Photo Review’s annual auction–we were there


We constantly get hit up to write about all the auction/fundraisers out there (we rarely do; it’s all you’d end up reading here if we covered them in a serious way).

The Photo Review Editor Stephen Perloff running the auction. Photo from Photo Review Facebook page,

But we found ourselves at The Photo Review‘s photography auction Saturday to accept the Photo Review’s annual award “for our support of the arts and photography in Philadelphia.” The Photo Review itself, a publication begun in 1976, is an important Mid-Atlantic-Region resource about photography, particularly known for its lucid writing and its international annual photo competition.

This auction is an annual event for them and their major fundraiser.

Appropriately, the auction host was Freeman’s, the auction house on Chestnut Street. Two very young men in slim dark suits (Freeman’s employees we guessed) finally got the technology going about 20 minutes behind schedule.

Here we are enjoying the bidding. Our award placque is on the right. Photo by William Williams. Thanks, Willy!!

The best part of this auction was it was live and we could hear–and clearly understand–the auctioneer (publisher Stephen Perloff himself did the duties with charm and efficiency). We sat in quiet rows with about 80 to 100 others. People waved their numbers to bid. Very professional!! A catalog of offerings in magazine form had gone out in the mail, just like when the big boys do auctions, so people came prepared!

One of the young men who got the computers working called out online bids during the auction, which included 240 items. A vintage Edward S.Curtis went for a song. A recent print of an astonishing-looking Native American–a recent print from a ca. 1900 Gertrude Kasebier — was a steal at $400. Bargains were to be had.

By time we left, at just about the half-way point, the auction had raised about $23,000. We were sorry to miss the bidding on Gary Gross’ infamous, sexy images of Brooke Shields at age 14. We asked and Perloff told us they sold.

We especially enjoyed when bidding wars broke out.

So how did the Photo Review do? “Better than two years ago, and down a bit from last year’s,” Perloff said. He blamed the economy:  “So’s Christie’s and everyone else” seeing a drop in their numbers. But he thinks some more offers will come in for the work that’s remaining.

One regular at the auction was Ed Spector, a retired mathematics teacher. He thinks he bought 11 images, but who’s counting?  Where are you going to put them, we wanted to know. “Most, I’ll have to put them in [flat files]. …We have room in Florida,” he said a little sadly.


edward s. curtis, freeman's auctioneers, gertrude kasebier, stephen perloff



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