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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Surfaces and Strategies – Gerry Badger on how to Collect Photographs

Gerry Badger Talk at PhotoMonth – Krakow. 26th May 2017

“How to collect photographs”

Delivered at the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow (Main Hall), pl. Jana Matejki 13

Badger is a renowned photography critic. His writings are profound, succinct and simply about photography. Listening to him talk about how to collect photographs was both satisfying in the content he discussed, and as enjoyable as having a great conversation with good friends over a glass or two.


Figure 1: Sutherst. 2017

Badger’s advice for collecting photographs is simple; “Buy what you like. Buy the best photo by the best artist in the best condition” (Gerry Badger – How to collect photographs 2017). Sounds easy! Badger discussed the issues with collecting photographs. The discussion centred around the fact that there are too many photographs out there.  This is a factor of the medium of photography and the ability we have to produce endless copies if we want to. So, how do we resolve this? Vintage prints increase the rarity value of the photographs. The exhibition at the Tate Modern ‘The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection’ consists of vintage prints that were all made within 5 years of the negative being created. So, in order to succeed in collecting photographs, you should learn as much about the history of photography and photographers as you can.


Figure 2: Sutherst. 2017

His tips to ensure that you get the best for your money include looking at the condition of the prints and choosing the best you can afford.  He also explained that posthumous prints are also valued more highly. Editioning prints also adds to their value.  This editioning should be kept to no more than 6 copies per size.

This really goes against the very nature of the photographic medium. Great images will jump out or sing to you.  By looking closely at the print, you can tell if it is technically good. Choose photographs that have a good colour balance.

The market is split into 3 main categories:-

  1. 19th Century – these photographs should be carefully examined to ensure they have strong tones, as these fade over time.

  2. 20th Century – this is the main market. 20th century masterpieces are usually found in art gallery exhibitions.

  3. Contemporary Photography – this marks is split between images produced by photographers and artists. How do you tell the difference? It depends on where the work is displayed and which magazines the work is published in. Artists can generally add a 0 to the price and the prints are usually bigger.

Badger’s ‘Top 10’ of the most expensive prints included the following.

Number 1 on the list was Andreas Gursky: “Rhein II” (1999) Sold for $4,338,500 at Christie’s New York in November 2011.

The Rhine II 1999 by Andreas Gursky born 1955

Figure 3: Gursky. Rhein II. 1999.

This was number 1 from an edition of 6 prints.  The large print was 185.4 x 363.5 cm.

Number 3 on the list was Cindy Sherman: “Untitled #96 (1981) Sold for $3,890,500 at Christie’s New York in May 2011.


Figure 3: Cindy Sherman. Untitled #96. 1981.

This was number 7 from an edition of 10 prints.  The print was 61 x 121.9 cm.

Number 5 on the list was Jeff Wall: “Dead Troops Talk” (1992) Sold for $3,666,500 at Christie’s New York in May 2012.

no. 3

Figure 5: Jeff Wall. Dead Troops Talk. 1992.

This was number 1 from an edition of 2 plus 1 artist’s proof.  The large print was 229.2 x 417.2 cm.

Badger’s advice to those starting to collect photographs includes visiting the Library of Congress website.  This website hosts a large collection of high resolution images which are free to download.  This is a good starting point for a collection. He also suggested following the example of David Hurn’s Swaps exhibition curated by Martin Parr.  This project gave participants the chance to swap their prints with each other.

Badger’s talk was fully illustrated and punctuated with images of the most expensive photographs of all time.  This meant that the hour was an intellectual and aesthetic journey through the world of collecting photographs. It was an absolute delight to listen to.  His parting piece of advice was that “you can find good photographs everywhere” (Gerry Badger – How to collect photographs 2017).


Gerry Badger – How to collect photographs. 2017. [Presentation].


Figure 1: Sutherst. 2017

Figure 2: Sutherst. 2017

Figure 3: ‘The Rhine II’, Andreas Gursky, 1999 | Tate. 2017. Tate [online]. Available at: [accessed 26 May 2017].

Figure 4: Cindy Sherman (B. 1954), Untitled #96.1981. [online]. Available at: [accessed 26 May 2017].

Figure 5: Jeff Wall: room guide, room 8. 2017. [online]. Available at: [accessed 26 May 2017].

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