COLLECTING VINTAGE PHOTOGRAPHS - Chances are you've already started collecting photographs, even if they're pages torn from a magazine, a poster of a famous image or photography books. The leap to collecting begins when you're ready to go beyond the image to the work itself. The collector of photography is concerned with three-dimensional works of art. Chatelaine's Antiques Collectibles Appraisals


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Chatelaine's Antiques & Appraisals MagazineFine Art > Feature series:
 Where to start collecting photos - Collecting old photographs series

Collecting Vintage Photographs Series

The Photo Collectors Market

A Snapshot of Photography's Past

Appraising Vintage Photographs - Assessing the value of vintage photography

Care & Conservation of Old Photographs

Glossary of photography terms used by auction and collectibles people - with examples.

Collecting Antique Photographs

Civil War Photographs

Spanish-American War

Elton John's Photographic Collection

Online Exhibition of Photos by Sydney Photojournalist

Naomi Watts Early Photos

Camera Shop



 Where to start collecting photos

 One of the great twentieth century icons, the camera, put the power of the media into the hands of the ordinary person.  Similar to the motor vehicle, people adapted to using a camera at their own pace, enthusiasm and artistic talent - some used the camera like a taxi (something we have to endure to get us there), some used it at work and showed us the world, some became like a Formula 1 driver and realised that photography is a marriage of art and science.

 Collecting photographs, like all things collectible, is a matter of personal taste.  If you're considering it as an investment in art, then you could do worse - the prices are soaring for limited edition prints by well known photographer artists.

 Chances are you've already started collecting photographs, even if they're pages cut from a magazine, a poster of a famous image or photography books. The leap to collecting begins when you're ready to go beyond the image to the work itself. The collector of photography is concerned with three-dimensional works of art - particularly the photographic print (though some collect original transparency slides - my own collection numbers over 10,000)

 Painting, by its nature, creates one-of-a-kind works - you're either lucky enough to own the original (if it's not already in a museum) or you have to settle for a print. Photography offers few originals (daguerreotypes being a notable exception) but nearly every photograph is available to own - for a price.

 Like all fields of collecting, the cardinal rule is to collect what you love. But I strongly recommend doing your research, following the photography auctions and standing on the sidelines a while before jumping into the fray. Many collectors begin with a desire to own a famous work that they've long known and cherished.

 These iconic images - such as Weegee's The Critic or Diane Arbus's haunting portrait, Identical Twins, Roselle, N.J. -- are hotly pursued by collectors.

 How to spot an iconic image? One rule of thumb would be if it's widely available as a poster, it's probably an icon.

 Personally, I don't recommend starting out with a wish list of the 100 most famous photographs. For one, you'll pay an extraordinary premium to obtain these icons. But more importantly, the familiarity of the images makes it more likely that you'll grow tired of them in short order.

 I suggest going beyond the icons and looking at the entire oeuvre of great photographers. Owning any work by one of the greats, such as Robert Frank or Edward Weston, has its inherent pleasures--even if your treasure may not be recognized at first glance by a visitor.

 And, of course, there are thousands of photographers working today whose work is available at entry-level prices. Collecting the work of a budding artist is not only a great way to get in on the ground floor before values take off, it's also a fine investment in the medium itself.

 Another avenue for the novice collector is to start with photography books. Monographs have established their own value, especially those printed in fine or limited editions and signed by the artist.

 The collector's market today encompasses areas of photography that were overlooked until very recently. Travel, fashion, industrial, advertising, news, stock photography - name an area of photography and you'll probably find somebody collecting it. While the best examples of work in any genre exhibit a high level of technical and artistic skill, the anonymity of most works in these fields limits generally their value.

 One notable exception is photographs of celebrities which have a value all their own, though not necessarily as fine art photography, and are generally treated as memorabilia.

 Other examples of photos that I've made that might be considered collectible in the future include the Official Portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her Golden Jubilee Banquet held at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Coolum 2002 (the picture includes 54 Kings, Queens, Presidents and Prime Ministers) and a photo session that I did with Australian actor John Bell recreating a photo session between Hitler and his photographer friend Heinrich Hoffman is also collectible because of its historical and celebrity connotations and connections.

 But of course these are a matter of taste - what is you favorite theme that you're basing your collection on?  How are you showing your collection - on walls, projected, in a portfolio case or a carte de visite folder, or are you publishing your photos?  Thinking about its end use helps you consider what type of photo images to collect.

 If you're considering a feature wall to display your photos, consider the size of the prints - 8 inch x 10 inch is a standard size for photographers and with some films the image becomes grainy if it is 'blown up' any larger - 16" x 20" is acceptable and colour prints off transparency looks great inside your home or office.


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