UPDATE: In the first lot of the evening, the framed Robert Capa print pictured above sold for $4,500 to bidder #313, reports TIME’s Neil Harris, who was present at the event. He says that the evening was partly surprising—contemporary photojournalism at Christie’s is unprecedented—and partly somber, as Hammerl’s widow gave a speech and read a letter from their middle child to his father. Once the live auction began, “the mood became quite energized and people started bidding real money for serious pictures,” Harris says. “The first three lots together broke $10,000, which was exhilarating on all levels.”
On Tuesday evening, Christie’s will hold its first-ever auction of contemporary photojournalism prints at its New York City auction house. The event, which will be hosted by news anchor Christiane Amanpour, will benefit the family of the late Anton Hammerl. Hammerl, who had been a photographer and photo editor for outlets from the Associated Press to the The Sunday Star in Johannesburg, was killed in Libya last April. He had traveled to Libya as a freelancer to cover the conflict in that country. He was 41 years old and had three children, ages 11, 8 and 1. His remains have not yet been found.
The auction was the idea of a group of conflict journalists who originally got together, via Facebook, to sell prints to help their colleague’s loved ones. The transition from on-demand sales to planning an auction, under the banner “Friends of Anton,” happened about a month ago, and some of the most recognizable names in photojournalism have signed on to participate: João Silva, Platon, Bruce Davidson, Alec Soth, Susan Meiselas and many more.
The auction, says David Brabyn, one of the organizers, demonstrates the sense of community among photographers who put themselves at risk for their work. “It’s been quite highlighted recently,” he says, “after all the deaths of reporters, both photographers and print.”
But one of the most important prints up for bid was not a donation from someone in that community. Robert Capa’s photograph of American soldiers landing in France on D-Day is perhaps the most familiar picture in the bunch; Capa was killed by a land mine in 1954. The donation comes from the International Center of Photography, where his work is archived. (The winning bid will also include a personal tour of his archive.) ICP was founded by Capa’s brother, Cornell Capa, and the print comes from his personal collection.
Even though neither Capa brother is alive to bestow his friendship on Anton Hammerl, it’s a fitting donation, says Cynthia Young, curator of the Robert Capa Archive at ICP. Cornell Capa, she says, was generous with his prints during his lifetime—and this is a particularly poignant cause. “His brother and Anton both died while photographing overseas, doing a job they felt compassionately about. They were both committed to bringing back real stories about what was happening in the world and what they saw,” says Young. “Cornell founded ICP in part to educate people, not only about photography, but that through photography we can learn about political situations, and consequently make social and political change.”
And the picture, beyond its historical significance, has its own measure of poignancy, she adds: “It seemed like an appropriate image, one of great courage both on the part of the American soldiers and of the photographer.”
More information about the Friends of Anton auction—including ticketing and absentee bidding information—is available here.