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Arts Culture Why And How To Collect Photography

Why And How To Collect Photography

Why And How To Collect Photography
By Valencia Tong for The Artling
March 12, 2018
Inserted with tasteful photographs to make the reading more fun


'She Huo #3' by Xiaoxiao Xu (Image courtesy of the artist)
C-print / 75cm x 75cm / 29.5" x 29.5" / Edition of 8

The modern and contemporary medium of photography has become increasingly popular among art collectors. Here's why it's worth incorporating photography in your collection and how you can begin!


'Tsumari Story No. 11-4' (2014) by RongRong & inri (Image courtesy of the artist)
Silver gelatin print / 119 cm x 148 cm / 46.9" x 58.3" / Edition 2 of 8

1. Accessibility

While the thought of paying a fortune on photography may sound daunting to someone who has just started collecting, photography is actually one of the more accessible types of work to add to an art collection. With increasing attention to this medium brought forward by galleries, museums and art fairs such as Paris Photo and Photofairs, it has become easier to view photography from all around the world in one place. There are also many books and websites in the market providing valuable insight on photographers and their works of art. The Artling, for example, has a section dedicated to photography, which showcases photography from under US$500 to above US$50,000. Depending on the budget, acquiring photography is relatively easier because with the same price point, one may be able to get hold of several photographs, as opposed to just a single painting.


'Nature's Van Gogh Morning Blue'  by Bonbon Wang (Image courtesy of the artist)

Print on metal / 76.2 cm x 114.3 cm / 30.0" x 45.0" / Edition of 12

2. Limited Edition

Since the invention of the camera, image-making has evolved from merely serving the function of documentation to becoming works of art. Some people may argue that nowadays anyone with a smartphone can take numerous photos, and that photography is just a process of mechanical reproduction. However, savvy art collectors know that they should always take the number of editions into consideration when collecting photography. The purpose of revealing the number of editions is to ensure a level of scarcity by limiting the versions of the photographs circulated in the market, so as to prevent the individual work's value from depreciating. In general, always purchase from a reputable website or institution.


'At Ease'  by Hengki Koentjoro (Image courtesy of the artist)

Photography printed with carbon pigment Ultrachrome K3 inks on The Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Baryta paper 315gsm / 120 cm x 120 cm / 47.2" x 47.2"  / Edition of 3

 3. Craftsmanship

Any professional photographer or experienced art collector will tell you that photography is much more than simply clicking the shutter. Examine carefully the condition of the photograph while you prepare to acquire a piece. Research the photographer to find out the process that goes into the creation of the piece. The photographic equipment, lighting and exposure are crucial factors that influence what the captured image looks like. Analogue and digital photography require different skills and techniques.

Moreover, the medium says a lot about the quality of the work. The materials used to create a photograph, for example, C-print or silver gelatin print, are vastly diverse. Not all photographs are printed on paper—metal or canvas are possible as well. The ink and the type of paper can influence the outcome. For example, glossy or matte paper will produce drastically different appearance on the work.

This is why building a museum-quality photography collection requires knowledge about how photographs are made, in addition to buying what you love. The process of discovery is highly satisfying, espeicially when intricate details are revealed. 


'Dancers #1' by Sean Lee Davies (Image courtesy of the artist)

45 cm x 30 cm / 17.7" x 11.8" / Edition of 25

4. Every Photo Tells A Story

Whether it's a story encapsulated by the subject matter depicted in a photograph, the story behind how and why the photograph is made, as well as the story of the photographer's life, every photo has something to say. Part of why collecting photography can be exciting—and addicting—is because you can look at a photograph again and again and still discover something new every time. It is not uncommon for collectors to become well-versed in the history of a certain period and country of photography they are collecting. Learning about the biographical details of their favorite photographers is something more than just a hobby—it can be a serious endeavor. No matter which stage of your art collecting journey is, it's never too late to start thinking about collecting photography as well.


'Opulence' (2015) by Sandeep Dhopate (Image courtesy of the artist)

Photograph printed on museum quality 100% cotton fine art paper / 91.4 cm x 61.0 cm / 36.0" x 24.0" / Edition of 10

Start discovering photography by emerging and established artists at

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Arts & Culture collector photography


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