Once people get enthused about collecting photography, they often ask me – what is the best way to learn as quickly as possible about this fascinatingly diverse world? In the accelerated times in which we live, bombarded as we are by millions of images every day, they want to identify a quick and easy route to learning what’s new and exciting in this ever changing field. How can you tell what constitutes a ‘good’ photograph these days when there is just so much imagery out there?
I often suggest that they get involved in an institution such as our own – The Photographers’ Gallery where through a range of different events, courses, workshops and talks, we provide plenty of opportunities for people to gain knowledge fast. Either through becoming a patron or just attending our shows and events, you will find that you will absorb knowledge about what is hot and new, what is considered interesting by photography experts and should you wish – how to go about buying work for love and investment.
The Photographers’ Gallery is a fairly unique institution within the ecology of London art world – as the oldest institution solely dedicated to photography in the UK (founded 1971), it combines a public programme of events and exhibitions (free to the public before noon every day of the year) and a commercial gallery which provides people with enough knowledge for them to feel confident in collecting photography. Over the fifty years since we were founded, we have shown nearly all the great names within the history of photography – from David Bailey to Sebastian Salgado.
For many people this particular field of collecting is a minefield of potential pitfalls. But just like learning what distinguishes a good vintage champagne from a lesser one, all you need is a little support from knowledgeable staff and a very preliminary ‘tasting’ (hands on) session with the real images in front of you. Soon you will be understanding the differences in vintage and non-vintage prints, digital and analogue, print sizes and editions.
With this knowledge, it is much easier to navigate through the Photography fairs and commercial gallery scene. These fairs and festivals offer many opportunities to meet artists, expand your knowledge and meet new gallerists from abroad.
My one abiding memory of these fairs is the buzz on the opening fair night when the well-known collectors mix with the novices, the distinguished photographers rub shoulders with the emerging graduates and everyone drinks champagne.
Truth be told, whilst I enjoy the social aspect of these occasions, and the range of new people I meet, I much prefer the openings we host at The Photographers’ Gallery – where my preferred drink– Pol Roger is always served at our main celebratory openings.
© Courtesy of The Photographers’ Gallery, 2017