Wall Street Journal Metropolis

March 29, 2013, 10:16 p.m. ET
A Periodontist’s Photographic Passion
For two decades, the children of the Boston-area periodontist Anthony Terrana have stumbled in their PJs past photos by giants like Man Ray, Herb Ritts, Walker Evans, Diane Arbus and Irving Penn. Now the kids are growing up, and Dr. Terrana, 57, is paring down. The auction house Phillips is offering 165 lots culled from his collection; the sale is expected to fetch $3.7 million to $5.4 million on Tuesday and Wednesday in New York. Among the priciest: “Georgia O’Keeffe,” a 1919 nude taken by Alfred Stieglitz at the start of his romance with the painter, expected to sell for at least $300,000.
Dr. Terrana decided to collect photography in 1990, after seeing an Ansel Adams at his accountant’s office. He recently spoke about his collection;
“There is a theme of children in the collection. One photograph in the show is by Angela Strassheim, ‘Untitled (Father & Son)’ [$10,000-$15,000 estimate]. You can make it very foreboding, or it can be very loving—that’s what always drew me to photographs of children. My first reaction was that it was almost like the son was frightened of the father. It’s actually the opposite; they have an incredible relationship. She photographed it in a mirror—to keep herself out of the shot was really difficult.
One of my favorites is the Helen Levitt. It’s the children on the stoop [‘N.Y.C.,’ $30,000-$50,000 estimate]. I loved that photograph for years. I called up a dealer I was working with, Robert Klein in Boston. He contacted Helen—she played poker once a week in New York City, in Washington Square, and he was trying to get involved in the poker game to see if he could go over there and talk to her about selling it. She didn’t want to sell it. I hadn’t even mentioned it. A year went by. He said to me, ‘Helen thinks she wants to sell this print. Do you still want it?’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’ I kept it on a little easel on my bedroom dresser so I could see it every day.
A lot of pieces in this auction were in my bedroom—the Imogen Cunningham of the lily, the Richard Avedon ‘Dovima With Elephants,’ different Sally Mann photos over the years, the Edward Weston ‘Shells.’
My office is filled with photos. I do surgery. I want to have something I can have a dialogue with the patient about, to get their mind off what I’m doing or about to do. I have a Martin Roemers photograph of Mumbai—99% of the patients who walk through the door always have a comment about this photograph. I have a Shannon Ebner in the room where I do surgery. I wouldn’t put up photographs of violence, especially showing blood, because that’s what’s about to happen.”

A version of this article appeared March 30, 2013, on page C14 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: A Periodontist’s Photographic Passion.

By Ellen Gamerman