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Fashion greats: The Four Musketeers

In 2011 the ten most expensive fashion photographs included the big three: Irving Penn, Richard Avedon and Peter Lindbergh, and of course also Helmut Newton who is part of the top four.

The death of both Avedon and Newton in 2004 caused a price acceleration in contemporary photography, and it was certainly also the year in which fashion photography became an inherent part in all auctions.

Irving Penn became one of the greats when he got published on the cover of Vogue in 1943. It is curious that his career with over 65 covers coincides with the years when fashion was revolutionized with a different way to take photos.

His favourite model Lisa Fonssagrives, ended up being his wife in 1950. A true muse, who was the inspiration of some of the finest photographs of fashion throughout the 50′s.

One of those pictures, Woman in Moroccan Palace, was valued last December in Paris for 300,000 euro, and that same day the photo entitled Harlequin Dress was sold for 220,000 euro.

Penn is to fashion photography what Picasso was to painting. In auctions from 2005 to now, his photographs has reached the incredible sums of between 2 and 4 million dollars annually which is far from the 100,000 his photographs were sold for during the 90′s.

No one thinks it was temporary, but rather a substantive durable shift. ”It started in 1971 with a first circle of insiders interested in the historical photography of the nineteenth century, primitive, and subsequently photographers from the interwar period and since 1990 other forms such as plastic photography etc”.

Looking at the list of the works of fashion that appear at auctions, we see that along with contemporary and Modernist photography new records are continuously broken.

This is the case of “Dovima between elephants” (1955). Undoubtedly the most famous photo of Avedon and one of his own favourites. This large format exhibition copy – the only one in this size, 216.8 cm x 166.7 cm, presided over his study until the end of his days. A sentimental, almost fetishist value, which explains the price achieved: 841,000 euro. A record for the photographer, who died in 2004.

And also to France it is the most expensive photograph ever sold at an auction. Proof that fashion photography, undermined during a long time as a rather light subspecies, has been climbing. A few years ago this cliché would perhaps not have exceeded even five or ten thousand euros. ”It’s a genre that in the last three or four years has experienced a real boom”, added the head of photograph auctions at Christie’s, confirming the constant and unstoppable rise of the value of such portraits.

As recently as five years ago only the German Horst P. Horst, a pioneer in immortalizing the world of fashion, could boast of having carved a niche among buyers of collection photography. More recently, names like Newton, Penn or Avedon also make the bids rocket.”Especially among the younger generations”.



  1. Píldoras de moda / 23 May 2012

    Me fascina la fotografía de moda. Y creo que a mucha gente también. En mi blog, cuando saco un post sobre fotógrafos, suben las visitas que da gusto. Gracias por compartir esta belleza.


  2. Pilar Mandl / 20 June 2012

    Y además la calidad de las imágenes… ese maravilloso contraste del blanco y negro, esa gama de grises… sí, los grandes son grandes por algo.


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