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Photographs as collectible art

Photographs as an art investment:

  • photographs have increasingly become a valued collectible art object as evidenced by the record prices being paid for prints
  • every serious Australian gallery now has at least one photo artist in their stable, while art magazines regularly feature photographic works as collectors start to lose their distinction between contemporary art and photography.
  • limited edition prints:
    • to ensure ongoing value of a photographic print, it is important to ensure supply is not high.
    • in the same way that etchers scratched their plates to ensure no more etchings could be made, some photographers or owners of the photographic negatives, marked to negatives to ensure no further prints could be made, for example, American gallery owner Harry Lunn used a cheque-cancelling machine to stamp the word “cancelled” onto Ansel Adams' negatives. However, after Lunn's death in 1998, Adams' estate used digital technology to recreate the images for calendars & postcards.
    • photographers of the 20th century often did not limit the edition of prints, thus there is no way of knowing how many prints there are of Max Dupain's The Sunbaker.
    • most contemporary photographers sell prints in limited editions, although the limited edition may only apply to that size print, and other size prints could be in other editions.
    • a common trend is to raise the selling price of a print according to its position in an edition, thus the 2nd 4 prints of a set of 15 might be sold at 50% more than the 1st 4 prints in that edition, and subsequent prints sold at stepwise higher prices.
    • collecting is about getting in early, it can take a number of years for an edition to sell, and the increase in price often reflects the rise in price for an artist's work generally.


A brief history of Australian photographs as investment art:

  • pre-1980, the main Australian collectible photographs were B&W prints by:
    • Max Dupain - famous for his surfing culture images
    • David Moore
    • Roger Scott
  • subsequently, the list has been added to by works of:
    • Bill Henson - dark moody urban landscapes & adolescent sexuality
      • prints have jumped from $A1300 in 1994 to $5300 in 2005.
    • Tracey Moffatt - creator of comic-strip style photo narratives & who has become the most financially successful Australian artist
      • a print of her Something More #1 in 1989 sold for $A800, it is now worth over $A100,000, while the prints of the whole series sold for $A231,000 in 2004.
    • Pat Brassington
    • Jane Burton
    • Brooke Andrew
    • Deborah Paauwe - deals in the sexual politics of young girls and adolescents
    • Glenn Sloggett - gothic visions of suburban Melbourne
    • Matthew Sleeth - art shots of China, Japan & suburban Australia
    • Rosemary Laing - outback landscapes of burning furniture, flying brides, & aircraft interiors
    • Destiny Deacon - indigenous artist who defies stereotypes by satirising them
    • Narelle Autio - people swimming
  • other notable Australian photographers:
    • Frank Hurley:
      • pioneering film & moving image photographer documenting early expeditions to Antartica & then WWI in Europe & was notable for his use of creating illusions with composites which created conflict with Australia's historian of WWI, Charles Bean. Was the 1st photographer to create colour war photographs.
      • post-WWI, in the early 1920's, he headed to New Guinea for further expeditionary photography but again created publicity for exploiting the local tribes, and the resulting scandal caused his partner to commit suicide 2yrs later, while Hurley commecialised and dramatised  his movies through touring the world with his show & his lectures.
      • in 1926, he was commissioned to produce 2 melodramas set in the tropics, but both films were flops.
      • his publicity of New Guinea led to missionaries travelling their to destroy their culture & replace it with Christianity, but they had Hurley's films to remind them of their old culture.
      • Hurley then became chief camera-man for Sydney's Cinesound Studios, but returned to making travelogues of the outback, searching for mythical stories.
      • in 1941, he went to the Middle East to “document” WWII, often with contrived images.
      • he returned to Australia in 1947 to find his daughter had became Australia's 1st female press photographer and himself with little money, and thus decided to re-invent himself as a pictorial photographer traveling Australia, creating popular photobooks & calendars. He photographed Australia as he wished it was ignoring the negative aspects while his images helped influence would be migrants to emigrate to Australia.
      • he had finally rebuilt his family's assets.


photo/photo_fineart.txt · Last modified: 2019/01/22 21:52 by gary1

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