One of the last available print of 78 Degrees North comes under the hammer this Thursday at a Sotheby’s action in New Bond Street, London. It is a deeply emotional photograph and a highly unusual portrait of a polar bear.
Within this image, the eye is immediately grabbed by the detail we recognise but have perhaps never seen – the distinctive pads on the sole of his foot. The central pad, that resembles the Nike style “swoosh”, is the epicentre of a photograph that owes its differentiating content entirely to this right foot.
The image is made complete by its own lack of completeness – the storytelling is started by the camera and finished by the viewer.
The irony was that it was the very last of a sequence of 60 images David took of the polar bear. A second after this moment, this most solitary of predators was over the horizon and their paths will never cross again. I did not press the trigger with this image in mind – it was such an intense 15 minutes that it would be most disingenuous to suggest that it was preconceived. The heart was beating too fast to consider creating art – these moments sometimes just happen.
We are only too aware that after the success in the Sotheby’s auction in New York, there will be a bit of added interest in lot 72 and will probably come under the hammer around 430 UK time. It is slightly unnerving that my prices are now very much being watched – it’s only taken 36 years.