The following is shared by Eric Manten, SE Center Member with a talent for words as well as imagery
Anyone with an interest in fine art photography can become a collector
Photography has come a long way since its inception and has established itself as a recognized and appreciated form of art. And although there still is some discussion in certain circles about where precise photography falls in the spectrum of art, it specifically during the last three decades has become an area of focus for art collectors and investors in art.
So how then can you become a collector of fine art photography prints? I have two easy to follow recommendations.
Buy what you like
There is a wide range of photography genres to choose from; street photography, conceptual photography, architectural photography, documentary photography, to name a few. Furthermore, individual photographers, individual artists within each genre of photography have their own style, their own way to express themselves. And although not all genres and photographic styles are called ‘fine art’ per se, the genres and styles do not specifically determine whether photography is worth collecting or not.
This leads to my first recommendation with regard to becoming a collector of (fine art) photography: as with all art, buy photography because you like it and it moves you.
You should buy fine art photography prints, not because someone else thinks it is a great image, or because someone else thinks it is a good investment. If a specific photographic print doesn’t appeal to you personally: don’t buy it.
Deciding what type of photography you like is of course not possible without knowing what is out there and actually looking at different genres and styles. My second recommendation, therefore, is to get knowledgeable about photography.
Start visiting art galleries: to get a good feeling and overview of the different photographic genres, the type of images that appeal to you, and the photographers that create images and prints you like. And visit as many as you can.
When I talk about galleries in this context, I mean actual brick-and-mortar galleries. Not only can gallery staff be helpful guides in your photography art education, there is also a big difference between seeing a print in real life as compared to viewing an image on-screen.
Actually, make sure you subscribe to the mailing list of one or more galleries in order to get invited to their openings and special events. These not only provide great opportunities to get to know the photographers and see their tangible prints, these events also provide opportunities to get in touch with and talk to other (aspiring) collectors of photography.
I am very fortunate to live near Greenville, SC which has a great concentration of galleries. And although all represent great artists, I specifically like the Artists Guild Gallery of Greenville which represents artists who work in several media, including photography, and the SE Center for Photography, which is a gallery specialized in photography only.
While I urge you to visit brick-and-mortar galleries, you certainly also need to visit online galleries. There are several art sites I recommend you check out because of their excellent offerings of fine art photography, or the role they can play in your fine art photography education.
Museums and Art Centers
Other great resources for becoming more knowledgeable about fine art photography and collecting are art museums and (non-profit) art centers. Maybe you have one or more of these in your area displaying photography or offering photography courses. Make sure you visit and join these; sometimes curators give talks about the art of photography, and on collecting art, or they even have specific courses on these subjects available.
Other opportunities to see photography and meet artists are art fairs and art expos. A great example is the annual Artisphere event here in Greenville, SC where multiple artists – including photographers – have their work on display and for sale, and during which galleries have extended opening times to the public.
Books and Magazines
And of course, there is literature: many books have been written about art and collecting art in general, and about collecting fine art photography specifically. Read them, see what their authors have to say about specific photographic genres, learn how to ‘read’ an image.
And there are the photobooks and magazines: many photographers have produced photobooks about their projects, there are magazines that showcase photographers, and discuss their work.
So what is holding you back? Go out, visit galleries, museums, and art fairs. Read books and discover new photography in magazines. Talk to gallery owners and other collectors. And buy your first fine art photography print to start your collection.