It is my belief that collectors should seriously consider focusing their acquisition – not entirely but with some significant prejudice – towards purchasing the very best of Australian and world photography. And soonish.
The world of technology and imagery has changed almost every aspect of our lives. Every child born in the world today is a potential photographer. Irrespective of geography or wealth, it is projected that within five years all will have access to a communication device that takes photographs and films. And when I say “all of us” I mean the nearly 7.4 billion projected “all of us” – from the first of the First World, to the new telecommunications boom market of sub-Saharan Africa.
That’s is the killer idea. We are now all photographers- almost every single person on the planet.
With billions of people, hourly taking images- there will be more photographs made in the next five years, than say in the last one hundred years. Digital photography’s chief selling points- the abilities to see the finished product instantly and to take countless pictures without incurring any additional charge- have turned out to be mixed blessings. With effort and cost excised from the equation, photos have become plentiful. And at the same time- as more and more pictures are taken on smartphones, “shared” on social media to all, then lost to the cacophony of the digital universe- meaningful images have become too scarce. However, those photographs that are very good, that are meaningful- those rare few amidst the hundreds and hundreds of thousands- will be greatly valued. Enormously valued for being what they are, much better than the mediocre rest.
We are all photographers. The more that is bad photography, makes those photographs that are important – sparkle.
Simple idea. Powerful idea. Because there will be a sea of photographs, those that float to the top will be truly appreciated for being the best. Collectors will, as they always done, pay a very significant premium for the best. And as all of us will be photographers, all of us will have an interest and basic knowledge of what is and what is not good. The Globe participating in photography. The Globe interested in photography. The Globe naturally inclined to collect photography- even more so than paintings, as the Globe does not paint it happy snaps away.
With all this in mind, collecting the best of Australian & international photography needs to be taken far more seriously. We need to isolate the key Australian images from the best photographers and acquire them- from $5,000 to $50,000 plus, plus per image. We need to do this before a slumbering market really wakes up.
With this notion of collecting the best of the best in mind, it is extremely important that you have an understanding of the term, key-image ….and to work hard at staying highly focused on acquiring key-images. A photographer’s key image is that work, which is widely, & dare I say popularly acknowledge to provide the viewer with a deeper understanding of the photographers entire body of work. The one or two images (at best), that unlocks our understanding of the artist; their technique and the very times in which the photograph was taken. In film, the it moment that defines the film and indeed makes people pay for the pleasure of viewing it is referred to (from the slang of the porn industry) as the money-shot. In photography it is the artists key-image.
To use a classic mid-century Australian example of what a key image is, one needs to go no further than Max Dupain’s 1937 Sunbaker silver gelatine photograph, (one of the early printed editions from the 1970s). This work is so visually all pervasive and powerful that I do not need to illustrate it here. Dupain’s beachers are Australia. He was highly influential in redefining how we Australians see ourselves. With the help of Dupain (and others), we moved our national identity during the mid-twentieth century from the wind-dried Drysdalian stockman of the wide brown land, to a people of the coastal fringe at play.
In contemporary photography, which should be the focus of now collecting, the key image is often just as obvious and dramatic. Find them and ruthlessly hunt them down. I do. Sure, my proposition to collect contemporary photography now has deep roots in big picture macro socio-economic trends. But, on a micro-level, I have been putting my actions where my thoughts have been for quite sometime. And why wouldn’t I, after all I am not an academic observer, nor a mere at distance commentator on the art market (done all that & was over it). I am an art dealer and that entire term is in reality one very big verb, or doing phrase. I think, I do. Over the last few years I have been reorientation the galleries artists with an emphasis towards photography- Deborah Paauwee, Marian Drew, Joseph McGlennon, Catherine Nelson, Christian Thompson (whom I represent in Europe).
I am not dealing exclusively in photography by any means because there are, of course, other significant Australian contemporary art trends occurring simultaneously. One that springs to mind is Aboriginal art from the cities. In regard to that trend – another discussion entirely – I am working with Julie Dowling, Chris Pease, Danie Mellor, Christian Thompson and others. Works by Julie and Danie are already touring internationally in the Artbank curated exhibition, Message Stick: Indigenous Identity in Urban Australia that will reach Vietnam in May 2013. Following this little outing the works will be touring through NSW, QLD and VIC in 2014-2015 as a partnership project with Museums and Galleries New South Wales. You see, I have been covering my collecting art bases and am strong in both fields.
I am ahead of the collecting curve and I am suggesting that you should be too. Unsurprisingly, the first two exhibitions in my new space in Berlin for 2013 are both photographers. Catherine Nelson will exhibit simultaneously in Sydney and Berlin in April; Joseph McGlennon will follow suit in June.
Please consider & then do.