Rare and antique cameras — just the kind we used to have years ago — are showing up on auction blocks these days, and none has made a bigger splash than WestLicht Photographica auction in Vienna, Austria. Two of the cameras I actually had back in the 50s, trading them in for new models many years ago. At the time, it was the only way I could afford the new models. From that era, a Leica MP2 sold for more than $300,000 and a Nikon (rangefinder) S2-E went for almost $190,000.
In the art market, at the December auctions in New York, Christie’s got $30,000 for Irving Penn’s “Dorian Leigh and Ray Bolger, Vogue cover” and Ansel Adams “Half Dome, Merced River, Winter, Yosemite” also went for $30,000. An earlier print of the same Adams picture sold for $62,500 in the June auctions. But at that time, a record was established by a Robert Rauschenberg print, “Japanese Sky” which sold for $242,500. At Swann Galleries, Robert Frank’s “Charleston , South Carolina” (an image of the African-American woman holding a white baby) went for $14,400.
The recession didn’t affect prices in the art markets as much as the number of those willing to bid significant numbers.