Could photography collecting eclipse Fine Art?

Photographic collecting is leaving behind Fine Art. Yes, according to Ian Jeffrey, writer and art historian. It started back in the 1970s and 80s, says the author of The Photography Book, when who was working for Magnum began to attract photo collectors. Over three decades later, that attraction has grown lot bigger. It has in a sense already overtaken Fine Art because a lot of fine art is too difficult to store. To be a fine art collector you need to have access to professional storage facilities, whereas even the most modest collectors can store photographs easily. The issues around collecting photography initially arise from the medium’s reproducibility. Collectors concerns are connected with decreasing the value of their investment and they seem wise to stick with unique objects and keep distance from mediums that can be made in multiples. Plus, photographs can degrade, particularly when it comes to big colour prints because colour processes are still pretty unstable.

The existence of the new photo fairs, like Photo50, Photo London alongside with the other international art fairs seem to be attempting some kind of affirmative action programme for the medium of Photography, but why would photography need special treatment when all important indicators otherwise show that it is well assimilated in the contemporary art scene? According to Brandel Estes, Deputy Director of Sotheby’s Photographs Department and Chair of The Photographer’s Gallery Contemporaries, photography as collected is a young market and it is attractive for the nature of the medium that is accessible and approachable and it is a popular genre. Almost every well-known contemporary art gallery now includes a few photographers among their lists. So photography is increasingly asserting itself on the auction block as an significant investment so its prices in the galleries and at the major fairs reflect its serious new status. Yet collecting Fine Art Photography remains a more complex and fraught endeavour than collecting painting or even sculpture.

Cover: “Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibition Milano” By Maurizio Zanetti via Flickr – With CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons


Francesca Marcaccio


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