A stunning, Depression-era bathing beauty graced the cover of the Fine Books & Collections summer issue. The photograph was taken in 1939 by Farm Security Administration (FSA) photojournalist Marion Post Wolcott (1910-1990). In that issue, writer Jonathan Shipley profiled her life and career, and we heard about (and saw) some of her better known images. Which is why, when paging through Swann Galleries’ catalog for its October 15 sale of Icons & Images: Fine and Vernacular Photographs, I was pleased to recognize Wolcott’s work among the offerings, alongside Walker Evans and W. Eugene Smith.
The upcoming lot includes three selenium-toned silver prints, all shot in 1938-39 but printed in the 1970s and signed by the photographer. They are quintessential Wolcott images: a “jook joint” in Mississippi; a general store in North Carolina; and a coal miner’s child in West Virginia carrying home a can of kerosene (pictured here). The last-mentioned is one of her best known photographs. The estimate for the lot is $2,500-$3,500.
Singular lots of her photos have sold in the $1,500-$4,000 range in recent years, although the auction record for her work is a gelatin silver print of “Migrant Vegetable Pickers…near Homestead, Florida,” which sold in 2011 for $12,500.
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Reprinted with permission from Fine Books & Collections, Rebecca Rego Barry, author