ago. She actually bought the collection at a house sale in Westchester County, White Plains, New York, somewhere in that area.

Okay. So what we have is a magazine called "Camera Work," and on the table we have five issues, but in fact, you have how many of them?

There were 22 issues that I have plus a supplement.

23 in total. Plus the Steichen supplement, which is right here.

Yes, right, it started January '03, and my last issue is April '08.

"Camera Work" is the preeminent art journal of the 20th century. It was edited and published by Alfred Stieglitz, who was a champion of fine-art photography when photography was ridiculed in the art world and art press. And he was not adverse to featuring his own works. If we open this first issue, and it is at an unusual angle because we don't want to exert too much pressure on the spine, we see this very beautiful image, warm-toned photogravure. Now, Stieglitz had actually been trained in the photogravure process, because when he told his father in the 1890s that he wanted to be a fine-art photographer, his father was so horrified, that he said, "You have to develop a skill. You need a trade." And so Stieglitz, being interested in photography, learned the art of making photogravures, which is the most sophisticated of the printing techniques. So Stieglitz oversaw the creation of the many, many images that are in these different issues of the magazine. "Camera Work" was available by subscription, and the cost was six dollars a year. And each year, three or four different issues would be published, and those issues would reflect works by many different photographers. Another one of the photographers that was championed by Stieglitz was Clarence White. And we can see that Clarence White's photograph was reproduced on a very thin paper known as "Japan tissue." One of the reasons that "Camera Work" is so prized is the delicacy of these very beautiful reproductions. Now, the last issue I want to show, this features a reproduction of an Edward Steichen photograph called "The Pond." The original photograph recently sold at auction for over $3 million.


So when we see a reproduction in "Camera Work," which was a very limited edition, we can certainly imagine a price in the $10,000 range. I've seen all 23 issues that you brought in. In terms of putting an auction estimate on it, my estimate would be $60,000 to $90,000. It's an extraordinary group of materials with a full range of artistic reproductions by the masters of photography. So thank you very much for bringing it in. It just really made my day.

Thank you. You made my day as well. I'm overwhelmed. Thank you.

Appraisal Details

Swann Auction Galleries
New York, NY
Appraised value (2006)
$60,000 Auction$90,000 Auction
Philadelphia, PA (August 05, 2006)

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