Clarence John Laughlin Photos, ca. 1938
I collect automobiles, I had a friend of mine who collected car parts, and we got together and one day, I went over to his house and they had these prints on the wall. And I had a '37 Ford and I said, "Man, I like that." And he said, "Well, that's my father's pictures. He was a photographer." I said, "Yeah?" I said, "Well, John, what do I have to do to get these?" He said, "Well, you've got a lot of stuff I'm interested in." I said, "We can trade something I've worked up for one of these pictures." About a year later, I went back and wanted the other fender to have a pair, but it cost a couple more trades to get this second picture. John was a collector and I kind of lost track of him, but his daddy was Clarence Laughlin, and I don't know Clarence Laughlin from Henry Ford, you know, but come to find out, his daddy's kind of a well-known photographer. In the reflections of the picture, I can see John's daddy taking the pictures, both of them, in the fenders, and it's all in New Orleans.
Clarence John Laughlin is probably the most famous of the American surrealist photographers. He's very well-known in Europe, where surrealist is much more collected than in the United States. I've heard so many stories about photographers visiting with him, that his apartment was a maze of books. He was a book collector and he was also a poet. He loved Baudelaire. His first book was called Ghosts Along the Mississippi. He went out and photographed these wonderful plantations all around New Orleans. He was truly a master photographer and a major character. He had this incredible way of waxing his photographs. It was totally his own unique process. It's very easy to tell a Clarence John Laughlin photograph. These are early photographs of his in the late '30s. They're vintage images. They were made about the time the negative was made. They're very important. Besides being surrealist photographs, they're also self-portraits.
They're just marvelous. The automobiles take on almost a human characteristic. I mean, the work is just brilliant. Do you have any idea what a photograph like this might be worth?
No, I haven't any idea. I've had them and I've never worried about what they were worth. To me, they're priceless.
Okay. But I'm going to put a retail value on them. I would say each one of them is worth $3,500 to $4,500 each.
The pair, probably $7,000 to $9,000.
Well, ain't that something? That's good. Glad to know.
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