Fear & Loathing, Death & Beauty: Life Through the Lens of the World's Most Famous Photographers

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Launch Slideshow

The Photographs sale in London on the 16 May includes work spanning the history of photography, from the elegant Modernism of Constantin Brancusi, through to the contemporary constructed scenes of Tim Walker and Alex Prager. The auction coincides with Photo London, which brings the world's leading galleries and collectors to the city for a week of exhibitions, events, talks and seminars. Click through to see highlights from the sale.

Fear & Loathing, Death & Beauty: Life Through the Lens of the World's Most Famous Photographers

  • Nobuyoshi Araki, Untitled (from the series Flowers and Tokyo Shijyo), 1998.
    Estimate £18,000-25,000.
    In an interview with Nan Goldin in 1995, Nobuyoshi Araki explained, "Photography was destined to be involved with death. Reality is in colour, but at its beginnings photography always discoloured reality and turned it into black and white. Colour is life, black and white is death. A ghost was hiding in the invention of photography." This notion is perfectly represented in this beautiful set of six prints, Untitled (from the series Flowers and Tokyo Shijyo), 1998, a work created by the juxtaposition of images belonging to the artist’s series of Flowers and archived stills recovered from his 1970s film, Death Reality.
  • Constantin Brancusi, Bouquet, 1930. Estimate £40,000-60,000.
    After meeting Man Ray in Paris in 1921, Constantin Brancusi was drawn to incorporate photography into his greater artistic practice. Although Brancusi is best known for his influential abstract sculptures, his use of the photographic medium was designed to not only document his works but to translate and progress his creations into the light-manipulated two-dimensional realm. As a result, he is considered one of the most innovative image-makers in the history of photography.
  • Irving Penn, Fishmonger, London, 1950. Estimate £30,000-50,000.
    This powerful platinum print belongs to Penn’s series Small Trades, which he began photographing in 1950 in London, Paris and New York. He sought to document trades that would eventually disappear and as a result this body of work stands as a historical piece of the mid-20th century. The portraits were executed in the same simple manner as his fashion works were conducted. Penn welcomed to his atelier the subjects, who had previously been scouted by his assistant, and captured them in their full work attire accompanied by tools of their occupation.
  • Richard Avedon, Dovima with Elephants, Evening Dress by Dior, Cirque D'Hiver, Paris, 1955. Estimate £30,000-50,000.
    Dovima who was one of the most successful models at the time, dressed in an early creation of Yves Saint-Laurent for the House of Dior, is set against a neutral background guarded by elephants. This shot resulted in what is arguably Avedon’s most iconic photograph. This image beautifully captures the photographer’s talent to depict women and fashion. Although Avedon mostly shot in a studio space, as opposed to on location, he wanted his shots to be full of movement and livelihood. By adding movement to the model’s posture and using exciting elements in the composition he blurred the line between commercial fashion photography and art.
  • Helmut Newton, Debra and Red, Exterior, Beverly Hills, 1991. Estimate £50,000-70,000.
    Arguably one of the most controversial fashion photographers of the late 20th century, Helmut Newton was a pioneer and an innovative image-maker. As seen in this nude, Newton had an admiration for strong and powerful women. His take on the female nude was unseen at the time, featuring overtones of fetishism, sadomasochism and lesbianism.
  • Helmut Newton, Bergstrøm and Meccano set, Paris, 1977. Estimate £12,000–18,000.
    Helmut Newton’s practice has a very characteristic photographic style which has been referred to as erotic-urban, all underpinned with his heavily voyeuristic nature and technical prowess. Images such as this one were his way of depicting the modern women in a new light. “I don’t like white paper backgrounds. A woman does not live in front of white paper. She lives on the street, in a motor car, in a hotel room”.
  • Peter Lindbergh, Estelle Lefébure, Karen Alexander, Rachel Williams, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz, Christy Turlington, Santa Monica, California, USA, 1988.
    Estimate £60,000-80,000.
    “I was trying to photograph them in a different way, but nobody seemed to care back then… I wanted to move away from the rather formal, perfectly styled woman who was very artificial. I was more concerned about a more outspoken, adventurous woman in control of her life and not too concerned about her social status emancipated by masculine protection.”

    This notion was clearly highlighted in what is one of Lindbergh’s most iconic images and a seminal work in fashion photography. Captured in simple white shirts, bearing powerful expressions, the models transmit the new understanding of the independent woman.

    Read Peter Lindbergh & The Birth of the Supermodels
  • Peter Beard, Loliondo Lion Charge, for the End of the Game / Last word from Paradise, 1964. Estimate £60,000-80,000.
    This unique impressive mural-size photograph was assembled by Peter Beard in the 1990s. He used one of his most striking images of the Lion attack, adding the dramatic black and white images of bones in each corner and his typical hand mark. He also incorporated a bloodied shirt by the fashion designer and friend Cerruti after sharing the misadventure of an ill-fated journalist who finished in the jaws of a crocodile. The plexiglass case was custom-made by the artist and transforms the photograph into a one-of-a-kind Peter Beard object.
  • Chris Levine, Lightness of Being (Pink Gel), 2011.
    Estimate £40,000-60,000.
    Renowned for his work with lights, laser and holography, Chris Levine has built a cult following with his iconic portraits of some of the most photographed women of all time, including Grace Jones, Kate Moss and as presented here, Queen Elizabeth II. Levine’s meditative view of the Queen is an unusual portrayal of Her Majesty. As the artist puts it: "Stillness is a portal to the divine, and by taking my subjects towards stillness, it allows for a more soulful connection with the subject, and that light radiates in the work." Through the artist’s deft handling of lenticular printing, we are presented with an overall sensory experience and visual offering of Her Majesty in the form of this powerful and rare lightbox.
  • Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, 1986.
    Estimate £15,000-20,000.
    Over the years, Robert Mapplethorpe and Andy Warhol met numerous times in both social and professional environments. Mapplethorpe, as his muse Patti Smith recalls, “loved Andy Warhol and considered him our most important living artist. It was as close to hero worship as he ever got”. Having previously taken Warhol’s photograph in 1983, this silver print, Andy Warhol, 1986 depicts the artist in a more relaxed manner than he had shown in his earlier images. This is due to the augmented respect Warhol had grown for the photographer over the years, seeing him more as an equal as opposed to yet another follower.
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