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Photo Analysis

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4. Roger Fenton
The Valley of the Shadow of Death, 1856. Vintage salt print; edition unknown.

Estimate: $3,000 to $5,000. The British government sent Roger Fenton to document the Crimean War, with the proviso that he not photograph the dead or wounded. He came home with benign military still lifes, as well as this chilling image filled with cannonballs, which Susan Sontag describes in “Regarding the Pain of Others” as “a portrait of death without the dead.”

Market details: Nineteenth-century prints are scarce but not sexy—“a bargain basement,” says Joshua Holdeman, director of Christie’s photographs department. This print has slight “foxing,” or brownish spotting, where it’s mounted, which may account for the low estimate. “But as [early] prints continue to dry up and the choices become more limited, pristine condition becomes less of an issue,” says dealer Bruce Silverstein.

Prospects: This should sail over its estimate, unless the fussier buyers balk at the discoloration.


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