Fine art photography is something many people enjoy collecting and displaying on the walls of their homes. But unlike other types of art, buying it isn’t always such a straightforward process because unlike paintings or sculptures, photography is easily reproduced. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid investing in it, it just means you need to understand what to look for.
I recently spoke with renowned photographer, Tim Tadder who broke down the process of buying photography in a way the first-time buyer can understand, what to look for so you know you’re purchasing an authentic piece, how to find something you connect with as well as how to frame, hang and maintain this investment.
If Tadder’s name sounds familiar, it is because his photograph from his Nothing To See collection went viral on China’s WeChat during the coronavirus pandemic. The image was used as a symbol of censorship when Dr. Li informed the world of COVID. Social justice is a major theme of Tadder’s work with visually striking images that are unlike anything else out there.
Tadder creates his photographs by airbrushing his models with a full coat of body paint in one solid color. He chooses to work specifically with models that have alopecia, which is an immune disorder that results in hair loss. Tadder explains that these photos “represent a graphic human form.” He also incorporates complex studio lighting techniques to lead the eye to specific aspects of the image.
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Currently showing at Avant Gallery in Hudson Yards, New York and Brickell City Centre, Miami, his latest collection, Black is a Color challenges one to see past profiling and foresee the beauty that is capable of elevating the human experience.
Where are the best places to find photography to collect?
There are a plethora of great galleries in various cities throughout the world that have niches in fine art contemporary. Artsy is an online platform and is great to view various photographers, especially during the pandemic.
But, I think the best way to find photography is to go to various art shows. There are some great art shows in New York and Miami. During Art Basel week, there are 44 different art fairs that have amazing photography from artists all over the world. The AIPAD show in New York brings in galleries from all over the world and it’s an excellent place to find photography.
What’s the best way for someone to find pieces they connect with?
Art is so subjective. It’s really obvious when you connect to a piece of art. For example, with art collectors who have purchased my pieces, there’s a certain imminent impactful feeling that is all-consuming.
What should the average or first-time buyer look for when buying photography?
First and foremost, people should look for the total number of print editions. Since a photograph can be reproduced an infinite number of times, having scarcity is a real incentive to collecting a photograph. Photography collectors must research the number of images produced, as reproduction is really important.
Secondly, collectors should make sure the photograph is from an established, recognized artist who has proven themselves within the industry and the art world by creating visionary, highly conceptual work.
Third, identify the type of medium used, and how archival the work is. Photographs can fade over time if they’re not printed with the right materials. Also ensuring that the medium is archivable and museum-quality is imperative.
For example, the prints we produce for my work in Avant Gallery are certified to last hundreds of years for the collector. Shelf life to the quality of the print is important when purchasing a photograph. Traditional photographic prints do have a limited shelf life.
Is there a type of paper or print process that’s best?
The collector must look at how old the actual image is. Shelf life is incredibly important when purchasing a photograph. With any photograph older than fifteen years, you have to concern yourself with the shelf life. Fifteen years ago, the most stable prints were black and white prints, but color photographs had a limited shelf life.
The current landscape of printing is much higher quality than that of fifteen years ago. Fuji developed a crystal archival process and any of the newer Epson or Canon Glicée (process) in recent years has produced the best photographic prints possible for archival mediums. Inks and papers make it more archival, very pigment-based ink as opposed to a dye.
Typically our work is presented in a minimalist fashion. We tend to print on large format 36×36 inches or 72×72 inches and ensure an archival process. We then face mount it to matte Plexi to give it a very defined and iconic look.
Are there any things to avoid or look out for?
I tend to stay away from the metal prints or prints made directly to acrylic. I don’t think there’s been enough testing on this process. The previous generation of dye-sublimation printers was not good. It’s not as photographic as getting an actual traditional print.
It’s also extremely important to purchase from a reputable dealer that includes a certificate of authenticity for the piece. The work must be verified by the artist, as you want to make sure you’re getting what you paid for. Who you’re buying from is just as important as what you’re buying, especially with photography pieces. Collectors should also follow up with the artist to verify the work.
How do you make sure you aren’t purchasing something that’s mass-produced?
Always make sure you receive a certificate of authenticity for the piece you are purchasing. Don’t be afraid to contact the artist’s studio to verify the work. A great artist will have no issue verifying their work and will take the time to get to know the collector.
What’s the best way to frame photography?
Framing is really a preference for the collector. I tend to prefer a larger, minimalist, floating frame to really keep the focus on the art itself and capture the moment. There is a quarter-inch gap between the frame and the art matches the frame color to the background color of the art so it appears to be super minimal.
I usually frame with a four-inch mat in archival white, because I like a super clean matte with a simple black frame.
What type of glass is best?
The collector should definitely use a UV coated glass to protect the image from direct sunlight. The use of museum quality glass will protect the artwork. Try not to put anything in direct sunlight if at all possible. Anywhere where heat can affect the artwork can be a problem, things can delaminate from the backing, glue can bubble, etc. so overall be careful with the placement of the piece. A collector art piece is an asset you want to protect, so you don’t want to put it in a place where extreme heat can effect it.