Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Photobook - its true value

The UK Guardian ran a piece a few days ago talking about how rare photobook editions are soaring in price. Auction houses now run photobook sales and seminal editions are leaping in price. At a dedicated auction at Christie's in London last year, signed early editions of influential photobooks such as Robert Frank's The Americans and Henri Cartier-Bresson's The Decisive Moment sold for £43,250 and £13,750 respectively.

It could be said that this all started in 2004 with the publication of Martin Parr and Gerry Badger's two-volume overview The Photobook: A History.
I read somewhere that a particular photobook collector advocates having a shrinkwrap machine to wrap and protect valuable photobooks. This seems to defeat the purpose and undermines the real reason for having these books. Photobooks, art books are about ideas and the pleasure of looking into other worlds and expanding ones knowledge. It's about inspiration and the delight in looking at photographs you wish you had made. The best of these books deserve repeated reading as there is always something fresh to see. Very difficult when the object is encased in plastic.
I'm sure when Martin and Gerry wrote their Photobook History they were motivated by the love of the photobook and not with an eye to investment values. After all gold is a far better deal, it's not subject to mildew, foxing, moths, acidity and wear and tear. Books are fragile, but fortunately the ideas they contain endure.

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