In Review

How to start collecting photography

Sophie Wright, Magnum’s global cultural director, explains how to start snapping up quality images

Photography is considered a universal language in this era of social media, with many of us documenting our lives by posting images online. Yet despite the mass move into amateur photography, or possibly because of it, demand for quality printed works by professional photographers continues to grow.

Indeed, photos sold at the top end of the market command prices similar to those for contemporary art, with single images by renowned snappers Andreas Gursky and Richard Prince achieving as much as $4m (£3.25m) each. Classic works by 20th century masters such as Edward Steichen have also sold for millions at auction.

Fortunately for collectors with less cash, far more affordable quality photos are available too, including Magnum Photos squares, which sell for $100 (£80) for a signed or estate stamped print and can be purchased online or directly off Instagram.

The internet is a good place to start searching for work you like, as well as providing an easy way to purchase. But to get a true sense of the market, aspiring collectors should visit photography fairs, where they can look at a wide selection of different content and also meet the gallerists and dealers that sell it.

For would-be buyers in the US, the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD) fair in New York is a great option. Over in Europe, Paris Photo is the leading fair, but Photo London and Unseen in Amsterdam are well worth a look too.

These events give visitors the chance to view diverse print types, papers, and types of framing and presentation, as well as a broad range of content and approaches. And the organisers also strive to provide insight into trends, institutional collections and curatorial approaches.

On a more general note, don’t be afraid to seek out and talk to gallerists either: it’s in their interests to support and encourage interest in the market.

Ultimately, however, the key to making the right choice is to buy what you like. A lot has been written about investing in art as a source of assured returns in a turbulent economy, but you should always select images that speak to you. After all, you're the one who's going to live with it.

For more information, visit magnumphotos.com

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