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Author Topic: What makes a photographer collectable?  (Read 5653 times)
biggiesnows
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« on: August 11, 2011, 10:48:15 PM »
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This is a subject I've been pondering and researching for a while as I'd like to be able to sell my photos for a lot of money. Wouldn't we all  Smiley Here are some of my ideas and questions. Please excuse me if you think that I'm being cynical at times as you read the following.

Image quality must be excellent but it's not necessary to be the world's best photographer. There are collectable photographers out there selling prints for a LOT of money that aren't nearly as good as others who are pricing for a lot less.

If image quality is not paramount then what are the factors that contribute to collectability? Primarily it's marketing. Of course there are different marketing approaches to achieve the status that allows one to charge a lot of money. The word status is intentional because it is one's perceived importance in the photography world that leads to high dollar sales. The word perceived is also intentional also because, even if a photographer's  work is not terrribly significant artistically, if collectors and the wealthy think you are important then you're well on your way to the bank. 

First question. Is it necessary to have a gallery of your own in order to have the appearance of importance in order to be taken seriously by collectors and the wealthy? All the photographers I have researched who are marketing themselves as collectable and are charging over $1000 for unframed 24x36 prints have galleries.

Second question: Is it necessary in your marketing to have the bragging rights associated with using a 4x5 film camera or bazillion megapixel medium format back?
This may sound truly cynical but all the collectable photogs do it.

Oops, the Luminous Landscape page I'm posting on here is really malfunctioning so I'll continue in another post.
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Ellis Vener
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« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2011, 01:46:29 PM »
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This is a subject I've been pondering and researching for a while as I'd like to be able to sell my photos for a lot of money. Wouldn't we all  Smiley Here are some of my ideas and questions. Please excuse me if you think that I'm being cynical at times as you read the following.

1A) Image quality must be excellent but it's not necessary to be the world's best photographer.

1B)There are collectable photographers out there selling prints for a LOT of money that aren't nearly as good as others who are pricing for a lot less.

2A) If image quality is not paramount then what are the factors that contribute to collectability?
2B)Primarily it's marketing.  Of course there are different marketing approaches to achieve the status that allows one to charge a lot of money.

3)The word status is intentional because it is one's perceived importance in the photography world that leads to high dollar sales. The word perceived is also intentional also because, even if a photographer's  work is not terrribly significant artistically, if collectors and the wealthy think you are important then you're well on your way to the bank. 

4) First question. Is it necessary to have a gallery of your own in order to have the appearance of importance in order to be taken seriously by collectors and the wealthy? All the photographers I have researched who are marketing themselves as collectable and are charging over $1000 for unframed 24x36 prints have galleries.

5) Second question: Is it necessary in your marketing to have the bragging rights associated with using a 4x5 film camera or bazillion megapixel medium format back?
This may sound truly cynical but all the collectable photogs do it.


1A) Print quality is extremely important to collectors who are spending big money.

1B) Some people are savvier business people than others. What defines 'collectable" are the curators and individual collectors. And there are different markets  for different types of work. Someone who is interested in work by (for example) Richard Misrach, Andreas Gursky, Jeff Wall, Abelardo Morrell, Mary Ellen Mark or Cindy Sherman likely is not going to be interested in photographs made by people whose work follows in the footsteps of work  by the old masters like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.

2A) Image quality defined by whom?

2B) No it is not just about marketing, but being intelligent about who you market to and  how you to is important.  Also how is status awarded or won in any group?

3) There are multiple worlds interested in photography. For example There are a lot of photographers perceived to be important to other photographers (primarily for their mastery of technique). Likewise there are a handful of photographers whose work sells for tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars , marks, yen, & pounds who are looked down on  by the first group because the first group doesn't understand what is important in that world. People who collect Gursky Morrell, Sherman, Wall, and Misrach aren't likely to be interested in Peter Lik. There might be some cross over for someone like Annie Leibovitz or Helmut Newton - but the interest there is mostly the subject manner.

4) No. Unless of course your market is tourists with money and the gallery is located in a high traffic location.

5) No. Remember what Arnold Newman used to say: "We make photographs with our hearts and our minds, Cameras are just extensions of our hands." What is important in the high art world is to make work that is considered important by the gate keepers in that world: curators and gallery owners. They see a stunning amount of photography, and derivitive work gets ignored immediately.

People who spend a lot of money on photography have a few criteria: If they are collecting just for themselves Do they like  the work?  Is it important to them? Some collect as a way of investing - they are looking for work they think will appreciate in value.  Sometimes it is a matter of both.

You have to know the audience you want to appeal to.

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Ellis Vener
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luong
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« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2011, 01:39:11 PM »
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Ellis gave you excellent answers, but I'll add a few more "cynical" comments.

Photography sells for a lot of money only when it is considered "art". In the eye of many serious collectors, whether you are an "artist" or not is decided by a relatively small circle of critics, curators, and gallerists. With a few exceptions, nature landscape photographers (which I guess are whom you've been researching) need not apply.

Many of the photographers who operate a gallery of their own would not be able get representation in a top art gallery. The former operates like a store, while the later are curated, more like museums. The process that you choose is an integral part of your vision, however, it is necessary to brag about your equipment only if the work is so derivative that technical excellence is its main selling point.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2011, 01:45:40 PM by luong » Logged

PeterAit
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« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2011, 02:57:07 PM »
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Being dead?
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2011, 04:12:45 PM »
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Being dead?
But only if somebody notices your work before it gets dumped.
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DeeJay
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« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2011, 10:08:54 AM »
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Being collected by the right buyers.
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alainbriot
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« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2011, 01:30:24 PM »
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An important aspect of pricing is leverage.  Your reputation, your experience, how many years you have been in business, how long you have practiced photography, who owns your work, which professional accolades and awards you received, who endorses you, which professional organizations you belong to, which presentations, seminars or talks you gave (if any) which testimonials you received, whether you published books or not and if yes what reviews they received and from whom, wether you published folios or portfolios of your work and so on (all this in no particular order and not limited to this list) will greatly affect how much value customers attach to your work and therefore how much you can ask for your work.  Expecting to get top prices regulary when you are just starting is unrealistic, whether or not  your craftmanship and artistic skills are second to none.

Obviously, anyone selling their work themselves can 'slap' a high price tag on a piece.  All it takes is the will to do so. However, whether customers will see value or not in your pricing depends on factors that are dependent on your leverage.  This is particularly true when addressing an expert audience such as fine art collectors, museum curators, significant gallery owners and the like.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2011, 02:00:27 PM by alainbriot » Logged

Alain Briot
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SeanBK
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« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2011, 10:06:23 PM »
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Ah, that would be my dream scenario but my realty is whether the client is collectible? Huh
   Same old story do the job & will pay you ASAP in 30days. I digress. Roll Eyes
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riddell
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« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2011, 07:03:44 AM »
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Primarily it has been the actual image itself, how it looks and sits.

There should be something about it that actually makes people, stop, stare look and continuing looking.

And primarily that is the main content. All the quality issues are then second, but by no means should they be overlooked. If you are looking at any kind of decent money for an 'art print' or whatever, then you need quality printing, mounting, frames.

Paul.
www.photographybyriddell.co.uk
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Ellis Vener
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« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2011, 02:05:25 PM »
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"Primarily it has been the actual image itself, how it looks and sits.

There should be something about it that actually makes people, stop, stare look and continuing looking."

That makes a photograph collectable. What makes a photographer collectable is being able to repeatedly make photographs with those qualities, yet unique from one another. 
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Ellis Vener
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Peter McLennan
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« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2011, 10:39:14 AM »
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"Primarily it has been the actual image itself, how it looks and sits.

There should be something about it that actually makes people, stop, stare look and continuing looking..."

I've never purchased a print other than in publications.  I did come very close, however, to paying $4K for a three by six foot image of the Irrawaddy river delta from space.  Mounted on aluminum, it was an astounding piece of imagery, one with real intrinsic value.  Definitely collectible.
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kikashi
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« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2011, 11:25:59 AM »
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Being dead?
As Flanders observed to Swann years ago, "Your music is not yet classical because you are not yet dead. To become classical, you have to stop composing and start decomposing".

Substitute "photography" for "music" and "collectable" for "classical" and you have it. We needn't even change the verbs.

Jeremy
« Last Edit: September 26, 2011, 01:49:28 PM by kikashi » Logged
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