The invention of photography in the 1830s opened up new
vistas, a new way of seeing that has forever changed the way we view the
world. In fact, it's difficult for the modern mind to imagine the world
before photography. Without photographic evidence, we're not as willing to
grant the authenticity of an event, person or place.
Together with the allied fields of film and video,
photography has become the de facto record of our lives. The pervasiveness
of photographic images is matched only by the universality of the act of
photographing. Not everyone paints. Few of us have wielded a sculptor's
hammer and chisel. But almost all of us have taken photographs. Hundreds,
if not thousands of photographs.
The egalitarian nature of photography helps explains
its widespread appeal. As photographers, we can appreciate great
photographs. In fact, many of the photographers we revere today were
self-taught and did their best work as amateurs. Eugene Atget, for
example, labored in obscurity for decades cataloguing his beloved Paris.
His work went largely unnoticed at the time, but is now considered one of
the milestones in the history of photography.
But if you've ever become glassy eyed looking at
someone else's travel snapshots, you already know that the mere act of
taking a photograph doesn't qualify as art. What separates the amateur
shutterbug from the artist is not technology-even the weekend hobbyist has
access to much the same hardware as the pros-nor even strictly technique.
It is an artistic vision that crafts images both before and after the
shutter is opened.
The challenge for the collector is to identify this
artistic vision and separate the truly great (and therefore collectible)
artists from the ordinary. Fortunately, the market has done some of the
work for you. This article will introduce you to the fine art of
photography and how to avoid some of the pitfalls of this fast growing
field of collecting.