Collecting photographs is an affordable opportunity to invest in a unique, and arguably undervalued 20th century art form.


     If past growth can be used as a barometer, the potential for investment presents a lower risk than many other vehicles, with the advantage that they are on your wall, not a dealer’s screen.


     Prints made by Irving Penn and Richard Avedon in the 1980’s, for example, could have been purchased in 2000 for around $5,000 to $10,000.  They are regularly sold today for between $50,000 to $150,000.


     A recent article in the US Fortune magazine illustrated:  “you could have purchased a print of Helmut Newton’s “Two Pairs of Legs in Black Stockings, Paris” in 1996 for about $2,300.  Then you could have spent the next decade eating or sleeping beneath the wonderful image.  Had you decided to sell it 10 years later, as the owner did at Christie’s for $38,400, you would have enjoyed better price appreciation than a comparable investment in a S&P 500 index fund or a ten-year Treasury bond”.


     The rise in value of the photographic print in the last decade is undeniable.  The art world was agog, back in 1999, when Gustave Le Gray’s image: “Grande Vague, Sete” fetched £507,500 at Sotheby’s in London and became the world’s most expensive photograph. 

Within 8 years that record had been broken no fewer than 6 times, including Andreas Gursky’s “99 cent 11 Dipychon” sold for £1.7m at Sotheby’s in London, and Richard Prince’s “Untitled (Cowboy)” for $1.25m in New York, both in 2005.


   Richard Avedon’s “Dovima wearing Dior with Elephants” made $1.2m at  Christie’s in Paris in November 2010.  This came only a matter of days after Andreas Gursky’s “Frankfurt” sold for more than $2m at Sotheby’s in New York.      


     Not all photography commands such a premium.  A six or seven figure budget is not necessary to secure a first class image by a known name.  A budget of $100,000 could purchase a portfolio of between ten and fifteen prints judiciously chosen in this rising market


     A recent summary from the ft art site stated: 

“All sectors of the photography market are now recovering fast and the long-term growth of 7%-8% once again seems like a good bet”.

     A feature in the FT newspaper explored the increased interest in photography sales.  It concluded:  “Advances in digital technology and a growing commitment from cultural institutions have elevated contemporary photography to a new level of legitimacy within the art world.  Buy now, while prices remain competitive”.   


     “For photographs both obscure and well-known, the market is strong”. FT