Photography has recently seen a boom as both an art form and as an investment. TV programs like Sky’s ‘Master of Photography’ and the BBC's ‘Britain In Focus’ illustrate photography’s rising popularity. With social media giving us a place to ‘exhibit’ photographs taken with increasingly high tech mobile phone cameras, more of us are turning to photography as a way to tell our stories. And with photography becoming more attainable for everyone, really great photographs taken by skilled professionals have become even more desirable.
Digital Photography enables some beautiful editing that wasn’t previously available to photographers without a multitude of darkroom skills. But there is still something special about those one-off, manually focussed images caught by a photographer in a split-second, like this one of the Red Arrows taken by 100 Prints contributor, Andy Scaysbrook in the mid-90’s. It was the core image in a body of work that helped him win one of his 2 National Press Photographer of the Year awards.
It's this kind of provenance and the technical knowledge of our photographers that gives their work value as an investment.
Here at 100 Prints, we aim to identify a new breed of collectible art by emerging and established British photographers whose talent has already been acknowledged by their peers but hasn’t been picked up by the more mainstream galleries. We aim to bring you affordable, beautiful work that will only grow in value - collectible photography doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Choose a piece you love from a reputable website or gallery, make sure it has all the authentication it needs, hang it on your wall and enjoy it while it appreciates in value.
As Elton John said of his ‘The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection’ exhibition (running at The Tate Modern until May 7th 2017. Update: now extended until 21st May):
“I often go around private galleries and collections and I see all the big obvious photographs by the masters, which are great, but I’m thinking, where is your personal selection? Where is the art that cost $150? …That’s the great thing about photography – you can walk into a gallery and see something that’s really beautiful and inspiring and it will cost you, well, 500 quid.”
One of Sir Elton’s first investment pieces was a vintage print of ‘Glass Tears’ by Man Ray for which he paid £112,500. At the time that was a record amount for an auctioned photograph, then a ‘quiet area’ of art - only 6 years later another vintage print of the same photograph sold for over $1 million. Photographers like Peter Like, Andreas Gursky & Cindy Sherman now realise up to $6.5 million for a single print.
So what makes a piece collectible? If you’re considering building a Photography Collection or you’re looking for a piece to set off your new interior, here's our top tips on what to look out for.
Our number one tip would be to buy work that you love. When you see a print that inspires you, have a dig into the photographer’s background & reputation. Most professional photographers will have their own websites, often with timelines or a biography of their achievements to date. Have they won any awards? Have they had any editorial features? Have they been featured in any exhibitions? How long has their career lasted? Any of these should suggest a photographer has a strong body of work, as Laura Noble, author of the book ‘the Art of Collecting Photography” says “You can see their trajectory and their commitment and consistency.”
The Image Itself
It is part of a series or specific body of work? Is it early or late in the series? Is it a strong example? Look at colours, detail, composition. If you're serious about collecting photography then get to know your subject. Visit galleries, research online... get out and about and see what's popular. For example, at the moment drones are making it much easier to get aerial views which is making them fashionable and introducing a new era of photography. Is street photography or landscapes your thing? Are you a lover of classic black & whites or do you like the effects gained by clever editing skills?
Whilst the former details are a good way to gauge how likely the photo is to increase in value, you have to love the photo if you're going to hang it on your walls.
Editions began in the 1970s as a way to overcome the problem photographers were having with the ease of printing their images over and over again. It was a commitment by the photographer or their agent to only sell a limited number of each image, thereby holding - or increasing - their worth.
Generally around 100-200, the smaller the edition is, generally, the higher the price. It is common for prices to increase as the Editions sell out. You should always make sure there is documentation that the print belongs to the edition - reputable galleries will include a Certificate of Authenticity with each print.
If a print has an interesting history, for example, it's been used in an exhibition, published by a well-respected magazine (like our National Geographic Collection) or owned by a famous person, it makes it more attractive to an investor.
We'd also like to share with you the British Journal of Photography's Guide to Collecting Photography. You can download it by clicking the image below.
If you would like any further information on any of the photographs on 100 Prints, please email us with the names of the image and the photographer and we will do our best to find out for you.