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  • Catalogue Essay

    In 1978, Joel Sternfeld embarked on a cross-country journey to document the complex physical and cultural landscape of America. Motivated by the work of Walker Evans and Robert Frank but determined to amplify the visual resonance of his own photographs in the style of William Eggleston, Sternfeld shot with color film which would become a defining characteristic of his momentous body of work, American Prospects.

    On December 4, 1978, Sternfeld photographed a burning house fire in McLean, Virginia. As the flames erupt through the roof, a fireman is seen in the foreground perusing a decaying pumpkin patch, thereby highlighting the irony and contradiction prevalent in American culture. A day later, Sternfeld went back to document the aftermath of the fire and, as we see in the present lot, there he found a completely different scene from the one he had left. The burning house was reduced to a clearing
    with only a slight gap in the forest to suggest its previous presence and the pumpkin patch was replaced with a Christmas tree farm. The resulting image alludes to the perseverance of a community intent to move beyond hardship and draw from a resilient spirit.


McLean, Virginia, December 5

Digital color coupler print, printed 2006.
42 x 52 1/2 in. (106.7 x 133.4 cm)
Signed, numbered 4/10 in ink, printed title and date on a gallery label affixed to the reverse of the mount.

$12,000 - 18,000 

Contact Specialist
Vanessa Kramer Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs
[email protected]
+ 1 212 940 1245


4 April 2012
New York