Kate shines in the auction room

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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