MARTHA KAMMINGA

VIOLET+WILDE

Violet and Wilde is a resource for collecting Emerging Contemporary Photography. Our mission is to turn Art Lovers into Art Collectors.

What Is The Investment Potential Of Collecting Photography?

Photographs have proved for many to be a fine investment but, as with any investment, an increase in value is never guaranteed. There are, nevertheless, important steps for making sound judgements. For instance, the collector should become familiar with the photogra­pher's work and try to asses the importance of an individual image within the photographers body of work. As a collector, you should attempt to understand the artist's significance in the history and future of the medium. You should also study the price history of works intended for purchase and listen to advice of a trusted dealer. Finally, follow your own instincts and buy what you like.

 

Should a collection be concentrated or diversified?

First and foremost, a collection should be personal and reflect your taste, interests and budget. A specific theme, period, style, process or artist is an excellent way to begin, though it may prove too narrow a focus for many. Collectors must decide for themselves the extent of their economic commitment and then combine that commitment with the availability of material in their field of interest. Decisions in collecting are an evolutionary process that change with the col­lector's increasing sophistication.

 

How can I predict which photographers will be successful?

Many artist receive their greatest recognition late in life or posthu­mously. If an artist is already well-known, his or her work will sell for higher prices because of exposure, reputation, and market per­formance. It is difficult to predict the success of either contemporary artist or those recently rediscovered from the past. The extent to which the work has been published and exhibited is one indicator that an artist's future looks promising. The attention of recognized critics also helps to identify a rising talent. You should examine as many prints as possible for qualities such as: innovation, consistency, and seriousness of intent. An artist's current or anticipated popular­ity is not the best criterion for deciding to make a purchase. Instead, your experiences and instincts, together with the insights reputable dealers can provide, will be the most reliable guides.

 

What determines the value of a photograph?

In the marketplace for photography, value is usually determined by factors such as the photographer's reputation, and the print's rarity, condition, subject matter, medium, size, provenance, and overall qual­ity. Ultimately, the value of a print is based on prices that have been realized by the particular work, or others similar to it, over a period of time. The final determinant is what you are willing to pay.

 

How many prints can be made from a negative?

In theory, an infinite number of prints can be made from a negative. Practically speaking, the number is usually limited by demand for the picture. Some photographers, choose to limit the number of prints produced from a negative. In rare cases the photographer may destroy a negative when the edition is complete. Usually the negative is retired either to the archives of an institution or to the photographer's own files. Even when the photographer chooses not to limit the number of prints, the medium of photography is self­ limiting because off the effort and time required to produce a fine photographic print. The value of a specific photographic image is not necessarily related to the quantity of prints made from the nega­tive. Some of the higher-priced images in the market exist in the greatest number of prints.

 

What determines a fine print?

The qualities that make a fine print will vary from artist to artist. In black and white work, tonal range and luminosity, for example, depend on the artist and the point in his or her career when the work was produced. A reputable dealer, a fellow collector, or a photogra­pher can often be of help in understanding the differences.

I f the print is a contemporary photograph, the surface should be unmarked. When possible, ask that the framed print be unframed for inspection. To make sure that the print is flawless, hold it in your hands so that the light rakes over the surface. Print condition and quality vary depending on the artist, media and date. Look at as many prints of the period as possible and at as many works by the photographer as are available in order to determine the best print.

 

Is it important to buy signed photographs?

In the 19th and early part of the 20th century, signing a photograph was an exception rather than a rule. With the recent increase of activity in the photography market, signatures, and/or stamps have become more common. From the middle of the 20th century on, most photographers have adopted the practice of signing their work. Ideally, however, the artist's identity should be inherent in the pho­tograph itself. Ultimately, the answer to this question is found by an investigation into the working methods of each artist. 

 

Is a photograph permanent or will it fade?

Almost all black and white photographs printed today are archivally processed to enhance their permanence. Platinum, and cyanotypes are considered permanent. Silver prints that have been thoroughly washed and fixed, a standard practice among photographers today, are permanent unless printed on RC (resin-coated) paper. Of the 19th century processes, some salt print may be unstable, although less so if gold-toned. Well-washed, gold-toned albumen prints fade less than salt prints and many are as rich and dark today as when they were made. The better the condition is of an old print the more likely it is to remain that way given proper care. Some color processes are less stable than others, and color, in general is less stable than most black and white processes. Ongoing research and new developments are being made in an effort to correct the problem of instability. For recommendations on the care of photographs, a knowledgeable dealer should be consulted at the time of purchase.

 

How can I verify the authenticity of a photograph?

Research on the photographer's work can establish the authen­ticity of a photograph with relative certainty. The photographer's characteristic style, negative and print processes, notations such as stamps or signature, and the usual method of presentation (whether mounted or unmounted) will provide significant clues. A careful examination of other photographs by the same artist will aid in spotting any characteristic features of a work under consideration. The absence of a signature is not necessarily significant, especially in prints made before 1900. With good groundwork, and if purchases are made from repu­table sources, authenticity should not be a problem. 

 

If I decide to sell a photograph, what are my choices?

The method of selling a photograph will depend on both the amount of time that you have to make the sale and the amount of money sought as a return. You might sell to another collector through per­sonal contact or advertising. Galleries, private dealers, museums, or institutions are also possibilities for deaccessioning. If a work has appreciated considerably in value, it may be desirable to donate the photograph to a museum or another qualifying institution in order to receive a charitable deduction for tax purposes. The advice of an expert should, of course, be sought in such cases.

 

Editioning

Most photographs prior to 1980 are not editioned. Research indi­ cates that for the vast majority of non-editioned images, it is rare to find more than five copies of any one image. Most photographs made after 1980 are made in predetermined  limited numbers e.g. l/25. This is not to say that all are printed in advance, as the painstaking process in making one fine-art print forces the photog­ rapher to make only a few from an edition at any one time. Sales demand dictate whether or not the entire set of prints is ultimately produced. Therefore, the existing number of prints is often less than the stated edition number indicates. Generally speaking, editions of prints from artists using photography are lower (e.g.l/3) than those from traditional photographers (e.g. l /25).

 

Limited Edition

As applied to fine art photographs, the term 'limited edition' is usu­ally understood to mean a stated number of prints of an image in a particular size and in a particular format. When no additional pho­tographic prints in any size or format will be made from a particular negative, that concept is usually communicated by a phrase such as 'the negative has been retired' because negatives are rarely destroyed.

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