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
|• MY (VIRTUAL) COLLECTION||• SO MANY BOOKS, SO LITTLE TIME|
|• A POTATO AS A PROXY FOR THE ONTOLOGICAL STUDY OF THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE||• COLLECTING ICONS|
|BUY WHAT YOU LOVE...|
|Photo Festivals like Les Recontres d'Arles with their exhibitions and portfolio reviews ( (seen here) are a good opportunity to get a perspective on what's
going on in the Univers of Art Photography.
Collecting photographs is much about personal taste. If you see collecting photographs only as an investment possibility then maybe I am not the right person to give you advices. I know up to nothing about investments. And personally I don‘t like most of the „most expansive photographs“, don‘t see any artistic values in them. But thats my personal opinion, is reflecting my personal taste. If you want to make investments to increase your money I can give you only a short view on the market and keep in mind: While many photographs can be fine investments, an increase in value is never guaranteed.
"To collect photographs is to collect the world."
Whether you’re buying for profit, pleasure, or both - there is no right or wrong way to collect. There are only some things you have to keep in mind to avoid spending money more than necessary.
Whatever your approach to collecting, the crucial thing is to enjoy it. “Buy what you love. Buy what speaks to you,” says Laura Noble, gallerist and author of the „Art of Collecting Photography“. “It’s a reflection of who you are.”
So make the first step. Decide what you want to collect. You can collect by genre (e.g. travel photographs from the 19th century) or on artist you like. You can collect prints done with a special technique (like platinum prints). You can collect prints made in a certain timeframe (e.g. the 1950s). It‘s only about you. Go out and find what you like. It is waiting there to be discovered.
Some considerations to take into account...
Whatever you decided to collect, there are a number of criteria to follow (which are often the same ones for establishing the value appraisals).
There are many different circumstantialities one has to take into consideration to find the right value for a certain print. I want to show you this fact on one striking example:
Edward Henry Weston was a 20th-century American photographer He has been called "one of the most innovative and influential American photographers…" and "one of the masters of 20th century photography." One of his most famous series is the „Shells“ portfolio. But prints from this portfolio are in a range from about $ 15.000 up to more than $1 million (for the same image!). Why?
Well, it very much depends on the kind of the print. Weston‘s photographs come in four varieties: vintage prints, signed by himself and prints late by himself (e.g. in the 1930s from his 1920s negatives or in the 1940s from his 1930s negatives). Then there are so called „project prints“ made under his supervision by his son Brett in the 1950s (when Edward developed Parkinson‘s disease). And there are posthumous prints by his other son Cole...
Left: April 2012 Christie‘s
Middle: April 2014, Sotheby‘s
Right: April 2010, Sotheby‘s
|As I said before: A collection should reflect your taste and interest. And it will be very much influenced by your budget...|
|First published Dec 7, 2015 at The Constant Photographer|
|WHAT TO LOOK FOR...|
|Art Photography must not be boring...|
Photographs have been collected since its innovation. As early as the 1850s photographs were sold by art galleries. In 1854 the first auction of photographs took place in London (although the first auction in the USA was only a century later). By the early 20th century photography was established as collectible (but the debate about „photography as art“ is still going on even today) and from the 1970th on we can find the market as we know it today.
Seeing an investment potential can be a reason for collecting photographs but an increase in value is never guaranteed and is very much depending on what is called “art market“, which is following more or less the up and downs of the economy, reflecting every crisis (reflected e.g. in the downfall of auction prices in the 1990s or 2008).
In my opinion aesthetic considerations are far more important. As already said before: Collect what you love. For a beginning concentrate on one specific theme, period, style or artist. Later on your collecting decisions may evolve and change when your knowledge increases. And with everything in life it very much depends on how much money you want (or can) spend...
First of all I would suggest some reading. There are a lot of books about the „theory of photography“ (also imho most of them are more confusing than helpful). There are some „musts“ you should read: Susan Sontag‘s On Photography, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography by Roland Barthes or Walter Benjamin‘s On Photography and The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. All these book my help you to get some background on the philosophical base of photography...
|WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN COLLECTING PHOTOGRAPHS
[This of course is not a complete list. There are quite a number of other aspects that have to be taken into account (such as storage, presentation, etc), with which I will deal in another post.]
So you found a photography you like. Or you have heard about an „upcoming“ photographer who‘s work you like. Try to learn as much as possible about her/him. Many (established) photographers have written books about their work.
|Some examples of book by or about photographers. I personally can recommend each of it...|
Try to learn how they are thinking, what they have to tell you about their work, the ideas behind it. Look at their bios: do they exhibit regularly, is their work critically acclaimed? What is their place in the present market, the history of photography (although this are points to take into consideration when you are collecting as an investment only).
The condition of a print has a big influence on the price. Ansel Adams famous picture Moonrise, Hernandez can vary between $0.00 and $600,000, depending on the condition. The latter price was achieved at auction for a 1948 vintage print with a clear and documented provenance in excellent condition. The current price for a late print in very good to excellent condition is $50-60,000. And the Ansel Adams Gallery reports about a print of Moonrise that looked like it had been a pinup in a machine shop, with heavy oil stains on the mount, smudges and scratches on the surface, that basically had zero value on the market.
• Existing prints, editions
This are only a few points that a novice collector should take into consideration. I will deal with some more in upcoming posts.
|First published Dec 9, 2015 at The Constant Photographer|