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Wednesday, 13 January 2010


Collectors suck -- it's accumulators who have true feelings for the work.

I've been collecting photos I can afford to buy.

"...it's not just an accumulation of pictures you like."

But it can be. The guiding principle behind my decision to keep most on the images I have is very simple. I like them. They make me smile. They make me think. They cause me to wonder. They define a time or a place that I want to preserve when my memories fail me. They're the "keepers"; the ones that I've shot, or traded for, or found in a book; the ones that resonate with my own particular view of the world. I don't know that I could ever place any other limitations on my "collection".

But, then again, I'm not a collector - I'm a consumer, and the photos I keep nourish me.

Hmm, you're a suspicious fellow, handsome.

WTF? Am so misdirected? I love it all. I love it all in my own work and I love it all everywhere else. Let me be more clear. I love all the c a t e g o r i e s, not all of the work.

k, later dude...you better make up your mind or I will continue to hold under the rubric of -suspicious-

: )


When you define the sort of photos you want in your collection, I may have one to contribute to it.

You said you weren't gonna tell us. I would have been disappointed, but I didn't believe you. Like any good teacher, you just can't resist the urge to explain.

Huh. What to do if you don't want to create a collection but simply to collect photos?

For instance, I like portraits. I like general people street scens. I like landscape. I like wider wildlife scenes.* Three, four collections?

As a side note, I was looking at that Provencal nude by Willy Ronis the other day. $7500 for 20'x16'. Seventy. Five. Hundred. The kids under the bridge - $5500. Without any information how they were printed and what you'd get.

*One of the best wildlife photos I've seen. But then, the photographer said he was coming to the same location for what, ten-twenty years?

"A collection is not a mere gathering; it's not just an accumulation of pictures you like."

I'm not buying this; it seems at odds with what follows. "I believe that one crucial distinction between a "real" collection and just an agglomeration of work is to be found in the exercise of taste."

So, it's "pictures I like" - how else to describe my taste - within some set of self imposed limitations. Unless I am unsure of myself and impose limitations based on other's ideas of what I shouldn't like.

As to the limiting criteria, unless they fit my own likes, am I not again imposing the tastes of others on myself? But if I only exclude things I don't like, then there is no meaningful limitation - again, it's just "pictures I like".

If one is collecting with the idea of a book or a showing, sure, a theme or structure may help sell it or impress the viewers.

If it's just for me, why not just include images I like? Anything else is an exercise in intellect over emotion and intuition. Put another way, an act of asceticism as means of self improvement - to external standards. If, as I understand it, "like" means "enjoy", have joy, be joyous, then limitations on what is allowed beyond my own taste are an action to limit joy.

For example, perhaps "pictures purchased for $25 or less" seems like a good idea at the time. If I buy 4 of them that aren't bad instead of a $100 image that makes my heart sing, have I done myself a service? In the end, do I have a collection that really reflects my taste, or something less than I could have? How do I feel when I look at the images on my wall?

Critics and teachers make their living by setting up rules and trying to enforce them; their taste vs. that of creators. If I use their knowledge and experience to expand my horizons, I enlarge myself. If I use them to create limits from outside myself, I become smaller - less joyous, and most likely less creative.

I'll respectfully pass.

A. Dissenting Moose

Seems like your idea of collecting is to win accolades from others. If the purpose of collecting is to satisfy ones inner needs (happiness, contentment, etc.) then any object should be acceptable as long as it contributes to that end.

"Seems like your idea of collecting is to win accolades from others."

How does THAT follow?


"principles of collection"

Oh, what BS. Unless you're collecting in hopes
that your stuff grows in value and then sell it, you collect what you like and then search for wall space where it'll look right.

Mine is simple. Do I like it? Not just a passing interest but something I want to look at again and again. The only other limiting factor is can I afford it?

Will that formula make my collection one that is recognized as significant but curators? Probably not but I'm only collecting for me, not for for anyone else so I don't care if my choices are significant in someone else's estimation.


It would seem some have misunderstood. I did not take your comments as limiting, but rather guiding. Odd, as usually I am the first to be confused.

I don't think you are saying there is anything at all wrong with simply having a pile of "favorite" photographs, as you have never to my knowledge stated that it is anything but fine with you whatever suits someone in doing photography, collecting or anything else for that matter. Are you just offering that it is probably much easier to be sure, having certain likes and dislikes as we all do, that one "collects" or gathers with some order and design that which may be most important to one, and that seems a good definition of a collection? This seems to me to be close at least to what you are saying.

"__"Seems like your idea of collecting is to win accolades from others."

How does THAT follow?


Yeah, that is kind of strange..I think in the long run Mike, you're correct. what you're trying to say is that a focused, directed collection is much more powerful. I agree with that.

haha..i just noticed that the 'DAVIDS" are at odds.

In a post to TOP on March 29, 2009, I stated:

"I began collecting photographs in the mid 1970s to show to my students.... [H]aving little money, I had to learn to rely on my instincts, by developing a discerning eye, by searching out remarkable images that no one else wanted or even saw as worth having. That was the greatest challenge, and increasingly the greatest pleasure. It was very exciting: slightly subversive, but extremely liberating. I looked for striking images by unknown photographers as alternatives to prints by the masters."

What actually happened, over the course of 35 years of collecting, is that the collection itself taught me how to collect, telling me where it wanted to go, giving me a new sense of photo history. I learned that this collection was about building photographic history from the bottom up, around the medium's everyday uses, rather than the conventional method of emphasizing its technical evolution from the top down, through a progression of its great masters.

The result has been not only a growing collection, but a growing me: I have learned so much over the years, and consequently have had the pleasure of making useful contributions to this field that has given so much joy and meaning to my life.

In regards to "Seems like your idea of collecting is to win accolades from others.";

Is setting a definition for a collection not in sync with restricting oneself to some confines in photography and thus creating output which is recognizable as being of one "style"?
When doing this in photography though, one of the aims for doing so is to be recognizable for third parties. I assume the same would apply to a confined collection. Does this not raise the question of, whom is the collection for?
When taking pictures we are also expressing our view to others. I see this as one important (but mostly unreached) goal of my photography. When collecting I currently do so only for myself meaning its currently not a Collection.

I collect on the basis of "things I'd like to look at regularly that I can afford." :-)

Or maybe (ha!) that's just an accumulation.

If one is spending organizational funds one perhaps needs a more precisely specified concept. Otherwise, why would you? Well, if one was trying to maximize the selling price of the collection, but I believe you've excluded that as a primary goal already.

In fact, most of the useful organizational collections are far too narrow to be what I want to look at all the time.

Seems like there as many ideas about the "principles of collection" as there are collectors. Picking the TOP 10 cameras of the year appears to be a safer topic.

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