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

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  • 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. In 1971, while Curator of Photography at MoMA, Bunnell organized the exhibition Photographs by Robert Adams and Emmet Gowin, marking each photographer’s first show in New York City. Of Gowin’s work, Bunnell wrote in the press release, ‘his photographs give us an intensely subjective vision of his own private world.’ 


    Gowin’s hometown of Danville, Virginia, serves as the backdrop for a significant portion of his oeuvre, as in the image on offer. Striking in its elegant simplicity and center-weighted composition, Post, Danville, VA, foregrounds the domestic structure of the porch post as contrasted to the organic, lush forms of the surrounding yard. Bunnell included Post, Danville, VA, in the exhibition alongside additional environmental vignettes and intimate portraits of Gowin’s beloved wife, Edith, and her family on their farm. Gowin’s rendering of a seemingly mundane fixture in such an intimate manner aligns with his interest in making pictures which resemble home snapshots, a genre he considers ‘one of the richest resources of strong images I know of.’


    A selection of Gowin’s works in the exhibition Photographs by Robert Adams and Emmet Gowin, MoMA, 1972, showing Post, Danville, VA, sixth from the left. 

    Two years after the exhibition, Gowin secured a teaching position at Princeton University following the completion of his graduate studies at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he had studied under Harry Callahan. The first ‘fine art’ photographer on faculty at Princeton, Gowin proved an integral part of the art department and was regarded for his ability to articulate the evocative qualities of the medium. Gowin and Bunnell became colleagues at Princeton as 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.


    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.

    • Provenance

      Collection of Peter C. Bunnell, Princeton, New Jersey

    • Literature

      Knopf, Emmet Gowin: Photographs, p. 23

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


Lot offered with No Reserve

Post, Danville, VA

Gelatin silver print.
5 1/2 x 6 3/4 in. (14 x 17.1 cm)
Signed, titled and dated in pencil on the mount.

Full Cataloguing

$1,000 - 1,500 

Sold for $2,286

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