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Joe Macdonald

Joe Macdonald and I met in the mid-1970s, a heady time for photography. He had just begun collecting seriously. He was a wonderfully good-looking man who achieved astonishing success as a model in Paris and had recently moved to New York to broaden his career. We lived near each other, and he would stop by Sotheby's, where I worked, at the end of the day to walk me home. He always came with a beautiful flower or news of a bar that served Champagne by the glass (not easy to find in the '70s) or a story about a great Man Ray Rayograph that might be coming on the market. Joe had great personal style, and so did his collection. He wanted to grasp the essence of a picture at first glance, and that essence had to be powerful enough to continue to fascinate him. His collection included works by Man Ray, Avedon, Penn, Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, and Edward Weston.By 1979 Joe sensed that the photography market had peaked, so Sotheby's arranged a single-owner sale in November 1979 and published a separate catalog, quite an event at that point. All but two of the 89 lots sold. Joe was jubilant that he'd read the market correctly (and made quite a bit of money), but sad at how empty his apartment felt. Not long afterward, he began having minor health problems that today would immediately signal AIDS but at that time were simply confusing. As things got worse, Joe remained optimistic.He volunteered to try any experimental cure and energetically spread the unpopular news that AIDS existed and killed. He had his clothes taken in, studied meditation, read books.He asked his brother Tim Macdonald, the interior designer, to redo his apartment and looked forward to being pleasantly surprised when he returned from his next hospital stay. Joe died in the hospital in April1983, one day before he was to come home.

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