The camera that captured the album cover for Michael Jackson’s Thriller — what is arguably one of the most iconic album covers of the last century — along with a host of test images from the shoot are coming to auction this month.
In 1982, photographer Dan Zimmerman used a Hasselblad 500 ELX to capture the photos for Thriller. It and a host of test shots are coming to auction on December 9 through Blackwell Auctions. The auction house argues that this is not only the best-selling album ever produced, but it is the most recognizable, too.
“The camera boasts impeccable provenance, consigned by the celebrity photographer who captured Michael’s electrifying presence on the Thriller cover. It witnessed the creation of a cultural masterpiece that continues to influence music and pop culture to this day,” Blackwell Auctions says.
“This camera recorded the unforgettable moment when Michael rose to the very zenith of music stardom. This was the only camera in the studio that day, and it has never before been offered for sale at auction. But the camera’s experience included two other sessions with the King of Pop: Michael’s collaboration with Steven Spielberg on the E.T. album, as well as the exclusive wedding photos of Michael and Lisa Marie.”
The camera includes the main body, viewfinder, film back, optional grip, 120mm Hasselblad lens, and more, although it is described as in “non-functioning condition” due to yeas of constant, professional use. Blackwell Auctions estimates that the camera will sell for between $10,000 and $20,000.
Zimmerman’s Hasselblad is joined by five test images he shot on a Polaroid from the set of the photo shoot for Thriller, one of which was taken less than a minute before he shot the final photo on the above camera that became the cover photo of the album. Blackwell notes that prior to digital photography, quick Polaroid shots like this one were the most practical way a photographer could preview a shot in order to make any lighting or camera adjustments or reposition the subject.
“It is the first image ever taken of MJ in the white suit (the suit, incidentally, belonged to the photographer himself),” the auction house explains. “This photo is by definition one-of-a-kind, not a print or reproduction.”
The Polaroid is joined by four other “alternative cover” test shots, including one other that features Jackson wearing the white suit and two that feature him holding a baby tiger. The Polaroid that conveys the eventual cover photo is valued at between $10,000 and $20,000 while the remaining four are valued between $4,000 and $8,000.
The full collection of Thriller photo memorabilia can be perused as part of The Iconic Sale, presented by Blackwell Auctions.
Image credits: Blackwell Auctions, LLC