I bought a new photograph. Actually, it’s an old photograph that I have been coveting for while. 50 years old. Sea Palms by Wynn Bullock.
Wynn Bullock was the second photographer I really liked back when I was just getting started. Edward Weston was the first, of course. And no, I’ve never really liked the work of their more famous contemporary, Ansel Adams. Loved his instructional books, but was never moved by his work.
The first photography books I owned were “Edward Weston: Photographer” and “Wynn Bullock Photography a Way of Life”. And the first two prints I owned were by Weston and Bullock too. Now I have so many books, I may need to get another house to store them in.
Sea Palms shows an idyllic scene of Palm Trees blowing in a slight breeze above a foggy, coastal canyon. The exposure is long and you can see the trees blowing in the wind. The low lying fog is brilliantly lit by the sun. (The print is far more stunning than the web image up above.) It’s a beautiful scene. Made even more intriguing because all of that description is false. That’s what it looks like, but that’s not what it is. Or maybe I should say more artfully. That’s what it is, but that’s not what it was. Not a recording of the scene, but a transformation. I like that.
Auctions are a funny thing. I’ve been looking for Sea Palms for a long time and it wasn’t really available. There was an auction several years ago in Chicago, but you could tell the print was bad from the online catalog. Then there was a gallery that offered me a print two years ago at a steep discount for only $18,000. They said the print was extremely rare and would sell quickly at that price. I laughed at that. They still have the print. Finally a couple of months ago, a stunning print was up for auction and I bought it. And yes, the gallery’s price is a very, very ridiculous price. Next month a different New York auction house has another print for sale. So if you want one too, …
This is sort of like when Sotheby’s auctioned the “only known print in private hands” of Mapplethorpe’s famous image of the big penis hanging out of a polyester suit a couple years ago. Then the next month, Christie’s sold one too. Oops. Guess Sotheby’s didn’t know much.
Since Sea Palms doesn’t really qualify for this blog, here’s another Bullock image. Sand dunes and a nude woman. Where have we seen that before?