One of the most famous print collection in the world was this week acquired by the private investment arm of computer man Michael Dell. All told, over 185,000 photographs from the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, Elliott Erwitt, Ernst Haas and Eve Arnold were unloaded. I was shocked. I couldn’t find details of the actual sales price, only estimates which indicated the sale was valued at around $30 million, and insured for $100 million.
There’s a third party involved too–thankfully, the well reputed Ransom Center–has been tasked with scanning and cataloging the work. From all I can tell, they have the chops to do things right. They’re taking care of the images will scan every print, front and back, which will inevitably lead to uncovering new insights and new material.
The good news: during the 5 years that the Ransom House will be doing its work, the collection will be able to be studied, with more historical work of epic quality and proportions being uncovered and shared.
The other good(-ish?) news: we think our friends at Magnum (respect) just sold the print collection off and not the rights to reproduce those images. Lots of pluses for our community there–if that indeed is the case–but I haven’t heard the definitive word. I know that the photographers keep their copyright, but I haven’t heard if the scans derived from those prints (the MEAT of the archive) are license-able by Dell’s group after the Ransom House finishes their handy work. Could be great to have some of the images in the public domain for educational reasons, could be a shared rev model with Magnum photographers, but unsure how the Dell machine might pull this one off.
The bad news: if you ask me…[click the 'continue reading' link below]
…If you ask me, there doesn’t seem to be any bad news. As of now. Something smells a little odd, but I can’t find reasons to sink this ship. I think kudos might go out to Magnum. I’m guessing that Magnum sewed this up pretty tightly, and my fingers are crossed that, as much as I’m not crazy about Mr. Dell’s computers, that there is a “historical record/buying art for its value as investment” thought from his investment group.
I’m an optimist and have a solid belief/high hopes the collection is celebrated and tastefully popularized, and doesn’t get churned into some ugly machine. Gotta believe…
Only time–and some more details from the deal–will tell.