Photo collections

We see collections (items) in museums at big companies and in the homes of photo lovers.

Some photo collections have a similar history : formed, neglected, stored in banana boxes, forgotten, re-found and rebound.

When it comes to collectors, we recognise : dealers/investors, collectionneurs/donateurs (public, institutional and private collections) and photography lovers.

In 2007 I learned the basics of managing a photo archive (cultural heritage) and I learned about the old photo types. Highly fascinating. It is with interest and love that I am working on my current job : to organise  a corporate photo collection. It is not very old but it does contain glass plate negatives (!) and it is worth preserving. The photos are records of past activities and events and they show the evolution of the company. The project involves the tasks that are linked to a ‘serious’ or historic collection :  the sorting, scanning, describing and tagging (outsourced to a freelance journalist) and properly archiving of the negatives and digital files. (A job that takes time and resources). The creation of a collection ‘catalogue’ and the disclosure are to be discussed next year.

From corporate to private : last week I purchased my very first tintype photographs. They are the fifth and sixth items of what is to become the famous private JDH photo collection 😉  My first items are two vintage photos in vintages frames and a photo book given to me.  The fourth item an album with cartes de visite.

Here’s an example of a Tintype I found on wikipedia


I will share my Tintypes and some info on the tintype process in a later post. But here’s already a very good video :

Ageless Snapshots


I aim to form a collection that reflects the main innovative photo types in the history of photography, but I could well shift my focus in time… No high ambitions, but aiming to bridge history with present while at the same time giving in to my taste, appetite and juggling with budget (a budget being nothing to zero, as fine art and contemporary photographs are so.000,00 expensive these days!) There is no way I will be able to buy a Anton Corbijn or a Koos Breukel (Dutch master in portraiture).  But hey, wait a minute, I was fortunate to have been photographed by Breukel at the masterclass I attended in January 2008. I just realised that the print that was made then should also become a part of my collection, now adding up to seven items.

Luckily everything is collectible and there are many photographs out there of unknown yet talented or emerging photographers. Besides, thematic amateur photos are intriguing too.

Soon I will learn more about collections and collecting photography. Looking very much forward to lectures at Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam : | Lectures collecting photography at FOAM.

The photo collections that I saw few years ago and had an impact on me : Manfred Heiting (portraits and still life) and La Collection Ordóñez Falcón (une passion partagée).

The photo collections that I saw/had my attention last week : De Nederlandse Bank/historisch archief (uitnodiging tentoonstelling 40 jaar DNB – de bouw van de bank), Spaarnestad Photo (a visit is due), Life+google.

I love the fact that the historic archives are being digitised and shared publicly online.

To round off, just some examples of collections:

A must see ! The Naylor collection, incl. images of antique camera’s – PDF

When he began his collecting, Jack Naylor concentrated on cameras and photographs, but he quickly expanded to all manner of ephemera and photographica. Much of the collection was acquired at camera and antique shows, auctions, and yard sales. Many of the items were donated by photographers and inventors of the paraphernalia that supports photography.


In October 1993, Henry M. Buhl purchased a photograph by Alfred Stieglitz of Georgia O’Keeffe’s hands. This photograph would come to be the cornerstone of a private collection that now includes over one thousand images by the medium’s foremost practitioners as well as little-known and emerging artists. Focusing on the theme of the hand, Buhl has gathered images spanning the history of photography, from a photogenic drawing negative made in 1840 by William Henry Fox Talbot to serial Polaroids made in 2002 by Cornelia Parker. The collection also encompasses a comprehensive range of photographic practices, including scientific, journalistic, and fine-art photography, with a strong component of contemporary art.

The Pfeifer collection – PDF

Collection Roland Bonaparte | Photographie et anthropologie – PDF

Museum of contemporary photography

Managing a digital photo collection

Related to my post :”| Managing an (historic) analog photo collection

Currently I am working on a corporate ‘photo collection’. A project that is about sorting out analog and digital photos.

The first phase is the inventory of all photo/media files (analog and various digital formats) that sit on hard disks or sit in albums in cupboards or lie in banana boxes. It involves structuring thousands of photo files and adding meta data to the files. The second step is selecting analog photos and digitizing them. The scans and the digital photo files will eventually go into a database and be shared online.

Digitizing is mainly done for the purpose of online sharing and preserving the analog originals.

But what about preserving the original digital files? How to preserve all digitized material? That is of course the big question for all that want to preserve a collection.

In the news came a WIPO workshop. Here’s what we read :

Unlike analog materials, digital works do not ‘self-preserve’ if left alone in a stable environment. Digital materials tend to degrade and lose their integrity quickly, and without warning. As a result, content can effectively disappear without the possibility of recovery. In addition, the formats and hardware necessary for accessing and rendering digital works in a perceptible form are becoming obsolete faster than ever, as new technologies emerge. Thus, digital preservation now requires that multiple copies of a work be made over the course of its “lifetime,” in different formats and in different storage locations.


Digital preservation can involve the exercise of one or more of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights, especially the rights of reproduction, distribution, communication, and adaptation. Because copyright exceptions pertaining to digital preservation are not uniform throughout the world, copyright law has different effects upon digital preservation in different jurisdictions. The copyright-digital preservation interface also varies depending upon the nature and source of the content, whether it is in the public domain, and whether cooperative agreements between rights holders and preservationists can be achieved.

More on the WIPO website

I think I need to put forward the suggestion that we print the best digital files on the best archival paper and add the new prints to the archival silver gelatin prints and color prints and file in proper acid free boxes and proper filing cabinets. All for the sake of preserving/ managing the collections. Oef, a though cookie this project….

And as for the copyright, another challenging layer is added to this.

Historic photo “Leaf” pulled from auction

Updated 17 April 2008

New York Times | 17 April :  An image is a mystery for photo detectives

“A primitive image believed to have been taken decades before what is widely considered to be the dawn of photography has been pulled from an upcoming auction to allow further research as to its authorship”.

Business Week | 2 April : read the full article

CBS News | 28 March : Early “Leaf” Photo Could Fetch Fortune
Sotheby’s To Auction Historic Photograph; Believed To Date Back As Far As 1790

The Getty | explore art | artists : William Henry Fox Talbot

Wikipedia | Louis Daguerre

V&A | exploring photography | photographic processes : photogenic drawing

Oudste foto wordt nader onderzocht

“Leaf, het fotogram waarvan het vermoeden bestaat dat het de oudste bewaard gebleven foto is, zal voorlopig niet worden geveild. Dit heeft veilinghuis Sotheby’s gisteren in New York bekendgemaakt. Het besluit is genomen in overleg met de huidige eigenaars, de Quilllan investeringsgroep. Op verzoek van internationale fotomusea en onderzoeksinstituten wordt Leaf beschikbaar gesteld voor nader onderzoek”.

NRC | 3 april : lees het volledige artikel

Article Le Monde | A-t-on retrouvé la plus vieille photo du monde ?

Ansel Adams prints at auction

“On April 11 Christie’s is scheduled to sell about 200 silver-gelatin Ansel Adams prints from a corporate collection in California. It is among the largest Adams collections in private hands.

“A print made 20 years later is not a vintage print,” said Robert Mann, the owner of a Manhattan photo gallery and an Adams specialist since 1977. “Vintage prints only come up for sale from time to time, and they often have more personality, because Ansel would have spent time on them getting the results he wanted. Today seasoned collectors want the earliest rendition of an image.””

Read the full New York Times article

Managing a (historic) photo collection

Updated on 9 May 2008

Managing a photo collection.

I went on a three day course “managing photo collections (cultural heritage) “to learn how to structure, manage and share a photo collection. I will have to work with material that was collected in 21 years that currently lies in boxes, sits in albums and is stored in electronic folders on drives. All unsorted and untagged.

My first lesson was interesting and fun, also because it was an on-site lesson at | ICM, where I happen to meet one of my first photography teachers, Frido Troost. He’s an art historian and now an antiquarian and he told us about the principle of historic -chemical – photographic processes and taught us how to recognize the various old photo types. (In “my” collection non of the older types…).

  • The Daguerreotype. Source : The Getty. “The daguerreotype is a one-of-a-kind, highly detailed photographic image on a polished copper plate coated with silver. It was the first popular photographic medium and enjoyed great success when it was introduced in 1839. Although primarily a nineteenth-century medium involving a painstaking process, daguerreotypy is still practiced today by an active — and avid — group of devotees”. See the video : Early Photography : Making Daguerreotypes

FAQ daguerreotypes

  • The Albumen process and the Collodion process. Source : The Getty. “Invented in 1851, the wet collodion photographic process produced a glass negative and a beautifully detailed print. Preferred for the quality of the prints and the ease with which they could be reproduced, the new method thrived from the 1850s until about 1880”. See the video : Photography: The Wet Collodion Process

Collodion process by Sally Mann


Nader - selfportrait
Felix Nadar (1910) selfportrait


  • The Tintype

The New York Times, 20 April 2008 | You Bet Your Tintype, Buckaroo

“Making these kinds of pictures, you don’t need the mental skills that you have to have a Ph.D. for,” he said. “It’s more like learning to be a carpenter. It’s work and it’s satisfying. What you get is unique, not mass-produced. You can’t repeat the process. So it’s the antithesis of digital.”

Audio slideshow – tintype master (2006)

The Getty : Research on the conservation of photographs – Project video : the first photograph

The second lesson was about conservation (Mattie Boom, Rijksmuseum), copyright restrictions and permissions (Cecile van der Harten, Rijksmuseum). | Slideshow | Kunst op papier / art on paper.

The third lesson ( Martijn van der Kaaij) dealt with digital access, digitizing, meta data and databases, search of a collection and project management.

Obviously I am not handling a museum collection and there will be no need to spend enormous resources on the project. But it will be a project that takes time and money.

The first step for me is to make an inventory of the photos and negatives. The second step is to team up with ICT and to draft a proposal.

Recommended reading : The Getty : Introduction to Imaging

IPTC Photo Metadata White Paper 2007

Video in English, French and Dutch about digitising collections

The Getty : Image Bank

More links on my ‘resources page’.

From the BBC serie : Genius of photography. Part one, fixing the shadows : about the history of photography. Fascinating viewing camera obscura, daguerreotype, carte de visite and tintype etc.

Introduction to the Semantic Web

Fashion photos upgrade

Well, photography does not seem completely dead. Fashion photography is very much alive…

““As the market becomes so broad and there are so many people who have the means to collect,” fashion pictures have been upgraded both critically and in the marketplace, Mr. Holdeman said. “The imagery is easy to approach and accessible in price,” he added, although accessible in this case may be a relative term. Prices for images by photographers like Serge Lutens, Max Vadukul and Willy Vanderperre are modest by Art Basel Miami Beach standards (generally under $10,000). But the Irving Penn platinum print a farseeing collector might have picked up at auction 10 years ago for under $8,000 would now command $350,000, Mr. Holdeman said”.


Source : The New York Times. Read the full article.