Photographs: An Editor-in-Chief's Picks

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Launch Slideshow

Surface magazine editor-in-chief Spencer Bailey selected some of his favourite works from Sotheby’s upcoming Photographs sale.

Photographs 
New York | 7 October

Photographs: An Editor-in-Chief's Picks

  • Robert Adams, 'Colorado'. Estimate: $12,000–18,000.
    “I was born and raised in Colorado, so naturally I’m a sucker for this one . The artist’s retrospective at the Denver Art Museum in 2011 turned me into an Adamsphile; the show’s photographs introduced me to a whole new side of the American West. To me, his work celebrates escape—if look at his photographs long enough, you feel like you’re there with him. I enjoy this one in particular for its tension. You literally see industrial America (a Mobil station billboard, a pickup truck, the highway) encroaching on farmland. There’s quietness to it. The photograph is beautifully composed, despite the fact that the scenery in it isn’t necessarily so.”

  • Frederick Sommer, 'Arizona Landscape'. Estimate: $25,000–35,000.
    This photograph grabbed me instantly. I noticed an architectural language in its composition. I wasn’t familiar with Sommer or his work, so I Googled him and discovered he received a master’s degree in landscape architecture from Cornell in 1927. It seems to me that this training shows up in his work. The landscape in this image at first appears almost flat, but upon closer look, you see a complex, constellation-like framework of interconnecting surfaces.”

  • Lee Friedlander, 'NYC' (Father Duffy). Estimate: 12,000–18,000.
    “Few photographers have captured New York City, past or present , quite like Friedlander. There are so many ways to look at his images. I don’t view this photograph as a religious one, even though the statue of Father Duffy is in the center of it. It’s not about commercialism, either, even with the Coca-Cola billboard across the top. Rather, I think Friedlander was capturing the layers of the place—the idea that as much as the city and Times Square had changed, it had remained the same.”

  • Hiromu Kira, 'Curves'. Estimate: $10,000–15,000.
    “I noticed that this photograph was first shown in a 1930 exhibition in Chicago. That surprised me. Something about it seems so timeless. Kira’s image captures a feeling that’s at once Eastern and Western or even placeless. I can’t help but think of his connection to the spirit of Isamu Noguchi, another 20th-century Japanese-American artist who treaded between his Japanese and American identities, often subtly referencing them in his work.”

  • André Kertész, 'Martinique'. Estimate: $10,000–15,000.
    “I wasn’t familiar with Kertész’s work before seeing this image , but it stuck out to me for being visually simple and complex at the same time. It makes you wonder: ‘Who is that beyond the other side of the frosted glass?’ The framing—how the plane of the balcony meets the horizontal line dividing the ocean and the sky—is brilliant. It’s a picture of pondering and, I think, longing. Perhaps the figure is looking out at the ocean, thinking of all of life’s possibilities, dreaming of a world beyond Martinique. Or maybe not. There’s a strange beauty in it.”

  • Hiroshi Sugimoto, 'Baltic Sea, Rügen' (triptych). Estimate: $100,000–200,000.
    “In 2012, I interviewed and wrote about Sugimoto for Surface and got to take an in-depth look into his work. What stood out to me above everything else was his understanding of—and rare ability to capture—light. These particular works , part of his ‘Seascapes’ series, may appear straightforward or ordinary, but the longer you look at them, you discover there’s a great level of depth. They’re not just three photographs of oceans; they’re images exploring the mysterious atmospheres and environments found on this place we call Earth.”

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