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Why Collect Photographs

All of us collect something. Maybe a collecting pastime survived the journey from child to adulthood - stamps, badges, buttons or coins, perhaps. Once you cast an eye over the personal spaces (office, home, car) of friends and acquaintances, or even scan your own life-haul, you will notice patterns of acquisition and evidence of taste. Perhaps you have a few too many V-necked jumpers, handbags or varieties of herbal tea? All evidence of the inner collector. Our collecting habits can range from the trivial to the bizarre from travel tickets to fridge magnets, or even extracted teeth.

When noticing differences or oddities in the material world it is tempting to collect and remember. Souvenirs serve to remind us of briefly visited places and if prone to making images ourselves then our cameras seem to devour views and observations from across the world. When a collector becomes more conscious about the very act of collecting then the process seems to become more refined and a collecting style, along with a system of organisation, management and retrieval, begins to develop. Ultimately the collector becomes the proud owner of an archive.

A place where each treasured addition can be cared for and stored, maybe one-day even shared to reveal a unique individual perspective. Photographs are a pleasure to collect. We all collect them in some shape or form.

Haphazardly in mobile phone galleries or carefully in family albums. But beyond such personal collections the images that we like reflect our individual aesthetic taste. We like one image more than another in an exhibition, we think one advertisement for a campaign works much better than the previous attempt and we hate the photograph that someone nominated for a prestigious award. As collector you are judge, jury and advocate of a particular approach to imaging the world using the art of photography. Starting a collection of photographs is something special because it's all about taste -what you like about the world of appearances. In addition to commercial or speculative reasons for collecting, the soul of a good collection is quite simply the taste of its purchaser.

Your taste. So why do you want to collect photographs? Do you really want to build a contemporary photography collection? Or, do you want to decorate the walls of an apartment or office? Displayed images can be worked into an environment to express a personality or reflect a lifestyle but remember putting a picture in a frame says: 'I like this', so be sure that you do. You may want to collect for other reasons, perhaps to serve as keeper of the key images of your time, or that of a by-gone era, and stow them away in a private and personal archive.

Personal collections can contain anything from expensive artefacts (such as erotic daguerreotypes) to press prints or contemporary photographs. They can be cared for as a private concern, a secret indulgence. Hidden treasures that are waiting for the right opportunity to be shared or exposed by an editor or curator who is curious about your taste and the photographs you have gathered.

Kevin O'Connor is the curator of Gallery 1839 London, set up to encourage the collecting of contemporary fine art photography. You are very welcome to browse our collection of international photographers work and we are very happy to demystify any aspects of collecting photography you may have, so please visit us at http://www.gallery1839.com kevin@gallery1839.com

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