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Jan 14, 2009 The Recession or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love Photographs! 
 
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LL takes a look at the Photographic Art Economy.
 
Since March 2008 the US S&P 500 fell 51%, the German DAX fell 41%, and the Japanese Nikkei 300 fell over 44%. With turmoil in the global financial markets seriously downgrading the value of traditional investment products, the need for more reliable alternative investment assets has never been more acute.
 
Investment in works of art, particularly important paintings, long a safe haven favorite in stressful economic times, has also fallen in aggregate value over the last six months. Sotheby’s stock fell 75% and its overall art sales revenues decreased 44%.
 
However, in recent months the price and sales volume of one particular alternative art collectible category, photographic art prints, have continued to rise–just as they have annually over the last few decades. Francis Hodgson, head of photography at Sotheby’s, said of the market in general: “If you look at prices over many years [photographic prints] have held their value spectacularly well.”
 
“Whatever the period or medium, the photography market enjoyed the strongest growth in the last decade. Between the last speculative bubble in the art market in 1990 and last summer, the Photography Price Index posted an increase of +131%.”
–Art Price, “Has photography proven crisis-proof?” (November 24, 2008)
 
Cognizant of the historic strength of the photographic market, several banks and public investment groups, including Deutsche Bank, Camera Work AG, and the Art Photography Fund, have acquired portfolios of photographic art that have shown steady growth even in the current economy.
 
This year to date Camera Work’s stock has gained 11.6%, the Fine Art Fund Group’s initial offering showed a 30% internal rate of return, and the Art Photography Fund showed a 8.4% cumulative return, supporting remarks made by New York photo-gallerist Lawrence Miller, who has said of art investment behavior in times of recession: “Interestingly, each time, as people scale back, they scale back into photography.”
 
The Photographic Art Market’s “Comparative Auction Index”, listing the sales price results from all major auction houses, shows a 14% yearly increase in photographic print sales since 1976.
 
According to a two year-old article in the Forbes, “Photography is one of the most steeply rising markets in the collecting world right now. In the New York spring photo auctions, the number of lots that sold for six figures rocketed from 25 last year to 85 this year. And auction records have been shattering at a neck-snapping pace.” The article shared advice from leading photographic art curators from across the US to identify their choice for undervalued artists. Examples range from nineteenth century topographic photographers such as Captain Linnaeus Tripe (1822-1902), 1940’s fashion photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe (1895-1989), documentarian Esther Bubley (1921-1998), Midwest topographic photographer Wright Morris (1910-1998), American artist-curator Barbara Norfleet (b. 1926), photo-conceptualist Robert Heinecken (1931-2006), American humanist Dave Heath (b. 1931), to more recent contemporary photographers such as California artist John Divola (b. 1949), An-My Lê (b. 1960) from Vietnam, Koos Breukel (b. 1962) from the Netherlands, and Cao Fei (b. 1978) from China.
 
But the six-figure auction records mentioned in Forbes are primarily earned in the photographic art market by its “blue chip” stock, work by historically important photographers from its early Modernist era, 1910 to the 1930s, including Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and Edward Weston. Most of the well-known photographic artists from this era have been actively traded, and over the last thirty years their print prices have consistently risen.
 
But the main question in investors’ minds is what is happening now? Alex Novak in his December 5, 2008 edition of the E-Photo Newsletter article titled: “Latest Market Observations: The View from Paris and Miami” states: “Big contemp art pieces are definitely being affected, which is very problematic for those dealers, although some are still certainly being sold at some pretty nose-bleed-high prices. I would not want to hold any of the high-priced pictures by Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Andreas Gursky, etc., unless I was prepared to do so for at least ten years or more.”
 
“Photographs that are readily available (later prints and work that have been made in fairly large editions) will be, and have already been, somewhat affected by the market, especially at auction. Also, those photographs/photographers that have experienced too sharp a rise over the last three years (think Penn, Avedon, Beard, Horst—late prints, Newton, Lindbergh, Stern, Frank, Weston, etc.) may have some difficulties selling for the more recent sky-high prices, especially at auction. On the other hand, most high quality and rare vintage photographs do not appear to be going down much, if anything at all (maybe sideways for a year or two).
 
Novak goes on to speculate that if market conditions worsen, “money's integral value will go down and the value of hard goods will all go up accordingly.” He states: “I think it now looks like a very good time to buy high quality vintage photographs if, 1. You can find anything worth buying (good stuff rarely comes out during a recession); 2. We don't have a further financial collapse and go into a full-fledged depression (unlikely at this juncture, but the Bush administration has made a royal hash out of the start of the financial bail-out); 3. You have money on hand and enough cash flow (big “ifs” for a lot of dealers, at least); 4. You have at least a five-or six-year time horizon. It actually appears to be the perfect time to buy for collectors, given these circumstances and a lot of care. There have even been a few recent buying/investment groups materializing on the market during this period already.”
 
This cautionary but positive news will not slow photographic art collectors and investors from seeking out winners in the art photography market. Historically the best and most consistent monetary appreciation has come from prints by important photographers whose estates once lost have been “rediscovered.” When such collections come on to the market prints first sell low and then rapidly build value until they are equalized at the monetary level equal to that of their artistic peers. A past example of undervalued/hidden estate collection is Paul Outerbridge (1896-1958). A key American photo-modernist in the 1920’s and a pioneer in color photography from the 1930s onwards, prints from Outerbridge’s rediscovered estate first sold in 1975 for $2,000 but now command up to $400,000.
 
A comparable bright spot in the market is the recently rediscovered photographic work by early Photo Modernist Emil Otto Hoppé (www.eohoppe.com). Long buried in a London picture library the Hoppé Estate Collection of vintage photographs from the 1920’s and 1930’s have recently been compared by photography curator Phillip Prodger of the Peabody Essex Museum to Steichen, Stieglitz, and Weston—artists whose prints sell for an average of $75,500, $72,200, and $74,900, respectively. Two recent exhibitions in 2006 and 2007 from the Hoppé Estate Collection saw the release of several of Hoppé’s prime vintage Modernist prints into the market for the first time since the 1940’s. In 2005 Hoppé prints sold at an average price of $3,770 but by 2006 they had risen to an average of $7,725. Since 2005 Hoppé prices have since risen almost four-fold to an average of $14,062 by October 2008—a 273% increase in the price of prime vintage prints in less than four years.
 
According to Bruce Silverstein, the New York gallerist representing Hoppé: “As the history of photography is still being written, it is becoming increasingly clear that E.O. Hoppé played a major role in the evolution of Modernist photography both in Europe, having influenced the industrial images of Albert Renger-Patsch and Werner Mantz, and as well in the United States, where his images predate equivalent but better known works by Charles Sheeler, Walker Evans and Berenice Abbott.”
 
Luminous Lint’s advice to collectors: do your homework, buy prudently, and you can not only enjoy great photographic treasures, but also hold investments that help you weather the current financial crisis and realize future gains that will far exceed those of the traditional investment market.
 
REFERENCES
 
Quotations
Indices & Reports
Funds
 
  
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Jan 8, 2009 Have you moved recently….? 
 Well that was fun! Over the last few weeks I've packed up our house in Los Angeles, driven 4,000 miles to our new house in Halifax in north eastern Canada, had fun with customs, been caught in a couple of blizzards and started to unpack. As I'm now sorting out a new office and am surrounded by stacks of photographic books, odd cables, unanswered emails and a host of online exhibitions that need to be dealt with it can seem a little daunting but have no fear Luminous-Lint is about to come back on stream to explore the history of Photography.
 
Thanks to everybody who has sent kind notes via email, Facebook, Skype or the numerous other communications systems we need to function these days and to those who need my address drop me an email and I'll send it through. Welcome to a NEW YEAR, thanks for all your support and let's see what we can do together in 2009.
 
All the very best, Alan 
  
  
  
Nov 23, 2008 SocialDocumentary.net - A New Website for Documentary Photography 
 I've been working away on another Internet photographic project recently and been rather remiss with updates - so apologies. For those of you interested in documentary photography and who follow FiftyCrows, Zone Zero, the Digital Photojournalist and related sites here is another useful resource www.socialdocumentary.net.
 
Their press release says:
 
SocialDocumentary.net is a new website for documentary photographers, NGOs, journalists, editors, and students. Members can easily create a quality website of their documentary project, featuring scaleable high resolution images and ample space for text and captions. Each exhibit comes with a unique URL with photographer's name, visitor statistics, visitor feedback, advocacy information, and other unique features. 
  
  
  
Nov 5, 2008 The Indomitable Spirit - Auction (Nov 13, 2008 - Los Angeles) 
 For those in Southern California here is a charity event and auction you may wish to attend.
 
Douglas and Françoise Kirkland and Marissa Roth invite you to join them and Starlight Children’s Foundation for a photography exhibit and auction honoring the inspirational strength of seriously ill children and their families to benefit Starlight programs.
 
Participating photographers have contributed portraits, landscapes and other images that they feel best exemplify the indomitable spirit that is displayed on a daily basis by the kids and families Starlight serves.
 
The Indomitable Spirit gallery
 
Co-Chairs
Douglas & Françoise Kirkland
Marissa Roth
 
When:
Thursday, November 13, 2008
 
Where:
ACE Gallery
5514 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles 90036
6:30 p.m. - Cocktails and Hors d’ Oeuvres/Silent Auction Opens
7:30 p.m. - Live Auction - Conducted by Bonhams & Butterfields
8:30 p.m. - Silent Auction Closes
Parking Behind Building.
 
The favor of your reply is requested by Monday, November 10. To RSVP, please email indomitable.spirit@starlight.org If you have any questions or would like additional information, please call Diane Valek at 323.556.3340.
 
For more than 25 years, Starlight has been dedicated to improving the quality of life for children with serious medical conditions by providing entertainment, education and family activities that help them cope with the pain, fear and isolation of prolonged illness. We understand what families go through when a child is sick, and how important it is to find relief from worry and isolation. Our programs have been proven to distract children from their pain, help them better understand and cope with their illnesses, and connect families with others facing similar challenges so that no one feels alone.
 
These children and families are the true indomitable spirits.
For more information, visit www.starlight.org. Starlight Children’s Foundation - Helping seriously ill children and their families cope with their pain, fear and isolation through entertainment, education and family activities. Our mailing address is: 5757 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite M100, Los Angeles, CA 90036-5810
 
Our telephone: 310.479.1212
Visit us on the web: www.starlight.org 
  
  
  
Oct 29, 2008 Barack Obama for President 
 
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I'm a British citizen and so not allowed to vote in US elections but there are times when a choice has to be made even on a website about the history of photography. I just received a Newsletter from Alex Novak and he makes the point very well and I'm including it below with his permission. As I've watched the news over the last months the attacks from McCain and Palin have been both misleading, disingenuous and at times outright lies. At a time of economic stress and when over the last eight years international respect for the USA has been considerably damaged leadership with intelligence, tact and integrity is required and so please VOTE FOR OBAMA and GET YOUR FRIENDS TO DO THE SAME if my 84 year old mother can man the phone lines you can certainly vote. Best wishes for a brighter future, Alan.
 
OUR FIRST (AND PROBABLY ONLY) POLITICAL ENDORSEMENT: BARACK OBAMA FOR PRESIDENT
 
By Alex Novak
 
I do not regard this newsletter in any way political and never thought I would use it for that purpose, so pardon me for this one instance (especially my many good Republican friends). But I have come to feel that the American Presidential election this time out particularly will be too crucial for any of us to pass up the opportunity to influence its outcome.
 
In the past I have felt that John McCain was a decent man. While I was never impressed with his astuteness, I did appreciate his forthrightness and courage in battling for issues that--at least in his mind--were the right things to do. And I genuinely hope he goes back to doing things that way in the future.
 
Unfortunately, I feel the way he has run for President has been disorganized, chaotic and frankly--at times--demagogic. Yes, there are always unfortunate distortions of each candidate's positions, but the Republican Party and the McCain campaign, if not the man himself, has stooped to new lows with its under-the-radar campaign of slurs made by robo-calls and email. These smears have created an atmosphere of hatred, bigotry and divisiveness that can only harm our country. His further choice of Sarah Palin, herself a dangerous, divisive demagogue and anti-intellectual, as a running mate clearly indicated the degree he would stoop to win at any cost. It is a sad commentary on a man who was defeated by similar tactics in 2000 in North Carolina.
 
On the other hand, I continue to be impressed with Barack Obama's intelligence, coolness under fire and organizational abilities. He has surrounded himself with strong but moderate advisors, and understands how to listen and make good, balanced decisions. Neither the U.S.A., nor the world needs another cowboy in the White House. If you want a beer with someone, go ask your neighbor, or even Sarah and Todd Palin. But what we need in the White House now is the leadership, intelligence and skill of Barack Obama and his running mate Joe Biden. I urge all of my readers to vote for them and to do all that is possible to help get them elected. Take nothing for granted this time. It is too important not to vote for balance, effectiveness, honesty and intelligence in these very troubling times. 
  
  
  
Oct 26, 2008 Beggars 
 
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When you share your last crust of bread with a beggar, you mustn't behave as if you were throwing a bone to a dog. You must give humbly, and thank him for allowing you to have a part in his hunger.
Giovanni Guareschi (Italian journalist and author, 1908 - 1968)
 :
I'm planning an online exhibition on how beggars have been shown within photography and would welcome examples from around the world. Best, Alan alan@luminous-lint.com 
  
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Oct 25, 2008 Ghosts, apparitions, angels, spiritual visitations and views of the future 
 
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There can be few photography books as enjoyable as The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult by Clement Cheroux, Pierre Apraxine, Andreas Fischer, Denis Canguilhem and Sophie Schmit (Yale University Press, 2004). It takes us into the merging of the real and spiritual worlds with photographs of séances with automatic writing, table-tilting, and ectoplasm excreted by mediums as a physical manifestation of a haunting. It is a story of photography, science, legal proceedings and downright fraud.
 
This online exhibition of mostly nineteenth century material takes us into the ghostly world of grieving children in church yards, hair raising incidents, protective angels and unexpected apparitions on lonely roads.
 
Thanks to everybody for providing examples and particularly to Kevin Yee for nudging me along. 
  
View exhibition 
PhVTitle | Lightbox | Checklist 
Exhibition: Ghosts, apparitions, angels, spiritual visitations and views of the future 
  
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Oct 24, 2008 Museo d'Arte of Lugano: Photo20esimo - Masters of 20th Century Photography 
 
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At the Museo d'Arte of Lugano, Riva Caccia 5, CH - 6900 Lugano in Switzerland the exhibtion Maestri della fotografia del XX secolo [Masters of 20th Century Photography] is running from October 5, 2008 - January 11, 2009 and is based on a private collection of remarkable depth.
 
The exhibition is divided in a series of themes Abstraction, Portraiture, Art and Artists, Body, Landscape, Reportage, Still Life and Fashion and includes a selection of more than 300 works by masters such as Robert Capa, Robert Doisneau, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Mario Giacomelli, Nan Goldin, Mimmo Jodice, André Kertész, László Moholy-Nagy, Helmut Newton, Robert Mapplethorpe, Irving Penn, Man Ray, Bettina Rheims, Alexander Rodchenko, Thomas Ruff, Andres Serrano, Cindy Sherman, Edward Steichen, Edward Weston and many others.
 
I'd like to thank Marco Antonetto and the Museo d'Arte of Lugano for their assistance with this online exhibition. 
  
View exhibition 
PhVTitle | Lightbox | Checklist 
Exhibition: Museo d'Arte of Lugano: Photo20esimo - Masters of 20th Century Photography [Maestri della fotografia del XX secolo] 
  
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Oct 19, 2008 Whoops 
 A couple of the links didn't work on the Luminous-Lint Newsletter 2.13 - Oct 13, 2008 I just sent out. Apologies and I've now fixed it. Best, Alan 
  
  
  
Oct 19, 2008 Newsletter 2.13 - Oct 19, 2008 has been emailed 
 Luminous-Lint Newsletter 2.13 - Oct 13, 2008 has been emailed to all those on our mailing list and you can subscribe to these free newsletters if you haven't already done so.
 
Past issues of the newsletter are in the library on the Luminous-Lint website. Thanks to everybody for your help with this group of exhibitions and apologies for the delay in getting this newsletter out. Best, Alan 
  
  
  

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