Insights & Musings: Collecting Fine Art Photography 101
If you're an art collector there are many mediums to choose from...paintings, sculptures, drawings, conceptual art, the list goes on. In the grand scheme of things photography is a relatively new medium but certainly not one to be overlooked.
Actually, collecting fine art photography has risen in prominence, evidenced by a compilation of Influential Photography Collectors published by ArtNet News. The list includes luminaries from the entertainment worlds such as Elton John and Jamie Lee Curtis. Artur Walther, a former Goldman Sachs partner, who's collection boasts 2 spaces to hold it (one in New York and the other in Germany) claims the number one spot as a photography collector. Then there is John and Lisa Pritzker (the Pritzker family are the founders of the Hyatt Hotels). Peter Cohen, an investment banker, began collecting in the early 1990's when he purchased amateur photographs at a Chelsea flea market and is now considered the foremost collector of photography and has made gifts to The Met, The Museum of Modern Art, The Morgan Library and other prominent houses.
So where do you start? I believe that there are 5 Top factors to consider when purchasing Fine Art Photography.
1. Do You Love It?
As a collector, no matter what you're collecting, the number one factor for purchasing a piece of art or any collectable is "do you love it?" As you continue reading I list other factors to consider but all the others will fall to the way side if you love that particular piece of art. My husband and I have this conversation all the time. He's the pragmatic one in the relationship and will always ask, "but where will you put it?", "are you sure you want to spend this much?", "we already have a similar one." My answer is always the same...."but I love it!" sometimes you have to go with your gut and your heart.
2. Is It A Limited Edition?
When a painter finishes a painting there is no disputing that one piece is the original. Limited editions of a painting are created by professionally photographing (this is an art form in itself) and creating limited edition prints on archival papers. In the world of photography when we were shooting film the negative would have been considered the original, would that make the digital file today the original? Or would anything printed from the negative or digital file be considered the original? These are good questions which I don't believe there are definitive answers for.
The way a photographer will create value for the collector is to limit the number of prints that are made of each image. An edition of 50 and an edition of 3 are both limited but they wouldn't have the same value.
It's a matter of supply and demand. The smaller the edition the more exclusive it is and hence the more expensive it will be. You're paying for that exclusivity. The images that you'll see in my galleries will be editions of 50 or 100. Regardless of the sizes that are sold once the edition limit has been met no other prints will ever be produced. I also offer 3 Artist Proofs of each image. These are typically the first prints of the images that I produce and the sizes and finishes will vary.
3. Craftsmanship & Technique
As with other mediums the skill of the artist is a factor. Is there consistency in the quality of the images in the photographer's portfolio? Does the photographer have different portfolios or bodies of work? Do they employee different techniques? When you look at all these elements you will generally see an evolution in the work and proficiency of the artist.
Make sure you pay attention to the materials that are being used to produce the prints. Today most photographers go beyond the traditional print and offer other mediums such as metal and acrylic. With any of these mediums make sure that archival quality materials that are acid free are being used. This will ensure the longevity of the final product and that it doesn't yellow. You can learn more about the fine art prints I offer here.
4. The Narrative
Every image tells a story and every photograph has something to say. Whether the story is within the image itself, how the image was taken or made or the story of the photographer's life these stories are part of the excitement of purchasing or collecting fine art photography. Did you ever take a writing or journalism course in school? Do you remember the first lesson? When you're doing research or preparing an outline what do you always have to keep in mind? The 5 W's....Who, What, When, Where and Why. Each element within the frame is deliberately there because the photographer put it there and every photograph will have a backstory on how it was made, why it was made, where it was made as well the photographer's story. You can dig as deep as you want. To quote Elton John, who holds one of the greatest collections of photographs in the world..."they (photographs) are like reading a book, your imagination comes alive and you imagine what was going on when the photograph was taken."
Buying art directly from the artist you can rest assured that the condition and quality of the art will be pristine. If you're not buying directly from the artist or a reputable gallery make sure the photograph is not damaged, yellowing, bent or torn.
Make sure that the print is signed and that it comes with a certificate of authenticity. This will confirm its provenance and the edition number of the piece.
So there you go...my top 5 factors to consider when purchasing fine art photography but above all the one that counts is #1...do you love it?