Welcome to today’s feature, in which I highlight a few more photographs we have for sale in our upcoming auction. I would like to direct your attention to some pairings that were too coincidental not to point out. Each image serves as a foil for the other.
Circus, Now-ish and Then
In these two great images of the circus, we see differences in styles and standards for both photography and circus arts. On the left, Alvin Gilens’ photograph uses contrast and darkness to highlight the performer’s lines, which are accentuated by their sleek costume. The bright circle of the balloon and the flat platform add to the geometry of this clean image. On the right, in H.A. Atwell’s vintage photograph, the set and perspective bring out faint lines and shapes, but not the performer herself. With a puffy hat, fur-trimmed dress, and satiny bloomers, this circus act is not made to highlight the performer’s lines or shape. The facelessness of the performer on the left and the downward gaze of the performer on the right dim the whimsy in these images. Both are priced mid-range: Gilens’ is estimated at $300–600 and Atwell’s at $500–700.
Not Quite Tandem Bikes
As an avid cyclist myself, I have a special place in my heart for bike-sharing. Both these photographs are pieces of Americana in their own right. The four-wheeler on the left is wonderfully odd and is actually a great example of how human-propelled machines (bicycles and otherwise) came to be seen as a children’s hobby as cars gained popularity in the U.S. at that time. With the stone-and-brick house, new electrical wires at the top of the image, American flag, wooden “play shed,” Teddy Bear, and so many more details, the photograph on the left gives a wonderful picture of that era. Gerald Cyrus’ photograph does the same for Harlem in the ’90s. Nikes without laces, a street vendor, stirrup pants, shop signs from a decade prior to the ’90s, the Huffy brand bike, and the gates on the shops are just a few of the details that paint this picture. Cyrus is known for his location-specific, humanistic, anthropological photographs. This photo was taken during his time in New York after studying at SVA. He is now based in Philadelphia.
At the Fair
On the left, a baby with a scar on her shin stares almost-blankly at the photographer while her family looks towards the sideshow sign. Despite so much going on in the photo, it is the combination of the baby’s striking look and her dark face that draws in the viewer. There are many people, but the only other face we see is in an illustration of a topless sideshow feature, presumably supposed to be a “native” or “exotic” character, displaying the sideshow’s cringe-worthy insensitivity to race. An illustration of a turtle shell (with the head of a woman?) wonderfully mirrors the shape of the father and older daughter’s era-specific hats. The photographer, Harold Feinstein, is widely known for his Coney Island photographs. He is now in his 80s and has returned to the darkroom after a 12-year hiatus.
Quite alternatively, the photograph on the right is full of people with faces, with their backs to a quaint backdrop. There are others partially cropped out of the picture, making a frame of knees and elbows. This is a great classic shot of a photo of a photo being taken.
Last but not least, here are some downright silly photos, all from New York City—great for anyone who loves llamas, misplaced Sesame Street themes, or the NYC SantaCon.