Lee Hartung Americana
"The eye should learn to listen before it looks.”
In late summer of 2011, I got a call from Jeffery Trilling who asked me if I trusted him enough to come to Chicago as soon as possible. He related that one of his friends—a man he had known for decades, who was an eccentric collector—had recently passed away and that an auction house would be arriving very soon to dismantle and prepare the Lee Hartung estate for auction. JT described the magnitude, scope, and singular uniqueness of the opportunity to photograph this collection. Within two days, armed with digital cameras and multiple vintage lenses, I was on a plane to Chicago.
In my life, I have been blessed to photograph a few special places that provided extreme visual folly. This collection was one of those picture-making goldmines: all types of stories, all kinds of light, all kinds of shapes, all kinds of color. (Almost a visual overload, but what a problem to have.) There were vintage automobiles of grandeur indoors, and slowly rotting, once grand vehicles partially buried all around the property. The giant barn had enough depth and variety that it later became over 1600 separate lots in a nationally publicized auction. Inside the barn, there were cars, walls covered in license plates, toys, memorabilia, early motorcycles, and Americana oddities, displayed but also piled from floor to forever, and down row after row, with very little room to walk.
Shortly after we arrived, representatives from the auction company started pulling things out while we were photographing. That fleeting moment in place and time was vanishing right in front of us. The ghosts of the past were kind and proud. I photographed for two days. Soon it was all gone.
courtesy of Jeffery Trilling