Elton John’s photography collection



2015-06-26 10:56:18

Sir Elton John’s photography collection is “one of the leading private photography collections in the world”.Sir Elton Hercules John, born Reginald Dwight (1947-present) is a British singer-songwriter and pianist. Sir Elton is most famous for his enormous success during the 1970s, penning hits including Rocket Man, Candle in the Wind, Your Song and Tiny Dancer.

The collection

Sir Elton’s collection is “distinguished by its exceptional quality and remarkable range and depth”, according to the Traditional Fine Arts Organisation website. He began collecting in 1991 after visiting friends at a photography festival in France. Sir Elton claims it was there that he first began to appreciate photography as an art form. As of 2007, it consisted of more than 5,000 photographs.


The collection includes works by Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, André Kertész, Edward Steichen (whose works include 'The Pond - Moonlight'), Alfred Stieglitz, Man Ray, Irving Penn and Edward Weston (who famously took the photograph, 'Nude'), and many others.

The collection of outstanding quality contains a large number of vintage 20th-century black-and-white photographs, with strong concentrations of early modernist and surrealist works.

The collection also includes colour photography, such as flowers by Robert Mapplethorpe, works by Nan Goldin, Polaroid self-portraits by Lucas Samaras and large-scale pieces by Andres Serrano.

Celebrity portraits include Edward Steichen's portrait of Gloria Swanson behind a sheer veil, head-on portraits of the Beatles by Richard Avedon (who also shot 'Dovima with Elephants'), and Irving Penn's series of close-ups of Miles Davis' hands.

Sir Elton has expressed a desire to establish a museum to display his private photography collection, to be left in the ownership of his home nation. Currently, the collection is stored in two massive warehouses in London.

Sir Elton commented, "I never get fed up with looking at the images. I can honestly say that of all the things I've collected in my life, nothing has endeared me more than collecting photography."

Thomas Southall of the Atlanta High Museum of Art stated: "collecting is fundamentally about passion, and Sir Elton John has demonstrated an unparalleled drive for collecting high calibre works."


John sold a number of photographic items from his collection in 2004 for a total of $900,000. 73 of the 78 pieces put up for sale at Christie’s New York sold.

Highlights of the sale included:

  • A 1988 Robert Mapplethorpe black and white photo of a vase and white tulips, which realised $83,650.
  • A 1950 Irving Penn photograph of his Swedish wife, Lisa Fonssagrives, which made $57,360.
  • A 1942 Ansel Adams work of Wyoming’s Grand Teton mountains, which achieved $43,020.
Share on social media
Write a response...

The bookmarklet lets you save things you find to your collections.

Note: Make sure your bookmarks are visible.


Click and drag the Collect It button to your browser's Bookmark Bar.

collect it