COLOGNE – Auction Team Breker’s sale of Photographica and Film on Saturday, March 16, is a snapshot of photographic history, from Fox Talbot’s earliest experiments with silver salts to high-grade modern lenses and cameras by Leitz and Nikon. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.
A spectrum of 19th century photographic processes, the auction draws on a select single-owner European collection of classic “mahogany and brass” cameras. Highlights range from wet-plate collodion studio equipment to novelty pieces for the fashionable gentleman photographer of the 1890s, such as a fine replica of a rare Ben Akiba Walking Cane disguised camera
Daguerreotypes, the pioneering photographic process of the mid-19th century is well represented in images as well as the camera.
The earliest image in the auction is a circa 1835 photogenic drawing of Lacock Abbey by William Henry Fox Talbot. His photogenic drawing relied on the action of light upon sensitive paper infused with silver salts, a process described by its inventor in his 1844 photographic book The Pencil of Nature as the work of “optical and chemical means alone.” These delicate moments out of time, with their “completeness of detail and correctness of perspective,” are the first photographic images on paper.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the English Channel, Frenchman Louis-Jacques Mandé Daguerre’s daguerreotype process was producing images of incredible depth and precision on silvered copper plates.
The growing fascination with moving images at the close of the 19th century inspired ingenious optical toys built around the theory of the persistence of vision at play in various forms since antiquity.
The world of postwar photography is also clearly in focus, with a range of stunning classics from Germany and Japan, rare formats, good usable lenses and even the occasional “spy” camera.
What makes the Nikon SP rangefinder in the auction extraordinary is its super-fast 5cm f/1.1 lens. A key design feature of the was the use of a newly developed type of optical glass made with the rare-earth element lanthanum (LA) in three convex (positive) lenses. The camera and rare lens have a €9,000-€10,000 / $10,189-$11,320 estimate.
Leica cameras highlighted in the sale include an M4-M black paint equipped with a New York-made Leitz motor drive (est. €7,000-€9,000 / $7,925-$10,189) and an IIIf Midland assembled in Canada in 1953 (est. €8,000-€10,000 / $9,056-$11,320).
The auction also offers several porcelain figures of photographers and magic lanternists, including one by Meissen, circa 1905.