“Nusch Eluard” (1928), by Man Ray (1890-1976). Gelatin silver print on paper.
Singer-songwriter Sir Elton John has a passion aside from music: photography. His collection of vintage photographs, currently numbering nearly 8,000, is now considered one of the most important in the world.
A new exhibition at the Tate Modern in London, “The Radical Eye,” features nearly 200 modernist photographs - pioneering images from the 1920s to the ‘50s - all drawn from Sir Elton’s collection.
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan
Sir Elton John's Collection
Sir Elton John began to build his collection 25 years ago. Many are hung floor-to-ceiling in his 17,000-square-foot apartment in Atlanta.
“It’s kind of taken over my life,” he explained to CBS News’ Anthony Mason. “I must buy at least three or four photographs a week. I just bought three this morning.”
Sir Elton John's Collection
Sir Elton John with Edward Steichen’s 1924 portrait of silent film star Gloria Swanson. “You can practically feel the lace,” he said.
Sir Elton’s passion for collecting (he’d been a buyer of art and furniture) shifted to photography after he’d gone through rehab for alcohol addiction. “I’d never noticed photography as an art form before,” he told Anthony Mason.
What had changed? “I’d gotten sober. I was seeing with different eyes. I mean, when you get sober, you see everything in a different context. You have clarity. You have a bit more wisdom. … I saw beauty that I’d never seen before.”
The picture that changed everything for him? Man Ray’s 1930 image called “Glass Tears.” “It was a huge leap,” he said about acquiring it. “It was like a Cape Canaveral leap.”
In 1993 he bought a vintage print at auction for almost $200,000.
When he found out what the final cost was, what was his reaction? “I thought I’d gone nuts. I thought, ‘Well, f****!’ But that was the first major step, I think, of getting to be a serious collector.”
"Underwater Swimmer, Esztergom, Hungary, 30 June"
The Tate Modern show features vintage prints made by the artists themselves, including “Underwater Swimmer, Esztergom, Hungary, 30 June” (1917) by André Kertész (1894-1985). The postage stamp-sized print actually measures 32 x 45 mm.
“Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange (1895-1965). Gelatin silver print on paper.
Sir Elton said, “It’s a bit like Mona Lisa, I think -- her face. The sorrow, the anxiety. This is like, ‘Am I going to be able to feed my child the next day?’”
“Nude” (1936) by Edward Weston (1886-1958). Gelatin silver print on paper.
"George Washington Bridge"
Margaret Bourke-White’s “George Washington Bridge” (1933). Gelatin silver print on paper.
"A Bee on a Sunflower"
Edward Steichen’s “A Bee on a Sunflower” (c. 1920). Brown-toned palladium print on paper.
"Bandelier, Corn and Sickle"
“Bandolier, Corn and Sickle” (1927) by Tina Modotti (1896-1942). Gelatin silver print on postcard stock.
“Rayograph” (1923) by Man Ray. Gelatin silver print on paper.
"Patricia, New York"
“Patricia, New York” (c. 1942) by Josef Breitenbach (1896-1984). Bromoil transfer print on gelatin silver paper.
Man Ray’s “Dora Marr” (1936). Gelatin silver print on paper.
"Dancer, Willem van Loon, Paris"
Ilse Bing’s “Dancer, Willem van Loon, Paris” (1932). Gelatin silver print on paper.
"Salvador Dali, New York"
“Salvador Dali, New York” (1947) by Irving Penn (1917-2009). Gelatin silver print.
"Christ or Chaos"
“Christ or Chaos?” (1946) by Walker Evans (1903-1975). Gelatin silver print on paper.
“Igor Stravinsky” (1935) by Edward Weston (1886-1958). Gelatin silver print on paper.
“Solarised Man” (1930) by Maurice Tabard (1897-1984). Gelatin silver print on paper.
The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection” will continue at Tate Modern, London, through May 7, 2017.
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