Eye of the Buyer

By Tk Published on .

Alan Siegel, chairman/CEO at Siegelgale, the New York-based global branding and e-strategy consultancy, has been collecting photographs for more than 30 years, and he has a lot to show for it. In fact, he has a very handsome coffee table book to show for it, published by the Harry Abrams imprint Word Wise Press, in conjunction with an exhibition last summer at Cornell University. One Man's Eye: Photographs from the Alan Siegel Collection, pretty much spans the history of photography, with everyone from Man Ray to Mapplethorpe. But some of the photographs in Siegel's collection are more than shrewd investments - they resonate with personal meaning for him. Case in point: the chapter devoted to the circus, a longtime interest of Siegel's, led by the cover photo, Edward J. Kelty's 1929 "Congress of Freaks." "There were midgets in my family on my mother's side, and some of them were Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz," Siegel explains. Moreover, "My best friend in high school was a 7-footer whose 6-5 mother was the tall lady in the circus. Sometimes I'd travel to shows with them."

But that's not the half of it. Siegel owns a print of Nat Fein's strangely moving "Babe Ruth's Farewell," shot at Yankee Stadium on June 13, 1948. The 10-year-old Siegel, who lived across the street from the ballpark, was at this historic event, and still remembers it vividly. "I was finally able to buy a print around 1993," he says."It's probably not a vintage print, but it's a signed print." (Vintage prints - positive images made from the original negative by the photographer at approximately the same time the negative was made - are the Holy Grail of collectors.) Similarly, Siegel owns a very untypical Weegee print taken around 1944, called "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, West 81st Street," that pictures a giant balloon being inflated. In the `70s and `80s, Siegel lived on that very street, and would watch the parade preparations every year with his daughter, Stacey.

So what makes for a sharp-eyed collector? Being a sharp-eyed photographer doesn't hurt. Though Siegel eventually gave up photography for collecting, he started taking photographs while he was in the Army in Germany in the early `60s and he later studied with the likes of Alexey Brodovitch and Lisette Model. Seen in the book's preface, a sunstreaked 1962 gelatin silver print of his, taken in a German forest, is good enough to be in his own collection. For more details on Siegel'sacquisitions, see the excellent Siegelgale-designed website at onemanseye.com.

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