Why The Photography Market Shows No Signs Of Slowing Down
August 5, 2020

Why The Photography Market Shows No Signs Of Slowing Down


"Historically photography has been secondary to paintings and prints but recently a new breed of collectors have turned to editioned prints by both contemporary cutting-edge photographers and established masters as a form of investment. Tightly monitored small editions most usually signed have begun to set new records at auction." – Maeve Doyle, Artistic Director at Maddox Gallery


 Terry O'Neill, Elton John, Dodger Stadium, 1975

Photography is the newcomer to the art market, as such it offers a more level playing field for new collectors looking to collect or invest. In the UK, works by emerging artists can be acquired for less than £100, and works by even blue chip can sell for less than £1000. Investing in photography could be the perfect opportunity to get your foot in the door, in this ever-growing market. 

The Current Market for Fine Art Photography

The photography art market has shown no signs of slowing down since the 1980s. The medium continues to grow and become more established and collectable with a fast-growing client base. Between 2000 and 2015, photography’s price index grew 48%, whilst the fine art market as a whole has grown 36%. At auction alone the art photography market is worth more than $200 million. Photography sales were up significantly in 2019, rebounding from a 10-year low of $15.6 million in 2018 to about $22.4 million last year.  

To date Philips auction house has attracted 40% new buyers and collectors, showing a consistent interest in photography. As the market has gotten stronger over the past couple of years and buyers’ and sellers’ confidence has likewise risen,  which has been demonstrated by a rise in prices for the top caliber works. In one of the first results since British photographer, Terry O’Neill’s death, his image of Elton John at Dodger Stadium sold for 152% over estimate.

The Reputation of the Artist

Like any other artwork aquired for investment, the most important consideration is in the reputation of the artist. Therefore, research into an artists auction results and a thorough understanding of the background of the artist, in particular their CV will give an indication into their past performance. 

Amongst our established artists at Maddox, Fine Art Photographer, David Yarrow, travels that globe documenting the natural world and capturing breathtaking imagery of indigenous communities, landscapes and wildlife. His photographs sell for huge sums at auction – the most notable to date being the magnificent image of an elephant ‘Amboseli Kenya, 2018’, which sold at Sotheby’s for $106,250 in 2019.

David Yarrow, Africa, 2018

Purchasing work from emerging artists secures a future for the medium; in the future of photography. There are ways to establish whether an emerging artist is on the cusp of success,  by finding out if they’ve featured in exhibitions and magazines or won awards, and whether there is a buzz around them in the art world. A significant growth in Fine Art Photography’s collectability can be visible through the increased number of galleries, both private and public, major museum shows and private collections representing emerging artists. 

The Image Narrative

Firstly, figure out the period, project or series the photograph comes from. Whether it significantly impacted the development of photogaphy, or was a milestone in the artists career. And through this, is it a key image?

Iconic British Photographer, Terry O'Neill's image of Faye Dunaway is one of his most memorable photographs to date because it highlights a pivotal moment in both of their careers. When asked about the inspiration behind the image,  O'Neill  said "I’ve been to the Oscars before. If you win, they always take the same pictures of you receiving the statue in the press room.” I knew that wasn’t the real story — the real story is the next day, when they realize suddenly they’re getting all these offers to do films, their value goes from $100,000 to $10 million, and they’re just sort of stunned. I wanted to capture that, so I told her my idea, and she was sport enough to do it early in the morning at the Beverly Hills Hotel. She got up at 6 a.m., and we got that great picture. It’s become one of the most Hollywood pictures of all time."

Terry O'Neill, Faye Dunaway, Beverly Hills Hotel, 1977

Size of the Edition

Individual images are issued in a number called ‘editions’. This is the artists statement as to how many prints of that image have been made, and not all original photographs will cost exactly the same. An edition of 3 and an edition of 30 are both deemed as limited; however, they are not equal in terms of their monetary value. Editions are designed to cultivate rarity so, the fewer the number of prints in an edition, the more expensive the run will be. The price of prints can change as the prints sell and become more limited, or as the artists’ work becomes more valuable over time. 

Haris Nukem, Hero Life, 2019





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