Archive for May, 2007

Kate shines in the auction room

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

In the late 80’s a representative from Christie’s in London said my work would never sell at auction because I was viewed as being too ‘commercial’. After publishing eight books of creative photography plus dozens of exhibitions of personal creative work and hundreds of articles about my work, not to mention the slide show of 400+ creative images set to music that has been shown to audiences in some two dozen countries, the derogatory ‘commercial’ label was always perplexing. Who ‘decides’ such nonsense?! Thankfully some contemporary auctioneers, curators and collectors are more enlightened.

Today, Kate wore her spurs into Christie’s London auction rooms where she was greeted by a giant image of herself at the entrance. The maquette fetched the highest price of all the lots at the Photo Books sale. Without the original box, this assembly of 157 gelatine silver prints made for the London publisher of the first edition of Kate, sold for $75,000 (auctioneer’s estimate $40,000 – $59,000) to an anonymous New York collector. The winning bid was placed by Harper Levine of Harpers Books Inc. NY. Philippe Garner who wrote a foreword to the new 2006 edition of Cowboy Kate, was the auctioneer.

While having been heavily perused over the past four decades it was heart warming to see how well the prints had held up. The back-to-back dry mounting on several pages was coming apart (not a big deal for a restorer to fix) but the actual prints were still sparkling.

The cover of the Christie’s catalogue is reproduced below.


The thumbnails below are the double page spreads from the maquette that Christie’s used in their catalogue.

The accompanying text has been reproduced from the lot description in the auction catalogue.

A ‘revered photobook’ (The Photobook), and one of the defining books of its time, Cowboy Kate won the Prix Nadar that year, and sold nearly a million copies in all international editions. Norman Hall, the editor of the influential Photography Magazine and Photography Yearbook writes in his introduction: ‘there is a classic quality about the way in which Sam Haskins exploits every subtle gradation of the grey scale with a mastery few can equal. This capacity of extracting just what he requires from the complete range of tone, this gift of selection, of emphasis or suppression, which comes from absolute control and above all his unerring sense of design, make Cowboy Kate one of the most impressive pieces of sustained photography I have seen’.

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The Environment of the Human Mind

Friday, May 25th, 2007

This week produced one of those distressing stories where a local event comes to symbolise a global crisis.

A landowner in Australia destroyed one of the country’s premier wetland bird sites. An area equivalent to 750 football fields, with a unique variety of established bird colonies and many rare plants was simply leveled with bulldozers. Apart from anything else, it is hard to imagine, notwithstanding the laws that forbid this type of destruction on protected land, what economic benefit could exceed the potential of turning this site into an eco-tourism business.

The Sydney Morning Herald has covered the story – here and here.

So often the perceived short term economic gain overrides the increasing evidence that sustainability in general is better business. While some areas of environmental care obviously require investment – especially energy production and transport – businesses that embrace sustainable management report short term savings and increased long term profit. When hard numbers support action, irrespective of whether the motive is profit or the shear instinctive terror of seeing our planet under such immense overall pressure, one would think that good sense would prevail. Unfortunately, the human mind loves clinging to old habits.

For a background on the loss of wetlands, see the Action Bioscience web site.

The ‘bird’ below was made from mounting board and coloured tissue paper. The ‘trees’ were dried twigs and the image was constructed from a sandwich of two exposures. I built the set and made the photograph in my Wimbledon studio during the late 80s.


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Darcey Bussell Retires

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

Ballet casts a unique spell. Words like ‘dreams’, ‘fantasy’ and ‘fairy tale’ are used to describe both ballet and the career of the extraordinary ballerina Bussell. While ballet certainly encompasses dreams and fantasy, it is also, among other things, a visceral projection of feminine mystique and power, precision, discipline and artistic and erotic refinement.

Articles on Darcey Bussell and her career can be found in The Stage Magazine, The Guardian, and The Telegraph

For clarity the individual images in this spread are shown below.




The Ballet Stool shot in the spread above and the image below were taken on a set I built in my studio in London in the 80’s.

Ballet Hair Styling

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Saturday, May 12th, 2007

Once upon a time the Olympics was about, sport, beauty and art. In recent years we have had Olympics marred by excessive commercialism (Atlanta), terrorism (Atlanta and Munich), drugs (every modern games) politics (1980 USA boycott Soviet Olympics – 1984 Soviets reciprocate with Los Angeles games) and war (every world war and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan).

This year, campaigners desperate for political leverage, are putting pressure on China with a threatened ‘Genocide Olympics’ press campaign, to stop supporting the regime in Khartoum, with whom they do a lot of business.

One can only sympathise with the campaigners desperate to end the killing in Darfur but its sad to see the years of work put in by athletes, designers and organisers being manipulated into a distracting media coup because the world cannot find a way to keep the Olympics pure, to respect the athletes and their short time in the limelight after years of working in obscurity.

Double Jump 02

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