Photo greats

Photos by great press photographers of the 20th century

A photo auction of some of the great photographers of the 20th century took place in Paris on Saturday 2 May 2011 , with original one-use only prints by the likes of Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange, the Capas, Robert Frank and more, all selling.

The 200+ collection belonged to old friend John Morris (94), former NYT and Life magazine photo editor who worked at Magnum. Download the catalogue from the link below and enjoy. 

The range of subjects was vast, from photos of war to images of joy, and so were the prices: some photos (all framed!) went for less than 100 euros, though the most expensive was Robert Frank's Nevada, 1956, estimated at 8,000 euros but sold for 32,000. Several others sold for over 20,000 euros, as bidders at the Drouot Av Montaigne vied with courtiers representing anonymous bidders by phone, calling in from North America, Europe and Asia.

We managed to get a Henri Cartier-Bresson signed photo of Maria Eisner, a founder to Magnum, and a stamped original of JFK's hands, tense and expressive during an Oval office meeting 1961, taken by Cornell Capa, the brother of Robert. I also got a photo of Cornell and John opening a bottle of champagne in the Magnum office in New York in 1957.

All of the photos were on display at the Drouot from the previous Wednesday, in what must have truly been one of the most remarkable collections of original photographs ever to be gathered in one room. Many of them are in this photo diary, but after the auction, are now dispersed to the four corners of the planet. Including some on our walls in Paris, of course.

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