Photography is a relatively new medium and art form. Photographs, old and new, are now being collected by galleries, museums and private collectors.
The first permanent photograph of a view from nature was made by Nicéphore Niépce in 1826. However, the first commercially practical photographic process - the daguerreotype – was announced by Louis Daguerre and French scientist Francois Arago in August, 1839. Other photographic processes followed.
The French painter Paul Delaroche proclaimed ‘From today, painting is dead’ in 1839 when the daguerreotype was announced. It was the first of many such proclamations about developments in photography and other forms of visual art, the latest being that film photography will soon vanish entirely.
Art is more than painting, photography or any other single medium. Recently, in a New York Times article entitled Review: The Broad is an Old-Fashioned Museum for a New Gilded Age, art critic Holland Cotter stated ‘But, of course, art itself has changed. It is no longer about things, hasn’t been for decades. Since the great surge of dematerialization introduced by conceptualism in the 1960s, art has been about, among other things, ideas, actions, sounds, performance, networks, communication.'
While we can view and create art online we continue to enjoy and learn from exhibitions at galleries and museums. Prior to the early 1970s such institutions seldom showed or collected photographs. However, exhibitions of photographs in major public galleries in Europe, North America and other parts of the world are now as common as those of other types of visual art. Exhibitions provide opportunities for viewing work, often in the context of other forms of art, discussions, reflections, and ideas. Photography has come of age – or perhaps we have.
Photographs by Jerome Martin (FORM II Exhibition, 2015). Painting by Robert Sinclair (Collection of Merle and Jerome Martin).
Some galleries and museums in North America embraced photography earlier than others:
1924: The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston became the first American museum to add photography to its permanent collection.
1937: The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) presents its first survey exhibition: Photography 1839-1937.
1938: MOMA’s first one person exhibition: American Photographs by Walker Evans.
1967: The National Gallery of Canada begins their Photography Collection.
1969: The Lee Witkin Gallery, the first commercial gallery devoted exclusively to fine art photography, opens in New York City.
1974: First photography exhibition at the Edmonton Art Gallery (now the Art Gallery of Alberta).
Collecting photography allows us to invest a little or a lot in images. Photographs which are purchased from galleries or artists range in price from several hundred dollars to hundreds of thousand dollars. One can also collect family and found photographs, postcards, and other images, most of which are inexpensive.
The increasing interest in photography and collecting photographs has resulted in a large number of Photo Festivals throughout the world. While some of these have been held annually for many years, most photography festivals are relatively new. In 2008 I arrived in Dublin on July 30, the second last day of the second annual PhotoIreland festival. My wife and attended several exhibitions in the last two days of the festival and two others which continued into August.
Attending festivals is an excellent way to see a variety of exhibitions in a short time and to meet fellow photographers and collectors. Local exhibitions in public and private galleries provide similar opportunities. If you travel extensively, you will find photo galleries in many cities throughout the world. Visit them, learn about the photographers they represent, and consider buying a photograph or a book.
If you are a photographer, a collector of photographs, or someone who wants to learn about photography, browse the following sites and use the links in them to go further. In subsequent blog entries, I’ll discuss books, blogs, and other resources which deal with photography and collecting photographs.
Online Sites on Photography and Collecting Photographs
History of Photography – PBS
Photograph – 'photograph magazine is dedicated to photo-based art, offering thoughtful coverage of exhibitions, ideas, people, books and events.'
On Collecting Photography – The Association of American Photography Art Dealers
Collecting Fine Art Photography – A comprehensive list of photography galleries, museums and resources
Photo-Eye – A gallery, bookstore and publisher in Santa Fe.