Collecting Photography, an interview with Toby Jurovics

Toby-jurovicsToby Jurovics is the Joslyn Art Museum’s Chief Curator and Holland Curator of American Western Art. An expert in nineteenth and twentieth century American landscape photography, he has organized over fifty exhibitions and is the author of Framing the West: The Survey Photographs of Timothy H. O’Sullivan, which accompanied the first major retrospective of the photographer’s work in almost three decades. Jurovics has also been a curator of photography at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Princeton University Art Museum.  

Toby Jurovics was kind enough to share his thoughts on collecting photography while on a trip to Denver. I joined Toby outside the Denver Art Museum where we had a cup of coffee and talked collecting, developing photographic careers, and photography in general.

Q: What advise do you give photo collectors interested in starting a collection?

Jurovics: I usually start with two pieces of advice. First, do your research. The more you know about artists and the market, the more intelligent your purchases will be. The internet is helpful, but books and exhibition catalogues are a better place to start. You may want to look into a particular period or movement, a specific artist, or just find a good general history to give you a foundation. Doing the research may sound tedious, but it will make you a better collector. 

The second thing I advocate is to think about collecting thematically. Your choice might be a particular photographer and their circle, or a genre such as seascapes or environmental portraiture, or a particular period, like social documentary photographs of the 1960s and 1970s. but when making a new acquisition, ask yourself if you are simply adding to the number of prints you own, or building a coherent collection. Do the photographs in your collection talk to each other, and do they seem to create some kind of dialogue as a group? A collection that reflects some insight is ultimately more valuable and interesting than a random group of photographs.

Q: What if the collector doesn’t have the budget for an Edward Weston, how does an amateur collector determine if an emerging photographer’s work is worth collecting?

Jurovics:  Well, most of us don’t have the pocket change for a Weston, so that solves one problem. But this is a tough question. We are in the middle of a shift in the medium that is as challenging as we have seen in a century. With the advent of digital printing and image processing – and the sheer number of images being made – there is more risk. You have to develop a sense of history and your own eye to help determine what might be of lasting value. A good place to start is always the gallery or dealer that represents an artist you are interested in considering. They should be able to answer those questions for you; if they can’t give you a good answer, think twice about your purchase.

Timothy O'Sullivan

Timothy O’Sullivan

Q: What if the photographer is not represented by a gallery?

Jurovics: Have a look at their resume – have they shown at good museums? Is their work in any notable public or private collections? Has the artist received any major awards such as a Guggenheim? These are all good indicators of the value of the work. I also think that it is just fine to buy a photograph that you simply love. If you feel the price is reasonable why not purchase it? I collect some myself, and I have work from artists with international reputations, friends, and some photos that I just happen to like but might not ever find their way into a museum collection. 

Q: You mentioned a “reasonable price,” but how does the collector determine what is reasonable?

Jurovics: For established artists there is plenty of published data. A good online source is, which tracks auction prices on the secondary (resale) market, although keep in mind that there is always a difference between an auction price and a gallery price. Is it a vintage print, typically considered to be made within 5 or 10 years of the negative date? How many prints were made, and do you know the edition size? Is it a silver gelatin print? Is it an inkjet print that was made decades later than the original negative? All of these factors influence price.

Q: Do you ever buy work by emerging artists/photographers?

Jurovics: Absolutely. On several occasions, I have purchased work by photographers right out of graduate school or still completing an MFA program. If I see work that shows a knowledge of the medium, that fits into an important historical perspective while saying something unique or compelling, then I have no hesitation to acquire work by an emerging artist.  

Q: Are portfolio reviews a good way for photographers to break into the rarefied world of fine art photography?

Jurovics: Portfolio reviews are a good way to get your work seen, but I have very mixed feelings about the “for-profit” review world – organizations that are charging artists to have people look at their work. I have participated in a number of portfolio reviews for the Society for Photographic Education and other groups, and have included work I have first encountered there in exhibitions or made acquisitions. For students, I would recommend attending as many of the SPE events as you can, and shy away from portfolio reviews that charge large fees. I think it’s a curator’s duty to attend reviews and nurture new talent – portfolio reviews shouldn’t be a moneymaker for the entity hosting them.

Q: Final question, we just walked through the Robert Adams exhibition at the Denver Art Museum. Is there a lesson that the collector of photography or the aspiring fine art photographer can take away from Adams’ work?

Jurovics:  Well, Adams’ photographs are everything photography isn’t these days: small, intimate, and black and white. They are also elegant, lyrical, informed, and most importantly, passionate. It is impossible to come away from that exhibition and without knowing what he loves, what breaks his heart, and why he makes photographs. I fear it is part of a visual language that will be lost over the coming decades, so I suppose what I would say is turn off your computer and your phone for an hour and pick up one of his books – it’s as good a place to start as any. 

Note: I interviewed Toby Jurovics in 2012 with the intention of posting it on another site. That posting never materialized, and this information is too useful to leave unpublished.

Robert Adams

Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1968 - Silver Gelatin Print, 15.1 x 15.2 cm, Yale University Art Gallery,  © Robert Adams

Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1968 – Silver Gelatin Print, 15.1 x 15.2 cm, Yale University Art Gallery, © Robert Adams

Robert Adams is often referred to as, “the greatest living American photographer.” Adam’s approach to photographing the rapid transformation of the American Western landscape has influenced and inspired an entire generation of photographers. If you have not had the delight of seeing his work you have one last chance of seeing the amazing retrospective, “The Place We Live,” at the Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland.

Below is a link to an interview with Adam’s from Modern Art Notes Podcast.

The Place We Live
Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland
June 7–August 31, 2014

Being There: Garry Winogrand at the Met

© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

Garry Winogrand was a sheer force of nature for whom a Leica was an essential body part. He singularly exemplified Sarah Greenough’s observation in The Mystery of the Visible:  “The Leica was hailed as a machine that seamlessly merged hand, eye and mind.” For a glimpse of Winogrand’s voraciously curious mind visit the touring retrospective on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where one hundred and seventy-five of his luminous silver gelatin prints form a visual roller coaster ride.

Winogrand was less interested in answers or reflection, he urgently froze moments, relishing the ambiguos, mocking any attempt on the viewers part to edit, codify or contain the expanse of our human experience. He shot ferociously and framed off-kilter. He held form above content, inciting an active debate and tension between these two dynamics by pushing our focus to the photo’s edge, emphasizing shape and shadow to insure we experience looking in while remaining outside.

Winogrand developed 26,000 rolls of film over 34 years and died with 250,000 negatives unseen by his eyes. Several posthumous selections are included in the show. Also on display are glimpses of his intensely-lived life in the form of an angry letter from his second wife admonishing him for his denial of unpaid bills and taxes while ignoring her desire to start a family. Photos by equally acclaimed photographer and close friend, Tod Papageorge, catch personal and professional moments, including the unlikely moment of Winogrand taking the now iconic image of the couple holding chimps in the Central Park Zoo. The experience of seeing this small sample of Winogrand’s zealous photographic pursuit leaves the viewer in the same state as a ride on the Coney Island Cyclone; disoriented, exhilarated and eager to do it again.

The Garry WInogrand exhibition is on display until 9/21/14 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

Post by J. Sybylla Smith

New San Francisco Leica Store Opens 8/15/14

unnamedLeica is opening a new Leica Store at 463 Bush Street in San Francisco. As part of the Grand Opening, the San Francisco location will be featuring several hands-on events on Friday 8/15 through Sunday 8/17.  If you live in San Fran or the Bay area this would be a great chance to pick up some valuable insights from Leica Akademie instructors Tom Smith and Tom Brichta and Leica S-System Specialist Ben Ross. For more information follow the link below.

Leica Store San Francisco

Børge Indergaard


Frozen Lake, Trondheim Norway - © Børge Indergaard

Frozen Lake, Trondheim Norway – © Børge Indergaard

“Photography is more than a hobby for me – it’s a part of my life, a lifestyle, something I really enjoy doing, and a way to express myself and my creativity.”
Børge Indergaard

I came across Børge’s photo blog, “Observations,” when I started this site. I was looking for camera reviews and quickly became frustrated by the cookie cutter approach employed by most reviewers. I found Børge’s site and his yearlong review of the M Monochrom, and I thought how brilliant. I was even more impressed that he used only the M Monochrom and one lens exclusively.

I could go on about “Observations” but your time is better spent exploring the blog site. I have posted a link to Børge’s site below.

Børge was kind enough to provide some images for this post and answer a few questions.

Q: For the readers who have not visited your blog, how would you describe your approach to Photography?

BI: My approach to photography is quite simple. I try to keep things as simple as possible. I basically use one camera and one focal length and try to stick with that, as it makes me focus better. Photography is a passion for me, and not something I do as work. If it starts feeling like work, I will normally take some time off and let the camera rest. I want to enjoy photography, and I enjoy the process of taking photographs the most. Editing and post-processing is something that I do not enjoy as much, which is also why I rarely publish photographs, and also why my quick-selection in Lightroom always is filled up with hundreds of photographs that are waiting to be edited and processed.

Juliet's Wall, ©Borge-Indergaard

Juliet’s Wall – © Børge Indergaard

Q: I like the quotes from artists that you often include on your posts. Is there an artist/photographer that has inspired you, or some one you would like to emulate?

BI: Thank you. I like the quotes myself, as they inspire me, and the reason I post them is that I hope they will inspire others as well. There are many photographers that inspire me, but I don’t have one photographer in specific who inspires me more than others.

One ©Borge Indergaard

One  – © Børge Indergaard

Q: I have noticed a quality of light in your photographs that is very particular. Do you think that being from Norway, living so far North, has influenced your photography?

BI: I haven’t thought about this myself, but that might be. The light changes a lot from winter to summer time here. It’s quite a dramatic change having daylight from between 4am to midnight in the summer, to having daylight from 10am to 3pm in the winter. I find that the change will cause me to look for and go for a different mood in my images, depending on what time of year it is.

Q: You spent a year shooting exclusively with the Leica M Monochrom and a 50mm lens. Now that you have a little distance from that experience, how did it influence your photography?

BI: The year that I spent with a MM and a 50mm lens is the year that I personally felt that I have learned the most in photography. I still only use a 50mm lens (although I have two lenses, both of them are 50mm), but I currently use a Leica M240. I miss the Monochrom a lot, but I can not own both an M240 and MM for my limited use. Processing the M240 files takes a lot more time, but I can get about the same results from it that I got from the MM – Except at very high ISO (which I rarely found myself using, even in the dark). The best thing about the MM for me was the fact that the files are very simple to work with: No color corrections to worry about, no aberrations to worry about when shooting wide-open, and the files are extremely flexible and can be pushed in any direction and still retain a natural look.

To visit Børge Indergaard’s site follow this link.

Should we be Disturbed by Photography?

Image of #Dysturb Poster (Image from #Dysturb website)

Image of #Dysturb Poster (Image from #Dysturb website)

Frustrated by the tepid approach corporate media has employed covering world events, a group of Paris-based photo journalists have taken to the streets. Founded by photographer Pierre Terdjman, the group called Dysturb pastes large photo posters in public spaces. In an article on TIME Magazine’s blog Lightbox, Terdjman states:

“The goal is to raise awareness about what’s actually going on in the world. We’re not looking to make a name or to degrade a city’s public spaces. It’s really about telling the story of what’s happening in CAR, in Egypt, in Ukraine.” 

Dysturb raises some interesting questions about the role photography plays in our view of world events. So far Paris officials have not hindered Dysturb’s activities and the organization has plans to expand their poster-plastering to other cities in the US and Europe.  Dysturb’s mission is stated on their minimal website.

“Who are we?
We are photojournalists who have taken onto the walls of your city to highlight stories undercovered by mainstream media.
We believe in photography to express the words, distinguish the emotions and elevate the voice of people.
We have chosen to print stories, to foster discussions and reactions.
We wish to open eyes and inform about the world we live in.
We are #Dysturb.”

Are the photojournalist of Dysturb on the right track? I’d like to hear your opinion.
Read more: In Paris, Photojournalism Hits the Streets – LightBox 

Silver M Monochrom

New Silver M Monochrom available end of May 2014

New Silver M Monochrom available end of May 2014

Leica has released a silver version on the M Monochrom. The specs are the same as the black version. This new M Monochrom will appeal to the nostalgic emotions many of us have for the days when film reigned. The addition of a silver body will also make the camera easier to find in a dark room. Now if only Sony would make a silver remote control for my television.

“Traces of a Lost Ceremony” Adam Marelli

Marelli 2391
Lovers of the art of black & white photography in the NYC area should see Adam Marelli’s exhibit at the Leica Store Soho.

The paradox of balancing the past with the future is the invisible force that lies at the heart of Japanese craftsman.

Adam Marelli’s beautiful silver gelatin black and white prints explore and document a part of Japanese culture that is both ancient and relevant to our modern western lives.

May 8 – June 26, 2014

Leica Soho Store
460 West Broadway, New York, NY 10012

Opening Reception: Thursday May 8, 2014 (6-8 PM)


Reflection on the Leica T

The recent announcement of the Leica T has elicited some interesting responses. I have personally vowed to stay away from camera reviews in this blog, and since I have not had the chance to test the Leica T, I will avoid all talk of megapixels, lens options, metering, and all things technical.

I will however comment on the Leica T as an object and as such the Leica T is simply stunning. Leica has brought this new camera to sculptural levels. Produced from a single block of aluminum, it has a sleek abstract form. With only a few dials and a touch screen, the T brings Leica’s traditional minimal, utilitarian design into this century. I believe that regardless of the T’s performance, Leica deserves accolades for their daring alone.

If Leica’s craft went into all commercial products the public might not be so quick to move on to the next new thing. Will the camera sell? Who cares really. The fact that Leica is producing the T shows that they are dedicated to advancing their vision of photography.

Leica’s new camera reminds me of another compact, the Contax T. When the Contax T was introduced in the mid 1980s the press said the pocket size rangefinder with a Zeis lens was too expensive.  Yet the Contax was a great little camera that raised the public’s perception of the Contax brand. When this first T was released the press said it was not a “serious” camera. However I sold quiet a few to some photographic heavy weights from the store where I worked in Boston.

In conclusion, all I can say is well done Leica. I hope that in the case of the Leica T beauty is more than skin deep.

I am including a link to so you can read their in depth reviews of the technical side of this new Leica T. I am also including a couple of links to the Contax T for reference purposes.

DP Review Leica T

Contax T reviewed by Paulo Moreira

Leica T Specifications

Michael J. Locke – Catching Shadows

"Shadow Columns" ©Michael J. Locke

“Shadow Columns” ©Michael J. Locke

“Pay attention to the frame.” I heard that phrase often sitting in various photo critiques. Valid advice, but it means little without an understanding of how to construct an image in the rectangular confines of the camera viewfinder.

Part intuition, part practice and a large part daring, making a composition interesting and successful is no easy task. One M Monochrom photographer I have recently come across composes an image in a way that is never static, boring, or formulaic, he is Michael J. Locke.

The image “Shadow Columns” is loaded with contrast, has no one facing the camera, and the top and bottom are basically black triangles that consume half the photograph yet it is wonderful!

“Shadow Columns” masterfully breaks every rule you will ever read in a “How to Take Great Photos” book. The image is dominated by large dark areas, mostly absent of detail, yet the strong contrast is not distracting but gives us a sense of foreboding and mystery. The shadow areas on the top and the bottom of the image make a frame within a frame focusing us on the subject of the image, the cast shadows of the people walking down the street.

The shadows of the three figures add movement and a dynamic tension. Like the ages of man they appear to pursue the female form in the center of the frame. Those shadows echo the strong diagonal but stop when they collide with the lit columns. The length of the shadows and the gesture of the figures that create them imply a sense of urgency and quickness.

In the middle ground and background the texture of the motorbikes, garbage and graffiti all give the image an interesting grit. The viewer’s eye moves around the image but returns to the sharp shadow of the boy on the first column. Holding the viewer in the frame are the many diagonals created by the pavement stones moving at a 90 degree angle to the direction of the shadows. The composition succeeds because it keeps the viewer in the frame while still allowing the graphic elements of shape, pattern and texture to delight the eye and tell a story.

Locke has made something fascinating, ominous, and prurient out of a scene that most photographers would have walked by. With this photo Locke has told us a little bit about his impression of this point in time and that makes this image more than a mere document of a street in the late afternoon.

“Shadow Columns” is not just about a place or thing, it is about emotion and feeling that happens in a split second. You turn a corner and you instinctively feel a premonition and then as quickly those feelings come they disappear, that transient second that holds so much meaning.

I have placed the designation of “how-to” on this post because many of us could learn a thing or two from the images here. I am also including a few more of Michael’s images and a link to Michael’s web page and gallery at the end of the post.

© Michael J. Locke

© Michael J. Locke

©Michael J. Locke

©Michael J. Locke


© Michael J. Locke

© Michael J. Locke


Michael J. Locke Photography Website

Michael J. Locke Represented by the Stephen Bartels Gallery