The daughter of a former Baltimore Sun photojournalist said she has a “broken heart” over the impending auction of more than 7,000 of his original prints by the newspaper.
The collection of A. Aubrey Bodine’s prints that is to go to auction Saturday spans the better part of his nearly 50-year career with The Baltimore Sun. It includes some of Bodine’s most significant photographs, including a picture of the 1959 Major League Baseball All-Star game in Los Angeles’ Memorial Coliseum, pictures of flooding in Ocean City from the 1960s, and numerous views of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge under construction in the 1940s and 1950s.
All of the prints are originals created directly from Bodine’s negatives, and they come from the archives of the Tribune Co., the Chicago-based company that owns The Baltimore Sun.
Jennifer B. Bodine, who curates the website AAubreyBodine.com, said the collection is historically significant and should remain together.
“The idea that this collection is going to be scattered to the wind, it’s just tragedy,” said Bodine, who holds the copyright to her father’s work since his death in 1970, but does not control The Sun’s collection of prints. “[The prints] belong together, they should stay in the state of Maryland, and they should be … in the proper environment, temperature, humidity and light.”
Bodine said she sent an email last month to publishing company Eight Stone Press in which she requested “an angel … [to] buy the collection and donate it to the Maryland Historical Society, [the University of Maryland, Baltimore County] or the Maryland State Archives.”
She has not yet heard from anyone interested in doing so, she said.
Bodine said she is concerned the prints may be mishandled or even discarded in private hands, as many exhibit damage or wear that may frustrate collectors not looking to spend time restoring them to mint condition. A public institution would do a better job of handling them, she said, and could display them in a controlled environment for public viewing.
“So far, I have not had a picture I could not fix,” said Bodine, who maintains her own archive of copies of her father’s prints. “But as far as collectors go, collectors who are going out to this [auction], they’ll be very disappointed. … These pictures were not handled with [collecting] in mind.”
Bids expected up to $250 apiece
Brian Cooper, one of the principals at Towson-based Alex Cooper Auctioneers, which is handling the sale of the prints, acknowledged that many of the prints are in need of restoration. But Cooper said he has no concerns over any possible maltreatment of the items.
“Some of these will probably have to be restored, so they’ll have to take them and scan them and digitally restore them,” Cooper said. He said he expected many of the buyers on Saturday to be previous patrons of his company’s auctions who are familiar with artifacts of historical value and know how to restore and preserve them.
Cooper expressed enthusiasm about the prints, which he said anyone who can afford to place a winning bid can purchase. He said he expects the prints, some of which have A. Aubrey Bodine’s handwritten and dated notes on the back, to sell for anywhere between $10 and $250 apiece.
“Anyone that’s into Baltimore, Maryland … should come and take a look at these,” said Cooper, who said the collection will be on exhibition in Alex Cooper Auctioneers’ Towson gallery on Thursday and Friday. “They’ll be amazed. The images are almost like 3-D, they’re so vivid.”
Bodine said she plans to attend the auction, but she is not happy about it.
“To me, it’s going to be like looking at a crashed school bus with a bunch of kids bleeding all over the road,” Bodine said. “I’m just horribly, horribly sad.”
Representatives of The Sun and Tribune Co. did not return phone calls seeking comment.