DALLAS – We seemingly spend every second of every day scrolling past infinite images filling the screens perched on our decks and held in our hands. We no longer look at our own family photos; we see everyone else’s, endlessly looped. No moment goes uncaptured now; no memory gets left behind. Now try to imagine a world in which the only image of a person or place was an artist’s interpretation – a painting, print or sculpture. That was the world before the invention of photography in 1839, and not long after that, photographers were sending home images of people and places half a world away. Photography shrank the universe, making the unimaginable tangible, the faraway front and center. Heritage Auctions’ In Focus: 19th Century Photographs auction, which closes Sept. 28, revisits that pivotal moment in human history. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
Indeed, the earliest lot in this sale is A Fruit Piece, taken in 1845 by one of the co-inventors of photography, William Henry Fox Talbot. This self-explanatory photo is a landmark moment given its inclusion in The Pencil of Nature, the very first photo-illustrated publication. And the very print for sale in this auction was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1989.
The 19th century was a time of great invention and experimentation in different photographic processes, as represented by a full-plate Daguerreotype of a distinguished looking group of Californians and a sixth-plate Ambrotype of Abraham Lincoln taken in 1860, as well as an example of the first commercially successful color process, an Autochrome of a Middle Eastern Woman Holding Flowers snapped around 1910.
This auction includes a look from the past that propelled photography into the future courtesy of Eugene Atget, a Parisian street photographer whose modernist style was very influential to 20th century photographs. He is represented here by L’Oranger (with Shadow of Photographer and His Camera), taken circa 1890. One might even say it’s the first selfie, as evidenced by Atget’s shadow in the image.
How far we’ve come. And how much we’ve yet to learn from these extraordinary images of yesterday.
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