Agence France-Presse is honouring its photographic heritage this northern autumn with a rare auction of 200 fine art prints and the first NFTs in its history.
An exhibition at Ellia Art Gallery in Paris is scheduled for October 26 to November 5, and a book that takes a look at a century of history in 300 photos is also being published.
The agency says the exceptional selection – “sometimes iconic, sometimes unpublished” – will be auctioned off in the gallery and on drouot.com at the end of the exhibition.
AFP promises a dive into the history of news photography. From the Paris Commune in 1871 to the fire at Notre-Dame in 2019, via the Great War, the Liberation of Paris, the first French women’s vote, the raging fists of boxer Marcel Cerdan, actor Jean-Paul Belmondo’s radiant smile and the modernity of Josephine Baker.
“The pioneering curator of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, John Szarkowski, who was one of the first to bring news photography into the museum, felt that it had everything to gain by being considered a genre that was more poetic than historical,” says Marielle Eudes, director of photo special projects at AFP. “This sale plunges us into the poetry of the news photo.”
The event will be marked by the sale of the first digital single editions (NFTs) in the history of the agency. In collaboration with laCollection.io, a partner of the British Museum, three NFTs will be offered to collectors: a digital duplicate of the very first AFP dispatch and two iconic images from the news of the last few decades – Serge Gainsbourg burning a 500 franc note on television, and Bernie Sanders’s mittens, an image that has gone around the world and generated countless memes.
The images are being showcased in AFP, une épopée photo (AFP, a photo epic) on October 17 by Fisheye. It offers ‘‘a sensitive diary of history’’ and demonstrates that news photographs can ‘‘resist the wear and tear of their time’’, writes Michel Poivert, a photography historian, in the preface.
Funds raised will go towards safeguarding and restoring the agency’s photographic collection to ensure the preservation of this historical, cultural and artistic heritage.