Amazing Collection of Photos that Chart American History up for Auction

sothebys auction
An incredible collection of 20th century photographs that tell the story of American history will go to auction on May 1 and May 2.

Some of the greatest names of American photography including Richard Avedon, Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, Robert Frank, Dorothea Lange, and many others will have works sold via Sotheby’s.

The photographs come from the Pier 24 Photography Collection of the Pilara Family Foundation with Sotheby’s calling it “one of the most significant and comprehensive collections of 20th century and post-war photography ever assembled.”

Richard Avedon

The collection offers a comprehensive survey of Richard Avedon’s iconic 20th-century subjects, such as Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe, Joe Lewis, and Truman Capote, among others.

Richard Avedon’s iconic documentation of the American political, media, and business elite, The Family, was commissioned by Rolling Stone magazine publisher Jann Wenner in 1976.

Avedon completed a series of portraits of the biggest names operating in post-Watergate American politics including sitting President Gerald Ford and three immediate successors – Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush, as well as Ralph Nader, Donald Rumsfeld, Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug, Cesar Chavez, and Katherine Graham.

Dorothea Lange

The collection features 18 photographs by Dorothea Lange, made between 1933 and 1940, including several of her most well-known images of Depression-era America taken while photographing for the Farm Security Administration.

Dorothea Lange photograph Migrant Mother
Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936 printed 1940s | Dorothea Lange

Chief among these photographs is an exceptional large print of Migrant Mother, Nipomo,
California (1936), which transformed the subject—a hungry and desperate mother—into a Madonna-like figure and icon of the Great Depression.

Lange’s image of endurance in the face of overwhelming odds is one of a handful of photographs that have become part of the collective visual memory of the 20th century.

Dorothea Lange photograph
Migratory Cotton Picker, Eloy, Arizona, 1940 printed 1940s | Dorothea Lange

Unknown Photographers

Also featured in the collection are photographs made by non-artists that are nevertheless historically significant, such as the photobooth portrait of Norma Jeane Baker, circa 1940, who would later be known around the world as Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe.

Early photo of Marilyn Monroe
Portrait of Norma Jeane Baker (Marilyn Monroe), circa 1940

The auction will also offer photos taken at the hands of police officers; 264 mugshots from the Scranton police department in Pennsylvania between 1916 and 1951.

The auction can be viewed here and will take place in New York City on May 1 and May 2.

Update 4/26: This article has been updated to remove Richard Avedon’s photos.