Sony Xperia M
About The Gallery Exhibitions Our Artists Editions Workshops

Here you can find a collection of (hopefully) usefull informations about Fine Art Photography, and collecting photographs. The texts were first published on <The Constant Photographer> blog of Chris Dematté.

UNDERSTANDING THE MARKET FROM DAGUERROTYPE TO GICLÉE A/P, B.A.T., 3/25 - WHAT'S IN A SIGNATUR
MORE MONEY THAN SENSE? BUY WHAT YOU LOVE... WHAT TO LOOK FOR...
TAKING CARE YES, IT IS ART. FROM SILVER TO SILICON
HOW PHOTOGRAPHY LEARNED
  ABOUT DYING
MY (VIRTUAL) COLLECTION SO MANY BOOKS, SO LITTLE TIME
A POTATO AS A PROXY FOR THE ONTOLOGICAL STUDY OF THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE COLLECTING ICONS
 
 
SO MANY BOOKS, SO LITTLE TIME
 

So you have found some old photo books on the attic or a bought one cheap at a flea market? Take a closer look and do some research. You may have hit a gold pot...

These days, photo books are seen as collector items in the art world, whether hardback or a zine, no book is completely overlooked by the market. Photo books are a special, unique way of curating a body of work and owning a physical object (not too distant from a physical print – which in many ways is superior to an image rendered on a computer screen).

Think of a photo book as a concentrated mini portfolio or exhibition which is able to capture and convey a story, era, location and which can coin artistic trends in a single object. It can arguably be said that some photo books represent some photographers’ finest works. And collecting photo books can be a profitable endeavor too. Even if you just buy new books, you can build a valuable collection in a relatively short amount of time if you choose wisely — photography books don't take a hundred years to become rare and valuable. Some can become so in as little as five or ten years; in twenty or thirty years, most good photography monographs will have satisfied the definition of a collectable book: "worth more used than it sold for new."

Some leads for starting a photo book collection:

     • Try to buy first editions and look for books that are signed.
     • It is crucial to look for the nicest possible copies. Books in inferior condition (unless exceedingly rare), don't hold value.
     • And if you buy books you genuinely like (I wouldn't counsel doing anything but!), it doesn't matter if they increase in value or not...

There are some varying ways to look for collectibles. If you have a lot of money to spent you best start at the big auction houses. Most of them have photo book auctions twice a year or so. But don‘t forget that there is real money to spent. Lately a signed early edition of Henri Cartier-Bresson's The Decisive Moment sold for $19,800, a signed early edition of Robert Frank's influential photo book The Americans for $62,300. At the moment there are a few copies of this same book offered by rare book sellers in a price range of $12,750 to $75,000 (plus $10 for shipping). So if you want to collect photo books just for profit this might be your choice...

A photo book worth up to $75,000...

But there are other (more reasonable) ways to start a collection:

Look for small edition like the

One Picture Books by Nazraeli Publishing

 

Made in editions of five hundred, each book is sixteen pages, the last of which has an original signed and numbered print. Nazraeli publishes four One Picture books each spring and fall, keeping a thoughtful balance between established photographers and unpublished, lesser-known artists. Nazraeli uses a structured pricing system for the series. Upon release, each One Picture book is offered for forty dollars to subscribers; as the edition progresses, the price steadily increases, usually capping at a hundred and fifty dollars. Even so, One Picture books remain one of the most affordable ways to collect books and original prints of this caliber: after an edition sells out on the Nazraeli site, it can be often be found on bookseller and auction sites for upwards of $1,000.
 

A spread of Michael Kenna's One Picture Book

Until now they have published 92 volumes - if you had subscribed you would have paid $3,680. If you didn‘t subscribe you still can get the set of 92 books at some rare book galleries and seller - for the price of $9,950...

The One Picture Book series will end at its 100th title in 2016, and will begin anew (in a slightly revised format) shortly thereafter. Maybe an opportunity for starting a collection?

 

Buy self-published books from emerging photographers

Self-publishing is a growing market. As it gets more and more easier (and cheaper) to produce a book in a limited edition the potential of self-publishing is widely used by photographers nowadays. And it offers a great opportunity to own unique examples of really good art...

 

One of earliest example of a self-published photo book is Edward Ruscha‘s Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations published by National Excelsior Press (Ruscha’s own imprint) in a run of 400 copies in 1963 originally sold for $3.50. Now the cheapest available copy on is $17,500...

In 2012 Cristina De Middel self-published her book „The Afronauts“ with a print-run of only 1000 copies and a a price of $50. That copies are now so sought after that they will exchange hands for $1,500...

 
 
I highly recommend starting a photo book collection if the idea appeals to you. It can deepen your knowledge of, and your enjoyment of, photography; it can express your personal taste; and it can be fun. Even if you buy no more than a dozen well-chosen books a year, in a decade or two you will have gathered a respectable, and probably valuable, collection.
 
First published January 14, 2016 at The Constant Photographer
top
Newsletter Contact