The Art Of Collecting Photography

So many aspiring photographers dream of giving up their jobs to live the dream as a professional photographer, sell prints and or own a gallery.

I know this because it’s a conversation I have had with so many photographers over the last 9 months.

This year I have had the privilege to work for, talk to and spend time with so many professional photographers across several fields and they all ask me the same question…

“Whose work do I collect?”

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A lesson I’ve learnt this year is that I have needed to really understand photography and the industry… The irony of that is I just finished studying photography, I thought I knew the industry well. It wasn’t so much the art of taking a photo, or editing a photo, who is who in the industry… I needed to learn more about the photography market.

I like many, aspire to eventually sell prints commercially. How could I ever do that successfully if I don’t understand who I am selling to, why and what they want as consumers. The answer to those questions was it wasn’t at all close to what I was thinking.

The first question I am continually asked is “who’s work I owned and why?” “Whose work do I admire?” And do I admire it enough to own it or replicate it?

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I began to become a better photographer when I began to collect photography, not just prints but books. Collecting photography doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune.

So why collect?

The best reason to buy a photograph is that you like it: it gives you pleasure, stimulates you, challenges you. Everything else, especially the issue of investment, always comes second. However, the most important term to remember is ‘original’. An original photograph is hand-made, and authenticated by the photographer during his or her lifetime. In most cases, it is signed by the photographer and, increasingly, produced in a limited edition. Same is said for books.

Photography interests me on multiple genres, so I collect books and work of a wide range of photographers from Ansel Adams, Frank Hurley, Gary Heery, Stephen DuPont, Ken Duncan, Trent Parke, Art Wolfe, Ray Collins, Peter Eastway, Peter Drombovskis, and Adam Brandt to name a few. I learnt about most of these photographers in my studies at RMIT University, and they continue to inspire me.

In the last twelve months, I’ve grown a lot as a photographer! I read more, I study more, I look at a wide range of image, but I am investing in my own development. I have images on my wall that inspire me to be better, not my own photography because if I had my own images on my wall that is my glass ceiling… I want to be better than my last photograph.

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Ken Duncan told me a few years ago to start my journey to create books of my work, so every year I create a book of my images from the year. Today looked through my first book I created in my first year as a “want a be photographer”, after you get over the what was I thinking, and straight away seeing the change, I have developed, I can see multiple styles I have shifted through, multiple photographer’s styles that has influenced me in a quest to find out the photographer I want to be.

By collecting work, you will find that you will be investing in your own development as a photographer and as a consumer, you will be owning a piece of work with a story, not just a photograph.

Key points to remember to collecting:

1.     Buy what you like, a print that holds your attention, evokes a memory

2.     Know or ask for the story behind the print

3.     Buy from someone who can give you reliable information on the print/book and its provenance or buy direct from the photographer,

4.     Check that it is an original photograph and not a fine quality lithographic reproduction

5.     Make sure you know how the photograph was made - and its likely stability, what the print is printed on,

6.     Check if the photograph is from a limited edition; prints there may be of that image

7.     Ask for a certificate of authenticity from the seller

8.     Learn how to frame and care for the print

9.     Learn everything you can about the photographer.