Harry Callahan - Photographs New York Wednesday, October 12, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Peter C. Bunnell curated an exhibition of Harry Callahan’s work at the American Pavilion at the 1978 Venice Biennale. The exhibition was accompanied by a printed catalogue published that same year with text by Bunnell. In his essay, Bunnell discusses two of Callahan’s stated influences – László Moholy-Nagy and Walker Evans – and how their divergent practices combine in Callahan’s work: 

    ‘This seeming polarity of influences and interest – Moholy-Nagy and Walker Evans – is not contradictory. Each artist projected an individualized stylization, and their views about the medium are becoming more widely comprehended today as we come to recognize that photography is such that the direct, so-called straight approach is no less manipulative than the more synthetic approach, which is erroneously associated with experimentation and exploitation. This attitude, however, has not always been widely held, and in the past these have been mutually distrustful traditions. It is because of their fusion in Callahan’s work that a more sensible contemporary attitude has been forged. The fact that Callahan vests his most dramatic manipulative work in the camera, and not in the darkroom, places the locus where it belongs—with the vision of the photographer. We must understand that for most other photographers it is necessary to experience vision, but for Callahan, to see is vision.’


    The remarkable selection of photographs offered in this auction as lots 143 through 167 all come from the collection of Peter C. Bunnell (1937-2021), the pioneering curator, teacher, and photographic historian. Bunnell began his long career in photography as a student of Minor White’s at the Rochester Institute of Photography 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 1960 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, while also being 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. ‘These photographs are used,’ he said, ‘they don't just sit around in boxes.’ Bunnell published widely on many photographers and photographic subjects. He was the acknowledged authority on the work of both Minor White and Clarence H. White, and it was through him that the archives of these two major photographs now reside at Princeton. As a teacher and a mentor, Bunnell professionalized the study of photographic history, conferring a higher degree of rigor and status to the medium, and inspiring an entire generation of curators and photographers.


    Bunnell also built a personal collection of photography over the course of his long career that reflects his vast and deep understanding of photography. Begun in the 1950s, before photography galleries and dealers were commonplace, the collection incorporates some outstanding rarities by Ansel Adams, his teacher and mentor Minor White, Edward Weston, Walker Evans, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Harry Callahan, Frederick Sommer, his friend Jerry Uelsmann, and many other photographers who touched his life or his sensibility in some important way. It is a deeply personal collection put together with a sense of joy and curiosity that includes both icons and lesser-known gems spanning the history of photography.


    This auction’s 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

      Szarkowski, Callahan, pl. 111

A Reverence for Beauty: The Peter C. Bunnell Collection, Part 1



circa 1956
Gelatin silver print.
7 5/8 x 9 5/8 in. (19.4 x 24.4 cm)
Signed in pencil on the verso.

Full Cataloguing

$6,000 - 8,000 

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs, New York

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairwoman, Americas


New York Auction 12 October 2022