From the earliest daguerreotypes through gelatin silver prints and contemporary digital images, Skinner handles a breadth of important historical and fine photography.



Photography is the art of capturing light. While there had been previous attempts to make images permanent, this relatively new medium emerged in the 1830s with the announcement of groundbreaking photographic processes developed by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre in France and William Henry Fox Talbot in England. The daguerreotype, named after its inventor, is a highly detailed, unique image on metal; Talbot’s process produced a negative from which multiple prints could be made.

Photographers constantly experimented with these two innovations, and each successive technique improved upon the others in availability, affordability, and processing speed. Daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes were the first early photographic processes to gain popularity. Talbot’s process was also widely adopted and the supports for negatives evolved from paper to glass plates to flexible film in the 1880s, which made photography accessible to everyone.

Early photographs, the vast majority of which are portraits, offer an important historical and social record, and the value often rests in the story the image tells. Skinner sold two rare daguerreotypes from the Early Photography Collection of Rod MacKenzie for over $15,000 each: one depicted hunters with their dogs and another pictured an architect at work.

Photography in the 20th century presents a range of documentary, artistic, and personal expression—from the photojournalism of Henri-Cartier Bresson to the formalism of Edward Weston to the street photography of Robert Frank. Contemporary photographers including Edward Burtynsky and Cindy Sherman build on these traditions, challenging our understanding of the photographic record and exploring projects that are more conceptual in nature.

Skinner is known for its success handling 19th and early 20th century photograph and has widened its focus to include a greater representation of modern and contemporary photography from around the world as demonstrated by its sale of a set of 10 photographs by Siskind for $43,050 in a Fine Prints & Photography auction in Boston.

Contact the Skinner American & European Works of Art department for evaluation or appraisal of your fine art photography. If you have collected or inherited a fine group of early photographs, the appraisal services team will help evaluate your material and place it with the appropriate expert appraiser.


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