Jerry Uelsmann - The Eye That Shapes: Further Selections from the Peter C. Bunnell Collection New York Wednesday, January 25, 2023 | Phillips
  • 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. 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 met photographer Jerry Uelsmann during their student days at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the 1950s. The two went on to become lifelong friends and colleagues in the field of photography. Uelsmann’s work, which increasingly involved the practice of incorporating multiple negatives into a single print, dovetailed with Bunnell’s progressive view of photography, and the young curator included the photographer’s work in his seminal 1968 exhibition Photography as Printmaking at The Museum of Modern Art.  Bunnell went on to contribute text to the Uelsmann monographs Jerry N. Uelsmann (1970); Silver Meditations (1975), and Museum Studies (1999).

    “Uelsmann’s art is essentially direct rather than allusive, and his pictures appear analogous to that believable reality so fundamental to photography. But herein is the rub: Uelsmann’s interpretive vision pervades each work and causes us to ponder whether reality is really quite so true as invention.”
    —Peter C. Bunnell 

    Silver Meditations (1975)

    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. 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. 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

      Acquired from the photographer
      Collection of Peter C. Bunnell, Princeton, New Jersey

    • Literature

      Coleman, Jerry Uelsmann: Photosynthesis, p. 44

The Eye That Shapes: Further Selections from the Peter C. Bunnell Collection


Lot offered with No Reserve

Room #1

Gelatin silver print.
9 x 13 1/2 in. (22.9 x 34.3 cm)
Initialed and dated in pencil on the mount; signed, titled and dated in ink on the reverse of the mount.

Full Cataloguing

$1,500 - 2,500 

Sold for $5,670

Contact Specialist

Christopher Mahoney

Senior International Specialist


Vanessa Hallett

Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairwoman

The Eye That Shapes: Further Selections from the Peter C. Bunnell Collection

Online Auction 25 January - 1 February 2023