Bob Seidemann’s ‘Airplane as Art’ Portfolio
ROCK ’N’ ROLL PHOTOGRAPHER’S COLLECTION FOCUSES ON AVIATION GENIUSES AND THEIR INCREDIBLE AIRCRAFT
By Hazel Kent
Though Bob Seidemann graduated from the Manhattan High School of Aviation Trades, a school for those looking to become aircraft engineers, he went on to earn a reputation as one of the most respected rock ’n’ roll photographers of his generation.
It was this lifelong personal passion that inspired what Nigel Russell, director of photographs at Heritage Auctions, describes as “certainly among the largest photography projects of the 20th century.”
From 1986 to 1997, Seidemann shot 302 images of the pioneers who shaped modern aviation and their aircraft.
Seidemann’s The Airplane as Art portfolio includes 94 portraits of renowned designers, engineers, test pilots, inventors, military heroes and cosmonauts, as well as 208 studies of planes, plane manufacturing, aircraft graveyards, and views from the air: a true homage to what Seidemann once described as the quintessential manifestation of our humanness – tool-making.
In one image, a stoic-looking Joseph Sutter poses in front of the looming nose of a Boeing 747, for which he led the design team. In another, the hulks of decommissioned B-52s sit rusting in the desert at Edwards Air Force Base.
While all of the prints are signed by the photographer, 10 of the 20 total sets contain portraits also signed by the sitter. “One of the amazing things about this project,” Russell says, “is that after photographing so many key figures in aviation, Seidemann went back and got their autographs.”
The collection being offered at Heritage’s May 18 photographs auction is one the rare double-signed boxed sets. Two of the others have found homes at the J. Paul Getty Museum and, fittingly, the Boeing Company.