Larry Sultan Dies

Larry Sultan died this past weekend at the age of 63. At this point, it’s virtually impossible to talk about 1970s conceptual photography without mentioning Evidence, Sultan’s now famous book collaboration with Mike Mandel, where the two gathered together oddly memorable yet often inexplicable found black and white photographs from police departments and industrial labs. It remains a profoundly influential and resonant project, even decades later. Take the book down from your photo library shelf again today and remind yourself just how puzzling and remarkable these images continue to be.

In the past decade or so, Sultan has gone through a kind of resurgence, with two relatively recent projects bringing him back to the forefront of contemporary photography. Pictures From Home captured intimate images of the everyday lives of Sultan’s parents in rich color, while The Valley documented the backstage realities of suburban LA porno shoots. (My mother posing for me, 1984, at right, via Janet Borden.) Both examined the boundaries of truth and fiction in photography, subtly exploring the ideas of staging/set pieces and how they are used to construct complex, personal narratives.

Collector’s POV: Larry Sultan is represented by Janet Borden in New York (here) and Stephen Wirtz Gallery in San Francisco (here). Apart from first edition copies of Evidence, Sultan’s photographs have not been particularly available in the secondary markets. Only a few lots from his more recent projects have been sold in the past few years, most between $10000 and $25000.

Transit Hub:

  • Obituaries: NY Times (here), SFMOMA (here)
  • Interview: Big, Red & Shiny, 2008 (here)
  • The Valley @SFMOMA 2004 (here)

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Read more about: Larry Sultan, Janet Borden Inc., Stephen Wirtz Gallery

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