Edward Weston - Inside the Photograph: Further Selections from the Peter C. Bunnell Collection New York Tuesday, October 10, 2023 | Phillips

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  • Edward Weston’s straightforward account of a shell placed within the eroded contours of the Point Lobos landscape has become one of his most recognizable images. Weston included it in his 1932 solo exhibition at Delphic Studios Gallery in New York City and, also in that year, in the f/64 exhibition at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. The photographer included Shell and Rock Arrangement in The Art of Edward Weston, his first monograph, published in 1932.


    Because Weston had deliberately placed the spider conch shell within the landscape, some critics called the photograph contrived. Weston pointed out that this was simply an extension of what he had been doing in the studio with his meticulously composed studies of shells, peppers, and other natural forms. In his Daybooks, he wrote of this image, ‘I have done this too boldly, honestly, to be accused of pretense . . .  My own response in making it was one of emotion from contrasting scale, --the tiny shell in a vast expanse, yet the shell dominating.’    


    The remarkable selection of photographs offered in this online auction comes from the collection of Peter C. Bunnell (1937-2021), the pioneering curator, teacher, and photographic historian. Nearly all lots are sold with No Reserve and the proceeds will be distributed to six institutions with whom Bunnell was associated — Rochester Institute of Technology, Ohio University, Yale University, The George Eastman Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, and Princeton University Art Museum — to establish endowments to support the study of photographic history.


    Bunnell began his long career in photography as a student of Minor White’s at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the 1950s and was recruited by White to work on the seminal periodical of artistic photography, Aperture. He joined the staff of The Museum of Modern Art in 1966 as a collection cataloguer, becoming Associate Curator and then Curator of Photography. At MoMA he curated the noteworthy exhibitions Photography as Printmaking (1968), Photography into Sculpture (1970), and the first retrospective of the work of Clarence H. White (1971). In 1972, he was hired as the inaugural David Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art at Princeton University.


    Bunnell served as Director of the Princeton University Art Museum from 1973 to 1978, and as Acting Director from 1998 to 2000, and was also the Museum’s Curator of Photography throughout the entirety of his tenure. Bunnell built a broad-ranging collection of photographs at the Museum, the firsthand examination of which became a central element of the student experience in his classes and seminars. Bunnell also assembled a personal collection of photography over the course of his long career that reflects his vast and deep understanding of the medium. Begun in the 1950s, before photography galleries and dealers were commonplace, Bunnell’s collection is a deeply personal one, put together with a sense of joy and curiosity that includes both icons and lesser-known gems spanning the history of photography.

    • Provenance

      Collection of Peter C. Bunnell, Princeton, New Jersey

    • Literature

      Conger, Edward Weston: Photographs from the Collection of the Center for Creative Photography, n.p., fig. 655
      Maddow, Edward Weston: Fifty Years, pl. 135
      Stebbins, Edward Weston: Photography and Modernism, p. 95, figure 18

Inside the Photograph: Further Selections from the Peter C. Bunnell Collection


Shell and Rock - Arrangement

Gelatin silver print, probably printed in the 1940s.
7 1/2 x 9 3/8 in. (19.1 x 23.8 cm)
Initialed and dated in pencil on the mount; signed, titled, dated and negative number '15 S' in pencil on the reverse of the mount.

Full Cataloguing

$15,000 - 25,000 

Sold for $13,970

Contact Specialist

Christopher Mahoney
Senior International Specialist

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairwoman

Inside the Photograph: Further Selections from the Peter C. Bunnell Collection

10 - 17 October 2023