Beginners Guide to Collecting Photography - Issue 1

May is officially Photography month. Our friends at Crane Kalman Gallery have helped us put together a beginners guide to collecting photography. 


Why collect photography?

The best reason to buy anything is that you cannot imagine living without it. Photography is still a relative newcomer to the collecting scene, having only really come to the fore in the 1970s, due to serious collectors began to notice its value. Since the 1980s, the market for art photography has been steadily accelerating. With a sharply growing status in the art market, today it is recognised as an established artistic medium. In a fifteen-year period starting in 2000, photography’s price index grew by 48%. By the end of 2017, art-market analysis showed that art photography sales were up 54% overall.

Photographs by emerging and even established photographers are incredibly reasonable in comparison with the astronomical and ever-rising costs of contemporary art, which means that it is possible to build an exceptional photography collection for the equivalent price of one good piece of contemporary art. Did you know that the average auction price for a photograph is $10,000, compared with $60,000 for a painting? This makes it an appealing and exciting medium to be collecting, not to mention infinitely more accessible. And if you look at collecting work by emerging and mid-career photographers, or those in the 19-35 age group, it is highly likely that you will be investing early in great artists of the future.

Where to start?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to something as subjective as taste and art. A personal touch is key. Think about what you like; maybe you have a penchant for vintage cars. You could start with a well-defined field, like landscape photography or portraiture, and explore the ways in which different photographers approach their subject matter.

Some experts suggest creating a narrative through a selection of works by individual photographers. If you identify a noticeable theme driving your desires and interests, you can source works that respond to that theme. Grow your collection from there. 

If you have a fondness for icons of our recent history, look at Richard Heeps’ work. In Indian Coca Cola, Heeps depicts the immediately recognisable, cursive, white Coca Cola script locked in a losing battle with fading red paint on wood boards. The once vivid colours recall the glowing Golden Age of Coca-Cola. This is when it was linked with relaxation and an American way of life. Now, the sign has deteriorated. That Golden Age is just a distant memory held in our collective cultural consciousness. Heeps creates a powerful and deeply nostalgic evocation of fifties American life to contrast the immediacy of our contemporary lives.

If you have an interest in American style, look no further than Michael Schachtner’s elegant images of the iconic American sports shoe: Converse’s All Star. Schachtner's individual images of pairs of battered All Stars, one of the most iconic footwear silhouettes of all time, against a pure white background elevate the humble rubber-soled sports shoe to a museum object. The ingenuity behind this series is the way Schachtner depicts these shoes as portraits of their owners; every grain of dirt, every crease in the fabric, every hole in the sole represents a journey or adventure taken by the wearer, and vicariously by us.

What next?

Consider your personality: do you prefer to plan or are you led purely by instinct? If you like to plan, think about creating a mood-board, bringing together your interests in an immediately visual way. From the simplest approach of collating images that you like, to a more in-depth method, like identifying the aesthetic of a decade, nothing is off limits to you.

Why a mood-board?

The process of physically pinpointing what you like or what interests you through a mood-board can stimulate fresh ideas. Make the most of technology; use Instagram to search hashtags that will inspire new ideas, and collect your interests digitally. The benefit of creating a mood-board, is that it will enable you to see how works will look together in one space.

What suits you?

Trips to art galleries and fairs are a good idea if you are guided by instinct. This is because you can look at work in the flesh. Visiting a gallery and being surrounded by images is a valuable way of gauging your reaction to an artwork the moment you see it. It will also enable you to visualise how pieces will look in your home. Consider size, space and style; you will know what suits you and your home best. You can then use artrepublic's website to find available works.

Which photographers?

Consider supporting early-career photographers as their work will be more affordable than the big names. You may discover a gem that speaks to you. Try following photographers on Instagram; this will bring you closer to seeing their creative process and what happens behind the scenes. It will also prompt you to research the photographer, their background, interests, or previous series.

Summing up

Let your instincts and tastes guide you. Know the background of the photographer, the series, the edition size and pricing ladder, and have conversations with the gallery; research is key. But ultimately buy what you like. Think with your head, but buy with your heart. 

We hope you enjoyed reading this article about photography and all the opportunity it offers. Stay tuned to see further instalments into the ever prosperous world of photography!