For many new art collectors, and those on a budget, photography is a promising form of art to collect. With style variations as wide as can be seen (and photographed), one is sure to find pieces which speak to a collector, and which make attractive displays and investment. Prices vary just as widely, averaging around $10,000 at auctions, and its popularity has exploded in the art world, making it a real contender for art collectors. However, before you simply walk into a gallery and purchase the next photograph you see, or in the alternative, discount it as a lesser art style, consider what makes it a true craft.

Photography: A Good Choice for Newcomers to the Art Space

Accessibility

Photographs can be taken anywhere in the world. Unlike sculpture or metalwork, which can be limited by the materials used in creation, or other forms of art which often require extensive training and experience in utilizing multiple supplies, photography is something that is part of our everyday existence. Millions of people around the world take pictures, and although most of those photographs are not necessarily artwork, this has created a general interest and enjoyment in photography. When searching for photos to add to a collection, one can find options in locations all over the world.

Editions

The first thought to come to mind about photographs may be the fact that they too are easily reproduced, while it is more likely that a sculpture or painting is done in one edition. Many artistic photographers, realizing the need to maintain the value of their work, protect their artwork’s depreciation by limiting the editions available for their photographs. This is the artist’s declaration as to how many prints of his or her specific photograph can be made. It is generally accepted that the fewer prints available for purchase, the higher the price (offering the collectors a feeling of “exclusivity”).

Creative Ability

Let’s face it, it’s simply not that easy to create a quality photograph. We have all experienced the frustration of trying to create an “acceptable” photograph of our families, pets, even memories of trips and events we have attended. It does take skill and a certain “eye” to not only take a photo, but to choose WHAT to photograph, including subject, background, angle, lighting, and color. Additionally, the process of taking and creating an outstanding photograph can include complicated equipment, lighting, and specific exposure. Finally, there are a variety of materials used to create a photo as well as the canvas—not just paper, but even metal. Materials like gelatin silver prints, albumen prints, chromogenic prints, dye-transfer prints and digital prints all add to the variation of photographs available for display.

Provenance

This term, showing the history of ownership and method of transfer, is very important for art collectors and investors, who want to know that what they are purchasing truly is what it is purported to be. Gaps in ownership erode the confidence that an item is authentic and increases the odds of forgery. Provenance for photography is a bit more challenging, as the nature of creating photographs lends itself to easy reproduction. Two of the most common methods which photographers use to protect the provenance of their work is through signing the works (with or without edition numbering) and indicating the date, media, and processed used in printing. In photographs taken prior to WWII, this was much less common, and ownership records are more vital to demonstrating ownership and authenticity.

Storytelling Value

Just like other mediums of art, a photograph has a story (or several) to tell. The history, culture, even social, political, and economic conditions are often revealed in a photograph. What makes photography so appealing is its truth. In many instances, photographs are taken of real-life experiences, whether amid an event or occurrence, or staged to recreate something that really happens. The people are real, and not just an example of an artist’s imagination, and the colors and scenery bring the viewer into the photograph, knowing that what he or she sees is reality.

Photography is Not Just a Fad Art Form

Although photography has become a more widely-accessible form of art with the invention and innovation of digital cameras, it is by no means a recent introduction. Photographs have been taken for hundreds of years, and many are still available for purchase, display or even reproduction. Iconic photos provide sentimental value and enjoyment to many collectors, reminding them of their youth or stories from their ancestors.

Determining Value of Photography

As with any other type of art, a photograph holds value based on several factors, including:

  • Edition: The more copies available, the more affordable the photograph becomes.
  • Age/Vintage: The term “vintage” has been tossed about as a description of age, although this is not accurate. It generally means that the photograph was printed near the time the original negative was made. As a new collector, don’t be fooled by the use of the term vintage; be sure to have photographs appraised to ensure their authenticity and value.
  • Photographer (notoriety): There are famous photographers, whose works obviously fetch higher prices. Ansel Adams (famous nature photographer), Alfred Steiglitz (who practically began the ideology of photography as art), Dorothea Lange (who brought the Great Depression to life in photographs), and Philippe Halsman (who collaborated with Salvador Dali) are some of the most well-known photographers in the history of the art form.
  • Condition: Like any other type of artwork, photographs can suffer from scratches, marks from handling, and color changes caused from UV exposure, poor storage, improper display, and rough handling.

Add Photography to Your Art Collection!

No matter your taste or budget, you can find photographs for your new (or growing) collection. Photographs tell a story like no other art form, bring the past (or nature, or a new culture) to mind, and may inspire you in new ways. Understanding the value and history in your new photography collection provides you with an investment which speaks to you, graces your space, and provides an investment for years to come.

Sybaris Collection

Sybaris offers a variety of photographs from artists and cultures from around the world and can help you discover your own personal style. To help you curate your private photography collection, our exclusive Private ARTclub membership can provide you with a variety of selections like nowhere else in the world.