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Collecting photographs an easy hobby for anyone to get into with research

January 6, 2019 GMT

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” and today’s population truly understands that concept. Young and old are always busy snapping photos of friend’s antics, a dress they like, a scrumptious meal or a receipt they want to keep. It is a national obsession — “take a picture.” On the other end of this there are folks who collect exceptional photographs from the past and the present.

Collecting photographs is a hobby on the upswing for several reasons. First and foremost, it is approachable and easily studied and found. The internet has opened up so many windows that would have been shut in the past. For example, an exhibit can be viewed most anywhere in the world regardless of where it is being displayed. The internet has also made it easier to study and gather information about photographs by allowing online access to museums, libraries and galleries. Price is another factor in that there seems to be a price range for everyone so more folks can delve into this artistic medium.

If a person is going to become a collector they should absolutely do their homework before jumping into the fray. They should go to exhibits like the Builder Levy exhibit at the Huntington Museum of Art, they should read catalogs, become chummy with specialists and check out auctions to see what is popular at the moment. Getting to know a particular photographer’s work is another step in the right direction so when one of their pieces becomes available one can judge it from an educated point of view.

Know how many editions of a particular photograph have been made, the fewer the better and maybe more valuable. Provenance is important as well in that if a photograph of old can be traced back to the photographer it may have more value. There is technical information as well that one should consider such as the medium used in taking the photo. Different mediums require different skills and a collector should make themselves aware of how the photographer arrived at the photo they are considering.

Finally, as one chooses a photo look for the story in the picture — each one has a message and if you can’t see it then perhaps this is not the photo for you. As with all antique and collectibles one should buy what they love and there will never be a mistake in a purchase.

Jean McClelland writes about antiques for The Herald-Dispatch.