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Category Archives: Photography

What’s behind the lens?

Plenty of you out there write or read photography blogs, but have you ever thought about the remarkable technology you hold in your hands when snapping away?

For example, did you know that your 35mm SLR – yes, they are still used by a lot of us, despite the onset of the digital age – was actually designed by an optical engineer named Oskar Barnack?Oscar Barnack

Barnack was placed in charge of microscope research for Ernst Leitz, an optical company in the heart of Germany.

Discovering a passion for landscape photography, he used his knowledge of lenses developed the first practical 35mm camera that used 35mm, allowing him to traverse the German countryside.

And so, photojournalism was born, with luminaries such as Henri Cartier-Bresson able to pick up a Leica and document the world around them without having to lug heavy equipment around and keep their subjects stock still.

Henri Cartier-Bresson and his Leica

Henri Cartier-Bresson and his Leica


It’s this connection to the history of photography, as well as their superior quality, that makes them so treasured by collectors.

As a professional or amateur, the dream is to own your own Leica and some collectors will pay astonishing sums to secure their model. Recently the market has exploded, with a Leica M3D used by the legendary LIFE magazine photographer David Douglas selling for $2m in 2012 – and what a beauty it is.

Why am I telling you this?

Well 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of Leica’s cameras, with the first prototype arriving in 1914. To celebrate, specialist auction house Westlicht Photographica Auction, based in Vienna, are holding an auction of 100 of the most sought after cameras.

We don’t know how they’ve managed to get 100 in the same place, with Leica’s now exceedingly rare. Also starring are 100 of the finest photographs taken with a Leica, in celebration of the unrivalled quality of their images.

Leica Mystery Camera 100 years

The mysterious camera to be unveiled on May 22

However, the star lot is what’s making collectors salivate. The mystery item, half-concealed in the listing photo, is a special edition Leica but that’s all we know until the date before the May 23 auction, when all will be revealed.

Tantalisingly, the auction house writes, “Many of the Leica special editions, elaborately hand-crafted to commemorate special occasions, are rarities featuring special engravings and materials; they are of particular interest to collectors.

“At the same time, they are unique tools for the daily work of professional photographers and serious amateurs.”

See more photography news over at the Paul Fraser Collectibles website.


Curse of the Hemingways – a hereditary horror story

Around a month or so ago at PBA Galleries, an archive of Ernest Hemingway’s family photos came up for auction.

The young Ernest Hemingway stands awkwardly at the far right

The young Ernest Hemingway stands awkwardly at the far right

A great set of collectible photographs from a great writer, but little more. They sold for $4,800.

Then, last night, I was channel hopping when I came across a documentary on Hemingway’s life. Having read a few of his books, I decided to give it a watch.

If nothing else, his famous Action Man-style machismo would keep me amused…

Ernest Hemingway family

Hemingway with Pauline and his sons

I was surprised when the show featured a number of Hemingway’s relatives. It’s rare that any great writers’ family want to be interviewed, especially with the famously unhappy childhood that Hemingway’s children shared.

The man was stern and had little time for small children. One of his sons remembered being yelled at for making the smallest noise while his father was writing upstairs.

The model family: Pauline Pfeiffer worked for Vogue and showed little interest in her children

The model family: Pauline Pfeiffer worked for Vogue and showed little interest in her children

Their mother, Hemingway’s second wife Pauline Pfeiffer, was a socialite who worked in Paris for Vanity Fair and Vogue – she had little affection for the children, spurred by difficult pregnancies, and they would be ushered in to kiss her on the cheek before school, their only contact with her each day.

“I hated her guts!” Patrick Hemingway exclaimed in the documentary.

Hemingway shared an equally unhappy relationship with his own mother, but had a fondness for his father, whom he often favoured in his parents’ endless arguments: “I hate her guts and she hates mine,” he wrote in 1949. “She forced my father to suicide.”

Of course, Hemingway followed in his father’s footsteps. A heavy drinker, possibly suffering from bi-polar and severe depression, he shot himself in 1961.

A gloomy bunch, but it’s not just these two generations of the Hemingway family that have been blighted with this curse.

Hemingway and sons at the writer's Finca in Cuba

Hemingway and sons at the writer’s Finca in Cuba

In fact, in four generations of the Hemingway family, there has been five suicides – Ernest, his father, his sister Ursula, brother Leicester and granddaughter Margaux. Hemingway’s youngest son, Gregory, lived a chequered life after having gender reassignment surgery, and was described by Ernest as having “the biggest dark side in the family except me.” He died in 2001.

In the show I was watching, the two surviving brothers, Patrick and Jack explained they had a friendly competition to see how long a Hemingway can survive for. An old documentary, Jack died in 1991 following heart surgery.

But it seems there may be an answer to their family’s plight, albeit a little too late…

Both Hemingway and his father’s behaviour became increasingly erratic in their later years. His father was extremely paranoid, locking all the drawers in his home obsessively and distrusting all those around him. Ernest followed suit as he reached old age, becoming constantly worried about taxes and the FBI’s investigations into him.

Checking himself into the Mayo Clinic, he was treated for hypertension with electroconvulsive therapy. It was here that they discovered that Hemingway suffered from hemochromatosis, an overload of iron in the blood that causes mental and physical deterioration.

Exacerbated by his drinking, this was certainly a strong contributor to Hemingway’s suicide. What’s more, it was also revealed that his father might also have suffered with the hereditary disease.

Yet it’s not certain what exactly drove so many Hemingways to despair, with depression, the family’s secretive nature and other mental health issues also to blame.

The Hemingway memorial in Idaho

The Hemingway memorial in Idaho

You can find out more in Running from Crazy, a 2013 film by Barbara Kopple starring Hemingway’s granddaughter and actress Mariel Hemingway.

by Joe

Unseen archives – have we already seen the last?

A recent auction of the archive of Martin Burgoyne, a friend of Madonna in the 1980s, included a number of unseen and unpublished photographs that offer a rare glimpse of the singer before she became a global superstar.

They show her in a relaxed state with friends, unencumbered by the burden of living in the public eye. In just a few short years, she would be transformed into one of the most famous people on the planet.

Madonna and Martin Burgoyne in the 1980s.
Image: Myers Fine Art

This transitional period between anonymity and fame is a particular draw to collectors.

In 2011, a set of Beatles photographs taken by 18 year old Mike Mitchell in 1964, just days after their storming performance on the Ed Sullivan show, sold for $362,000.

They capture the band as the hype around them reached fever pitch, reminding us that these pop icons who would go on to define their era were also simply young men in their early twenties.

In a similar vein, a set of photographs of Queen Elizabeth II performing in a series of pantomimes as a child sold in a December 2013 auction, making £3,200 ($5,249).

They too show a playful, youthful side to one of the most significant icons of the 20th century.

It’s not just photographs that can give us an indication of the roots of who these people would become. The upcoming sale of an archive of letters from Lucian Freud, written in his late teens, offer a fascinating glimpse into the mind of one of the greatest painters of his generation.

These brief insights undoubtedly drive many collectors.

The question is, are the days of the unpublished archive over?

The proliferation of  methods by which celebrities are presented as attainable bring us closer to the figures that shape our culture, but has led to the loss of a level of mystique that was widespread in the analogue age.

It seems unlikely that such archives pertaining to today’s celebrities will be as widespread in the future as the democratising power of the internet systematically removes the barriers between the public and private.


‘The dingo stays here’

Did you see that Jane Austen’s ring will be staying in the UK after all?

The Jane Austen House Museum managed to get together the required £149,000 ($238,000) to keep the ring on British shores, after US singer Kelly Clarkson had “bought” it at auction last year.

Clarkson had reckoned without the might of the British government, which from time to time slaps temporary export bans on some “national treasures” that look like they’re about to leave the country.

The dingo leaves the UK on November 5 unless a new owner is found

Stubbs’ dingo leaves the UK on November 5 unless a new owner is found

The bans, which last just a few months, are intended to provide museums and institutions with sufficient time to purchase the items. In this case, it worked.

“The export licensing controls for objects of cultural interest are designed to balance the need to keep nationally important objects in this country, the rights of owners and the encouragement of a thriving art trade,” says England’s Arts Council, which advises the government on these matters.

The current collection of items in limbo makes for interesting reading, and suggests that someone at the Arts Council, or perhaps Britain’s minister for culture, Ed Vaizey, has a particular penchant for Australian animals.

Here’s the list:

  • Two paintings by George Stubbs, depicting a kangaroo and a dingo, respectively.
  • A photo album containing snaps by British photographer Julia Margaret Cameron.
  • Rembrandt van Rijn’s ‘Rembrandt Laughing’.
  • Letters and documents from British army officer James Wolfe.
  • A Bentley Blower 4.5 litre racing car.
  • A collection of works pertaining to Thomas Baines’ North Australian Expedition from 1855 to 1857.

When we get word on the dingo’s new home, you’ll be the first to know.


Recognise her? – Marilyn Minter renders a well-known celeb unrecognisable

Pamela Anderson, Unarmed, Marilyn Minter, Photograph

Scrolling through the catalogue of Christie’s First Open: New Media auction, I easily let this photograph pass me by.

To the unsuspecting eye, the photo – albeit striking – looks like just another portrait, created using an anonymous model. But look further and you might identify its subject:

She was one of the 1990s greatest sex symbols…

Aside from her modelling career and acting, she became famous for a string of bad relationships with rock stars…

Although believed by many to be American, she was actually born in British Columbia, Canada…

And the biggest clue of all….her acting career involved roles in Home Improvement and Baywatch.

Pamela Anderson as C.J. Parker.

Pamela Anderson as C.J. Parker.

Of course, it’s Pamela Anderson!

In Marilyn Minter‘s Unarmed, a 2007 shot, she is rendered almost unrecognisable, the layers of make-up removed to reveal a girl-next-door face dotted with freckles.

The print is available at Christie’s for $10,000-15,000, though if you prefer Pammy in her more recognisable form, you can buy this (rather naughty) signed photograph of the star for a fraction of the price.


Devil’s Harvest film poster could make £8,000 at Christie’s

A rare, three sheet film poster advertising 1942 exploitation flick Devil’s Harvest is expected to make £8,000 at Christie’s Out of the Ordinary auction on September 5.

Devil’s Harvest, Reefer Maddness’ natural successor, is preoccupied with the “tragedy” of marijuana use in the US.

Despite hailing from the early 1940s – an era which saw America filmmakers largely forget about the dangers of cannabis – the film claims to take onlookers “behind the scenes of the marijuana underworld…into the secret dens of the marijuana racket”.

At times, a confusing, (unintentionally) hilarious topicality is sought: America’s drug problems are inexplicably attributed to the Nazi high command.Image

The vintage three-sheet poster is expected to achieve £6,000-8,000 at the forthcoming auction.

Here at Paul Fraser Collectibles, we currently have this amazing California League of Sexual Freedom poster in stock.


High Flying Collectibles: Happy Birthday Amelia

Today is the birthday of pioneering female aviator Amelia Earhart (1897-1937), one of my personal heroes.


In 1928, Amelia became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic ocean, following in the footsteps of Charles Lindbergh who had completed the flight a year previously. She went on to set numerous aviation records.

As her celebrity status rose, she used her fame to advance female empowerment, independence and equality. She strove to topple negative stereotypes about women, demonstrating that they are just as capable as men, encouraged women to put education and careers first, and established the first female coalition of aviators, the Ninety-Nines. She is an enduring icon of the 20th century.

Earhart, always pushing herself to greater feats, decided to become the first woman to fly solo around the world, following the equator, and set off in 1937. Tragically, her plane disappeared over the Pacific Ocean, and neither it nor she was ever seen again. Numerous conspiracy theories have emerged from this mysterious disappearance, and none have yet been proved or disproved.

Among aviation memorabilia collectors, Amelia Earhart items are particularly sought after, due to her pioneering status, her achievements within a field dominated by men, and the fascination with her disappearance. Her signature, and other items of memorabilia, are rarer than those connected with her male contemporary Charles Lindbergh due to her early death. Amelia’s flight goggles, worn during her 1932 transatlantic flight, sold for $141,600 at Profiles in History in 2009.

People continue to be inspired by Amelia. British media personality and Mensa member Carol Vorderman plans to fly solo around the world, re-tracing the ill-fated journey that resulted in Amelia’s disappearance.

Memorabilia related to iconic individuals like Amelia will always retain its value. If you have any such items you’d like to sell, drop us an email:

By Louise

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