Dorothea Lange, Ed van der Elskin, Peter Hujar & More Shine in March Sale of Fine Photographs at Swann

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Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother (Horizontal), silver print, 1936. Sold for $63,750.
Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother (Horizontal), silver print, 1936. Sold for $63,750.


Sale 2561; March 11, 2021

Sale total: $1,463,298

Estimates for sale as a whole: $1,304,900–$1,945,700 

We offered 409 lots; 332 sold (82% sell-through rate by lot)

All prices include Buyer’s Premium.

New York—Swann Galleries’ March 11 sale of Fine Photographs saw strong results across the auction with humanist works and portraits drawing interest from collectors. “We were pleased to see strength across the auction at all levels. We continue to see a robust and enthusiastic response to both the classical and vernacular work, and strong results for Dorothea Lange, Peter Hujar, Julia Margaret Cameron, and others.”  

A run of Migrant Mother images by Dorothea Lange proved to be a highlight of the sale. Migrant Mother (Horizontal), 1936, led the sale at $63,750, a record for a Migrant Mother variant after the famous frame; the variant of Migrant Mother we have come to be familiar with, Florence Owens Thompson pensively looking out with her hand on her face, children tucked behind her, sold for $23,750; and a wide shot of the scene reached $22,500. Additional FSA photographs by Lange included Oklahoma sharecropper and family entering Calif. stalled on the desert near Indio, California, 1937, at $17,500; and Abandoned Tenant House, Hall County, Texas, 1937, at $12,500.

The rare, circa-1951 handmade personal album of 27 Parisian photographs by Ed van der Elsken, which sold for $21,250, represents an all-around record for Van Der Elsken at auction. “We have never seen a handmade book by Van Der Elsken on the market and believe the object to be unique. It is particularly gratifying to see material like this succeed, given its absolute rarity and the ways in which the piece can add to our understanding of a photographer who is now receiving new and much-deserved attention from collectors and institutions. I am so pleased that we can play a role in bringing material like this to the public,” Rogal reflected. 

Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother (Vertical), silver print, 1936. Sold for $21,250, a record for the photobook.
Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother (Vertical), silver print, 1936. Sold for $21,250, a record for the photobook.

Portrait photography included Marilyn 12, 1962, printed 2007, portfolio by Lawrence Schiller, complete with 12 photographs depicting the famous starlet on the set of Something’s Gotta Give, achieving $21,250; Spencer Tracy, New York, 1948, by Irving Penn, at $20,000; Tattooed Man at a Carnival, M.D., 1970, printed early 1970s, at $18,750; and a serene 1975 image of writer Edwin Denby by Peter Hujar, which realized $12,500.

Additional highlights included early photography from Francis Frith with volumes of works from travels in the Near East and Holy Land, Julia Margaret Camerion, and Alfred Stieglitz with a run of issues of Camera Work, as well as contemporary studies by Penn and Adam Fuss.

For the house’s most up-to-date auction schedule please visit

Key:  * – Record; C = Collector; I = Institution

Additional highlights can be found here


Lot 53: Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother (Horizontal), silver print, 1936. Sold for $63,750.

Lot 131: Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother (Vertical), silver print, 1936. Sold for $21,250, a record for the photobook. 

Specialist: Deborah Rogal • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 55

Chief Marketing Officer: Alexandra Nelson • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 19

Public Relations Associate: Kelsie Jankowski • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 23

Social media: @swanngalleries  

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Swann Auction Galleries is a third-generation family business as well as the world’s largest auction house for works on paper. In the last 75 years, Swann has repeatedly revolutionized the trade with such innovations as the first U.S. auction dedicated to photographs and the world’s only department of African-American Fine Art. More than 30 auctions and previews are held annually in Swann Galleries’ two-floor exhibition space in Midtown Manhattan, and online worldwide. Visit for more information.

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