Photography: pricing and valuing photographs by emerging artists.

Lizo II - Ntokozo Maseko
Lizo II by Ntokozo Maseko for TAF Paper 2023
Untitled04 - Dolly Vilankulu
Untitled 04 by Dolophina Vilankulu for TAF Paper 2023

Is the South African art market the right place for the collection of photography and what value does photography add to your collection? 

Photography is an excellent entry point when starting an art collection. Whether you are new to the arts, or an experienced connoisseur, photography has become a top collecting category globally. 

Photographs are everywhere. We are inundated with images daily and they seem commonplace. Because of this, when looking at a photography work, collectors might ask themselves: ‘have I seen this image before?’, ‘What makes it unique from other photographs I have seen?’, ‘has the photographer developed and stuck to their specific style?’, ‘how does the narrative relate?’. Photographers need to have an image that no one can get anywhere else, that they can’t take themselves, and that will make them covet that image. With various genres of photography ranging from pictorial, documentary, surrealist, street, and landscape, to portraiture, there is plenty to explore and discover when starting your own photography collection. Here are a few things to take into consideration:

20230117-Chasing Sun - Banele Mhlanga
Chasing Sun by Banele Mhlanga for TAF Paper 2023
Gaby Beyers_Between Worlds_TAF paper_30112022 - Gaby Beyers copy
Between Worlds by Gaby Beyers for TAF Paper 2023
Fragility by Bronwyn Gooch for TAF Paper 2023

While the thought of spending a fortune on photography may sound daunting to someone who has just started collecting, photography is one of the more accessible types of work to add to an art collection. With increasing attention to this medium brought forward by galleries, museums, and art fairs such as Paris Photo, and also LagosPhoto, and Africa Foto Fair from Africa, it has become easier to view photography from all around the world in one place. 

There are various factors to consider when purchasing a piece of fine art photography. However, it is first and foremost important to start with something that you like – perhaps there is a certain themeaesthetic quality, or subject matter that piques your interest. Once this has been established, there are multiple elements to be aware of and to understand when acquiring photographs. Here are some tips to ensure that you find the perfect photograph to add to your collection.

Editions: Savvy art collectors know that they should always take the number of editions into consideration when collecting photography. The purpose of revealing the number of editions is to ensure a level of scarcity by limiting the versions of the photographs circulated in the market, to prevent the individual work’s value from depreciating. That is why it is important to collect from a reputable source and why photographers need to build a reliable brand for themselves. 

Print Quality: When looking at a fine art photograph, careful consideration needs to be made on what type of paper the work is printed on, as well as what type of print it is. In South Africa, we have a selection of excellent printing studios so there is no shortage of resources for artists. At the very least one must ensure that the work is printed on high-quality archival paper.  

Established Vs. Emerging Photographers: Determining whether you want to purchase a work by an established or emerging photographer is entirely up to you as a collector and what you envisage for your collection down the line. For investment purposes, many individuals purchase pieces by established artists with the idea that the work will likely retain, or even gain, value over a long period of time. The starting price point will evidently be higher for photographs by established versus emerging talents. Many collectors also like to acquire works by emerging photographers because of the potential and brilliance they see in their work. Collecting work by emerging photographers is a great way to start your collection, especially if you have a limited budget. 

Compiled and written by Shayna Rosendorff 

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