“Hey! … Got any fucked-up photographs?” No, I don’t recall ever hearing those words at a photography fair or in a gallery. But I do feel that there is a growing appreciation for photographs that have obviously “had a life”. A prime example being a print I came across on Lumière des Roses’ stand at Paris Photo in 2018 – a portrait of Egon Schiele, taken circa 1915, in his studio in Vienna by an unknown photographer.

There was a series of fine, darkened cracks across it and gallery owner Philippe Jacquier commented, “Some visitors have said that it’s not in good condition. But I like this sort of condition.” Jacquier then added with a wink, “And so did the buyer.” Indicating that there was real connoisseurship involved.

Damage and deterioration are discussed in one of the articles in this issue. The subject also cropped up in my lengthy conversation with Michael Hoppen, some of which didn’t make it into print. We compared notes on some favourites – John Deakin, and the wonderfully beat up print of Robert Capa’s The Falling Soldier that was shown at Photo London in 2021. I suggested, “At some point in the future, damage will cost extra.” Hoppen agreed.

But as always with vintage photography, it’s very much case by case.
And it can be such a thrill to come across something in absolutely perfect condition. Such as the partial album of Chemin de Fer de Paris à Lyon et à la Méditerranée, circa 1861-1863, by Édouard Baldus, from the François Lepage collection, sold by the Parisian auction house Millon on 10 November last year. The tones were exquisite and the prints were in condition as if they had been printed the week before.

Get The Classic #9