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Auction offers chance to own unique part of music history

Backstage Auctions will have its "London Features Photo Archive Auction" this month, auctioning off vintage images of British acts from the '60s and '70s.
One of the many Rolling Stones images to be found in Backstage Auctions' London Features auction. Image courtesy of Backstage Auctions.

One of the many Rolling Stones images to be found in Backstage Auctions' London Features Photo Archive auction. Image courtesy of Backstage Auctions.

By Patrick Prince

Backstage Auctions will present its "London Features Photo Archive Auction" from September 26 through October 4 (special VIP preview Sept 19-25), calling it a "historic and iconic collection of vintage images of the British music scene from the 1960s and 1970s."

Backstage Auctions is true to its word, but there's more to this photo auction than that succinct description. These historic rare negatives, transfers, photos and contact sheets are straight from London Features International's John Halsall (onetime co-owner of the U.K. photo agency) and almost every image comes with exclusive ownership rights. Whether you are fan, collector or in the business of publishing or photo licensing, these images are a good personal or professional investment.

"I think this auction is more monumental and historically more significant than even we realize at this very moment," says Backstage Auctions owner Jacques van Gool. "As auctioneers we always like to praise our own content. Most of the time the stuff that you have (for auction) is great stuff or good stuff but it is not necessarily altering history. This is different. This is 25,000-30,000 images that have, for 99.8 percent, never been used, seen, shared; for anywhere from 40-50 years they've been archived. And the second thing is that these are images from what I consider‚ and what most people would consider, probably the most relevant ten years in music, 1965-75."

The Who Courtesy of Backstage Auctions.

One of the nearly 3,000 Who images (circa 1965-75) up for auction. Courtesy of Backstage Auctions.

Images would also be a worthwhile investment for bands or artists looking to complete their own historical accounts. Take The Who, for instance. This auction of a London Features International (LFI) archive has roughly 3,000 Who images from 1965-75. If a legit representative of The Who were to bid and win this particular lot, the band would not have to pay one cent in royalties for any of their 50th anniversary marketing and merchandise.

The Byrds. Courtesy of Backstage Auctions

And image of The Byrds during a London visit. Courtesy of Backstage Auctions

In another example, there are hundreds of negatives of the Byrds from various years in London, from short-haired youth to veteran hippies, enough to publish an entire coffee book covering a solid chunk of the band's evolution.

Mick Jagger. Courtesy of Backstage Auctions

A film roll of Mick Jagger. Courtesy of Backstage Auctions.

Van Gool goes on to offer the best example yet: "When the Stones went to Ireland in 1965, they had this (LFI-associated) photographer traveling with them, and the guy shot 800 photos in the span of three days. He literally photographed every breakfast, every lunch, every dinner, every rehearsal, every airplane trip, every bus strip, every dressing room... everything. Can you imagine buying 800 unpublished photos of the Stones in Ireland? That is literally a book ready to happen. You don't have to approach a soul — you have all the images and better yet you have the rights to every single image."

As one of the first professional photo agencies in England, LFI would often select only a few stock photos for usage out of an entire roll of film. A roll of Mick Jagger shown here is a perfect example of how many unique images would go unused. On this particular roll, each frame is different because of Jagger's varied facial expressions. Backstage Auctions has 75 photos from this particular session and van Gool believes not even one shot was picked from this particular shoot.

Animals Courtesy of Backstage Auctions.

An out-take from the Animals' U.S. album cover shoot. Courtesy of Backstage Auctions.

"I can give you other great examples," says van Gool. "If you look at the U.S. release of the first Animals album cover it's a group photo. Well, I think we have a dozen or two dozen out-takes from that particular session (one shown above). Another example: most people know that when the Sex Pistols got their record deal with A&M, they set up a little table in front of Buckingham Palace and that's where they signed their contract. We have about 20 photos from them signing that contract. So there are photos that people will say 'I remember seeing that photo...' well, chances are that may come from a roll of film that we have. But the good news is that we have all the other photos."

David Bowie image courtesy of Backstage Auctions.

A casual photo of David Bowie hanging out in his manager's living room. Courtesy of Backstage Auctions.

Another exciting aspect to all of these images is that they were taken during an era when photographers had a certain unguarded access to artists that could never happen today. There are many intimate shots before rock stars had their big break — in modest apartments, in their management's office or hanging about town. The photos come off as very natural. Think about getting a photo of David Bowie sitting so casually in the living room of his manager (shown above) today. It would be hard to imagine.

There is only one significant absence in this LFI auction that many collectors will surely notice, and that's The Beatles. van Gool explains: "(John Halsall) had a couple thousand Beatles negatives but he had made a past arrangement with a private buyer for The Beatles portion of the collection. But there are a few lots left. There are some Paul McCartney and Wings lots, and some great individual transparencies of all four of them.

Be that as it may, even without a substantial Beatles presence the London Features Photo Archive Auction will be hard to ignore. There will be almost 500 individual lots of not only the candid photographs and professional photo shoots mentioned above, but also photographs of television appearances, live shows and other festivals. And most importantly, the sheer quantity, range and depth of the collection is backed up by an amazing quality.

"The quality is so high," says van Gool. "Not only the physical quality but the quality of the photographers. These were all pretty much professional photographers using high quality film and taking all the right photos but then mostly doing nothing with it, just sticking it into an archive."

For more information, go to To register for your All Access VIP Auction Pass click here: