Several incredibly artifacts of photographic history went under the hammer over the weekend for some extraordinary amounts of money, including prototype and first official runs of highly influential pieces of equipment and images of immense cultural significance.
The WestLicht Anniversary Auctions are known for the superb treasure troves of exquisite photographica they make available for purchase and this edition (WestLicht’s 30th) was no exception.
We mentioned earlier in November that an original Nikon One would be going up for auction. However, it is now apparent that estimates as to its sales potential were wildly underestimated. Made in April 1948, the third ever serially produced – and earliest known surviving – Nikon camera in the world; it was originally estimated to sell for around €180,000 (US$191,300). On the day, this one-of-a-kind Nikon managed to more than double that figure, with a final sales price of €384,000 (US$407,900). The figure breaks the record for the highest price ever paid for a Nikon at auction.
A selection of extremely rare Leicas were also sold at the event, two of which were unique prototype gun rifle style cameras. The RITOO and RITEL sold (after heavy bidding) for €168,000 (US$178,560) each. Previously unknown and never produced commercially, they had been manufactured by E. Leitz New York and presented to the public in July 1938. An M3 Leica that had belonged to legendary Magnum photographer Herbert List was also sold for €78,000 (US$82,930).
The final highlight piece of equipment sold at the auction should enthral aficionados of early cinema; an actual hand cranked Lumière Cinématographe. Produced in the 1890’s, it was the first type of film camera in existence, and could also function as a projector. Surprisingly it was snatched up for just €90,000 (US$95,719).
There were also photographic prints bought that should be instantly recognisable to absolutely anyone. Chief among these was a copy of Alfred Eisenstaedt’s legendary 1945 ‘V-J Day Kiss’. Depicting a sailor kissing a nurse in the centre of Times Square at the announcement of the end of WWII, it is a photograph of such emotional intensity that it has been recreated and referenced repeatedly. Though there has been some debate over the identity of the subjects, the moment came to symbolise a moment in history like no other. It was sold for US$48,000 to a private collector.
Another Times Square-set print, of the ultimate Hollywood rebel, James Dean, made a welcome appearance. Often seen in the form of posters in hipster coffee shops and student dorms, the highest recorded sales record for this image was broken when a print sold at €38,400 (US$40,880). This classic photo of one cinema’s first kings of cool strolling with a cigarette in the rain was taken by Dennis Stock in 1955.
Sharing a wartime theme with the ‘V-J Day Kiss’, the 1945 image ‘Raising of the US flag on Iwo Jima’ by Joe Rosenthal went for €24,000 (US$25,550). Though there were originally rumours that this powerful image of U.S marines claiming Mount Suribachi was actually staged (and was the subject of Clint Eastwood’s film Flags of Our Fathers), photography experts now believe that it legitimately captures one of the most important events of the war in the Pacific.
You can find out more about the WestLicht auction and upcoming sales on their website.