Contemporary Fine Art Photography and Collecting Approaches
The old warehouse was built in South Suzhou Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai in 1908. It was originally the second warehouse of Imperial Bank of China, and later was the private warehouse of Du Yuesheng. And now, It has transformed to fantastic buildings that is the fashionable and creative, and become a culture and art gathering place close the Suzhou River.
We were invited to go there for watched a wonderful contemporary fine art photography exhibition. In the past decade, with the development of science and technology, some unique photography works have also been favored by collectors.
The word "photography" was created from the Greek, meaning "drawing with light". Photography is the result of combining several technical discoveries. But originally, all photography was monochrome, or black-and-white. Even after color film was readily available, black-and-white photography continued to dominate for decades.
When we speak about photography, we must make a distinction between fine art photography, and documentary photography. The first one is created in line with an artistic vision, where the photo-medium is used only as a means to achieving the full expression. The latter is descriptive and representational, as it provides a visual record of specific subjects or events, focused on the moment or a a specific thing rather than on a predefined vision. Both of these categories are goals of collectors, but their have different audiences. Fine art photography is admired, and loved by art lovers and was rarely regarded as anything other than art, while documentary photography appeals to the broader public, sometimes regarded as the best way to preserve crucial historical moments.
Photography has charmed, and attracted artists and art lovers through decades, first for its respectable and collectible, then for its democracy and always for its wonderful artistic qualities. Photography collectors often nurture a passion for the medium of light, building their collections with great care.
Clive Bell in his classic essay Art states that only the "significant form" can distinguish art from what is not art. There must have some one quality without which a work of art is altogether worthless.
The digital age and an increasing number of affordable, and good cameras have changed photography from its core. Today, everyone can become a photographer and dabble in this work. However, the most of the snapshotting amateurs rarely become photography artists, because fine art photography is not about the technique. Artists were creating images that evoke emotion by a photographic in which the mind and imagination are freely but competently exercised.
One of the best photographer Ansel Adams said: “Art implies control of reality, for reality itself possesses no sense of the aesthetic. Photography becomes art when certain controls are applied.” This means that artistic photographer will never engage in “capturing the moment” for the moment’s sake, nor will he try to document anything. A photographic camera for such a creative is merely a tool through which he can express himself and shape the style of his art. Other kinds of photography are generally related to photojournalism and although they can be visually just as interesting as fine art photos, they are created in a moment, in a different context, and from a different angle.
Photography was invented in the early 19th century. A major breakthrough, it changed and influenced the history of art in different ways and consequently inspired the invention and development of the film art. Yet, In the UK as recently as 1960, photography was not really recognized as a Fine Art. chairman Dr S.D.Jouhar said, when he formed the Photographic Fine Art Association at that time - “At the moment photography is not generally recognized as anything more than a craft. The London Salon shows pictorial photography, but it is not generally understood as an art. There is not corresponding recognition in this country. Whether a work shows aesthetic qualities or not it is designated 'Pictorial Photography' which is a very ambiguous term. ” This was because the progress of then-innovative medium was very much connected with technical advancements, requiring knowledge of chemistry and optics.
Towards the turn of the 20th century, two major figures were crucial for presenting photography as art and introducing it into art collections. Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen were artists, photographers, and collaborators who allowed the camera craft to enter the fine art world era. Alfred Stieglitz was probably the first who raised the question of considering photography as art. In later life, he gave his contribution to photography collecting together with his wife Georgia O’Keefe, when he gave a donation of 27 photographs to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 1924. This was the first time in history a major museum allowed photography to become a part of its permanent collection. Featured more than any other photographer in “Camera Work”, Edward Steichen was responsible for the vast popularization of the art of the camera. In this time, there was another stream of artists that adopted photography as a progressive medium of choice. Many creatives related to Dada and Surrealism were keen to explore the medium to its fullest, inventing photomontage in the process. Such as Man Ray, John Heartfield, Raoul Hausmann, Edward Weston, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paul Strand, Irving Penn, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Andreas Gursky, Cecil Beaton, Helmut Newton, Sally Mann, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin, Ansel Adam, Robert Farber, but there are many more who contributed greatly to the photographic landscape of the 20th century.
The works of these artists are considered to have excellent collection value.
Thousands photographs were sold in auction rooms every year, Around 80 percent were sold in the United States. These auction sales only record a fraction of total private sales. But in fine art photographers collections market , artists produced high quality archival prints in strictly limited editions. Attempts by online art retailers to sell fine photography to the general public alongside prints of paintings have had mixed results, with strong sales coming only from the traditional "big names" of photography such as Ansel Adams.
Every major city in the global is home to a prominent photography gallery or museum. Whether it’s housed by a museum or a private collector, a photography collection can become as important as any other collection of art. Throughout the world, there are institutions and private collectors sometimes lend or otherwise display their prized possessions, showing personal affinities, but also trends in collecting. Some museums of art even own seminal photography collections. In London, Victoria & Albert Museum has an excellent photography collection. While in West Yorkshire, there is an equally important National Media Museum housing the UK’s National Photography Collection as well as the renowned Royal Photographic Society Collection. In the USA, the Boston Museum of Fine Art, an institution that played a special role in the history of the medium. Along with MoMA and Whitney Museum in New York, SFMoMa in San Francisco, there are many institutions around the country with fine art photography collections. We would add the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Photography, Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, but also New York Public Library. In Europe, there is many museums, such as FoMU in Antwerp, Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam, and MEP in Paris, among others. Berlin is also the home for one of the best photography museums in Europe. It’s also the home to the collection of Helmut Newton Foundation. In Munich, the City Museum keeps one of the leading Photography Collections in Europe, with over 850.000 images in its archive.
As a professional collector, you must know that the medium is multifarious, photography includes many techniques. Some of them are ancient and rarely in use and some of them ultimately hi-tech, and a dedicated collector should be acquainted with the most. It’s good to be familiar with different types of lenses and cameras, techniques and focuses, types of prints and paper, films, and other technical terms. This provides an understanding of the artistic method and gives a better clue about whether a photograph is successful or not. These condition might influence the price value, even if the photo comes from a rare series. To preserve a photograph in mint condition, consider its hanging in your space. The frames should be equipped with museum-quality glass or UV resistant Plexiglas, and it should never be exposed to direct sunlight and humidity.
Never stop asking questions about photographers and images, examining the continuity in their style. One of the most important things a photography collector should do is develop a taste and find the preferred style between a multitude of expressions. As always, knowledge broadens are help you focus become clear. In addition to conventional ways of learning, social media provide excellent information about the latest trends in contemporary art photography. Collection planning should be in order. Look for similar artists, images that correspond to your favorites, and slowly build a base for your collection.
* By OGP Business Reporters / Members Contribute File Photos — He Xi Photography Gallery
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