The best advice I have received to improve my own photography is to look at the work of other photographers. Almost everything is available on-line now, but for me nothing compares to printed photographs.
Books are good and financially accessible, although generally print runs are small and once a volume goes out of print, prices can rapidly escalate. The latest edition of Fan Ho’s “Hong Kong Yesterday”, originally with a $75 cover price, sold out last year and now sells for upward of £450 through Amazon sellers. As well as popular books like Magnum’s Contact Sheets, featuring some of the most iconic images and the stories around them, the wonderful Photofile series - a terrific and accessible way of seeing some famous photographs in print, my small book collection includes a mix of art (Jeanloup Sieff), documentary (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by Ashley Gilbertson) and of course street photography - I have recently added Dougie Wallace’s excellent Harrodsburg.
Acquiring prints from well known photographers is a major cost and frequently just an investment. Looking through prices at Photo London, major auctions, or at Magnum, starting prices are comfortably in the mid thousands. Not accessible for me.
However, there is something special about a real print from some of my favourite well known photographers. Agencies including Magnum and VII do have flash sales from time to time, offering photographs from an impressive line up including Robert Capa, Bruce Gilden, Alec Soth and Ed Kashi, Ash Gilbertson, John Stanmeyer respectively.
National Geographic also do print sales, although in my experience not so well publicised, I missed this year’s flash sale featuring work from Ami Vitale and David Guttenfelder.
For me the overriding draw is to buy pictures I like. And this has led me to approach some lesser known photographers that I have discovered on Instagram. Instagram exists to sell advertising and ultimately consumer goods, how about the photos themselves?
Over the last few months I have purchased prints from Tishk Barzanji, Paulie B and David Nelson-Hospers. This feels like a really satisfying way to get some beautiful photographs that I enjoy. I am not an investor but starting to collect, not for future value but for enjoyment.