Photography Catalogues Raisonné

The Berenice Abbott 2 volume set we discussed yesterday got me thinking about catalogues raisonné and their availability in the world of photography. Catalogues raisonné require a huge amount of work to research, are expensive to produce, and have a generally limited market, so at some level, it’s not surprising that there aren’t more being published in any given year. For a medium like photography, where there are multiple copies of any single negative, the project is exponentially more complicated. But off the top of my head, I couldn’t come up with very many that were available.

So I went home and dug through our library and did some more thinking, and I’m sorry to say that I can’t come up with a single example of a true comprehensive catalogue raisonné for any photographer that matches those for any number of painters or sculptors. My definition here is every single image released as a finished object by the photographer (not the contact sheets and rejects), number of prints made of each, and exact dimensions. Trying to locate all the prints in public and private collections is beyond what seems achievable in most cases, although a few have tried.

The three below come the closest to meeting these standards, but in the end, they each only chronicle the holdings of a single museum, even though they may track down other prints of the same negatives in other places. The flaw is of course that if the issuing museum doesn’t hold a particular image, it isn’t in the book. Given these museums hold deep archives on the respective artists make this outlier effect pretty small, but I think it still matters.

  • Amy Conger, Edward Weston: Photographs from the Collection of the Center for Creative Photography
  • Sarah Greenough, Alfred Stieglitz, The Key Set (National Gallery of Art)
  • Judith Keller, Walker Evans: The Getty Museum Collection

Beyond these three, there seem to be two additional potential substitutes: the deep monograph and the single subject volume.

In the deep monograph category, the books don’t attempt to be completely comprehensive, but do provide a generally thorough collection of key images. These books however lack the statistical information on number of prints made etc. I would place the Abbott set in this group (review here) as well as:

  • The Work of Atget, Volume I-Old France, Volume II-The Art of Old Paris, Volume III-The Ancien Regime, Volume IV-Modern Times, MoMA
  • Paul Strand, A Retrospective Monograph, Volume I-The Years 1915-1946; Volume II-The Years 1950-1968, Aperture
  • Wolfgang Tillmans, If One Thing Matters Everything Matters, Tate Britain

In the single subject volume, the books go deep on one portion of a photographer’s output, often with some detailed background information. So we have Mapplethorpe’s flowers, but not his nudes, Sander’s portraits, but not his landscapes, and Brandt’s nudes, but not his pictures of Britain:

  • Robert Mapplethorpe: The Complete Flowers, teNeues
  • August Sander: People of the 20th Century (7 volume set), Abrams
  • Brandt Nudes, Bill Brandt Archive

Our library is limited, so I’d really like the community at large to weigh in here with additional books that fit some of these definitions. You appraisers and auction house specialists must know of others that we have missed and that belong in the mythical perfect library. I imagine many estates know some of this information, but have yet to release it in book form for the public at large. And perhaps there is a dusty PhD thesis or two around that captures some of this information.

For a collector, the catalogue raisonné is the ultimate research tool; otherwise, we are left cobbling together a “virtual” catalogue from a shelf full of books on any specific photographer. I can’t believe that there aren’t plenty of master photographers who deserve the comprehensive treatment of such a volume (so book publishers, let’s see some more). Please, add your ideas and pointers to other catalogues raisonné of photography that we’ve missed in the comments, so we can all benefit.

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  1. gphoto /

    Romer and Wallis, Southworth and Hawes, 2005

    Cox and Ford, Julia Margaret Cameron: The Complete Photographs. 2003 Getty

    Janet Dewan, The Photographs of Linnaeus Tripe: A Catalogue Raisonne

    Henning Weidemann, Ulrike Gauss, Daniel Challe. Eugene Cuvelier 1996

    Rolf Mayar. Louis De Clerc: Voyage en Orient. 1989 Edition Cantz

    Theodora Vischer, Heidi Naef. Jeff Wall: Catalogue Raisonne 1978-2004

  2. qtluong /

    Jeff Wall (Steidl) was easy since the artist has produced less than 200 works.

  3. gphoto /

    A Talbot one is being worked on too.

  4. Mik /

    For what it is worth – after decades servicing photography commercial needs I started my own fine art:

    In less than 2 years of exhibiting at events I have sold almost 600 limited edition prints (mostly smaller ones). Of the canvas prints I have almost every collector databased according to piece collected and date purchased. I really hope to add value by taking your topic on seriously.

  5. Stuart Alexander /

    Yes, catalogue raisonnés are sorely lacking in photography and that is the next great step toward a real history of the medium. In addition to what has already been listed above there are some other publications completed and other projects underway.

    Below at random and in no particular order are a few. I am certain there are others that have not come to mind.

    For Atget there is also the CD-Rom with over 4,000 images: Eugène Atget: Paris 1900. Published by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 2003.

    There are over 700 pages of Charles Marville photographs in:
    de Thézy, Marie. Marville: Paris. Editions Hazan, 1994.

    There is the “core group” of over 2,000 photographs by W. Eugene Smith in: Johnson, William S., W. Eugene Smith: Master of the Photographic Essay. Aperture, 1982.

    There is:
    Jammes, Isabelle. Blanquart-Evrard, et les origines de l'édition photographique française: catalogue raisonné des albums photographiques édités 1851-1855. Librairie Droz, 1981.

    Sandra Philips' doctoral dissertation was a catalogue of the French photographs by André Kertész: Phillips, Sandra S., The Photographic Work of André Kertész in France, 1925-1936: A Critical Essay and Catalogue. PhD dissertation, City University of New York, 1985.

    Floris Neusüss and Renate Heyne have just completed their catalogue raisonné of the photograms by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, published this year. Sorry, I don't have the exact title and publisher name at hand.

    Steven Manford is working on a catalogue of the photograms by Man Ray.

    I am working on a kind of catalogue raisonné of the work of Robert Frank. It will be a sort of hybrid of the 'core image' idea of Bill Johnson's book on W. Eugene Smith and the annotated informational style of Amy Conger's book on Edward Weston. Around 2,000 images with collections, exhibitions and publication information. To try to do a classic catalogue raisonné of a photographer who was relatively prolific, every print of every negative that was printed, is near madness, if it were even possible.

  6. Stuart Alexander /

    Weston Naef is working on a catalogue raisonné of the mammoth plate photographs of Carleton Watkins.

  7. dlkcollection /

    Thanks very much to all who added their insights. I knew there were many more than what I could remember or that we had in our own small library. I think we now have a decently comprehensive working list of existing catalogues and ones coming soon. That said, I'm still amazed that they're aren't catalogues for so many important photographers. More work is clearly needed…

  8. RedSardine /

    I think “Revelations” is an excellent and comprehensive review of Diane Arbus' work and in some ways is more rewarding than a catalogue raisonne, as it is also a great read.

  9. willie /

    Paul Outerbridge : A Singular Aesthetic, Photographs and Drawings 1921 – 1941, A Catalogue Raisonné – edited by Elaine Dines in collaboration with Graham Howe, 1981

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