Photography has gained recognition as art only recently. However, the enthusiasm of collectors is growing, important events related to photography are rapidly multiplying and are becoming more important every year.
In addition, it is an excellent medium to start a collection. It is generally less expensive than a painting or a sculpture, on top of this photography has another advantage: as a contemporary medium, it is easier for a novice buyer to get an idea of the market and of the innovations around the practice of photography. But how can you make a choice among the many choices available today? Here are some answers and tips to avoid making a mistake when buying a photograph.
Get immersed in the culture of photography
It is important to have a basic knowledge about the history of photography before starting to buy. Indeed, some photographers get inspired by their predecessors, producing pictures of low artistic interest. Having a good photographic culture allows thus to identify the young innovative talents. Photographic books are specially valuable for those who want to start a collection : they will allow you to know the artists that have marked the history of photography since its invention.
You then have to keep a sharp eye, and keep posted about the current events of the 8th art. There are many possibilities available for this. For example, visiting specialized galleries or fairs is an excellent way to keep up with the latest trends. In France, we recommend you the Paris Photo Fair, where you can observe the photographs of the most popular photographers every year. “Le Festival Circulation(s)”, on his part, offers an overview of the young European photography scene, while the Encounters in Arles (Rencontres d’Arles) have been a reference in the world of photography for more than 40 years.
Define what you are looking for
Parade 9 (Curious Police), Beijing, 2012 ©Almond Chu
Abstract or figurative photography, black and white or color, analog or digital: the options are very important and eclectic. When you want to buy a photograph, you do not have to stumble upon the numerous choices available. To be sure that you are not making a mistake and buy a print that you really like, we advise you to previously define a subject, a topic or a style that attracts your interest. You do not have to limit yourself to something too precise, but it will help you direct your research, or even anticipate the harmony of a future collection. It is also very important to define your budget to facilitate your research.
Understanding the prize of the artwork
The Royal House – Luxury shopping for a large family, 2015 ©Paco Puentes
Among all the photographs on the market, the differences in prizes are very significant, ranging from a few hundred euros to tens of thousands of Euros. How can you then understand the price of a photograph? It is an essential question, especially since pricing a photograph follows a certain logic, especially when compared to a painting. While a painting is characterized by the uniqueness of the piece, the photograph is by the reproducibility of the print. This particularity plays a non-negligible role in the prizes that you will see. The higher the number of copies, the lower the price of the print, and vice versa. It is also important to precise that according to the law, only the first thirty exemplaries of a photograph are considered original prints and have the value of a work of art. When you want to buy a photograph, you need to know the number of prints produced by the artist, which is easily done if they are numbered and signed.
Be careful about the quality and the kind of print.
Intérieur/nuit/Marrakech N°2, 2016, ©Amine Oulmakki
Familiarizing yourself with the basic printing techniques and supports could be very useful. Some papers are characteristic of an artist work and certain printing techniques, such as digigraphy, are reserved to the reproduction of works of arts. The information about the technical aspects of a photograph are thus important cues about the authenticity or the status of the print. Paper supports, dibond, or plexiglass supports have to be taken into account : they have different life expectancies and different conservation methods. For example, for a large-scale work, the lamination on dibond guarantees it will hold good over time.
Think about where you should put your piece
Rotten Feelings, 2012 ©Huseyin Ketencioglu
It is impossible to dissociate the work of art from the place where it will be exposed. Thus, before buying it, you need to think about the place where you want to put the piece once you buy it. The photograph will be part of your interior and of your life, it must be integrated. This detail is important not only for the aspect and the enhancement of the photograph, but for its conservation as well. Indeed, photography is a fragile technique: variations in temperature and humidity have to be avoided. Concerning the illumination, you cannot use direct light. It is better to use indirect light and artificial lighting, LEDs or optical fiber, artificial lights without UV are preferable.