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From The Series Country Girs In Collaboration With Alison Goldfrapp1999

How to start a photography collection

You love photography, but have you ever thought about starting a collection? Two UK-based collectors share their thoughts on why you should follow your instinct and begin collecting pictures you are drawn to

From the series Country Girls in collaboration with Alison Goldfrapp, 1999, by Anna Fox HonFRPS



Dr James Hyman is an art historian, art dealer and collector. In 1996 he and his wife, Claire, began The Hyman Collection, comprising around 3,000 artworks from across the world. Avid supporters of British photography, the couple runs, an educational resource based on their collection of British photographs. James Hyman Gallery was founded in 1999.

“Claire and I have the same approach to photography as we do to collecting other art forms. We are interested in the object quality: size, scale, presence, how it’s made. It’s not just about the image. Otherwise one might as well just collect photo books.

“Whether or not a photograph is vintage is really important to us. A vintage print (meaning that the negative and the print both date from the same time) will often feel very different from a later print and is generally truer to the photographer’s original vision. For example, we have one of the major collections in the world of vintage prints by Bill Brandt, many of which are on loan to the Henry Moore-Bill Brandt touring show. His later prints have a totally different feel. With more recent photography we like rarity, which generally means small editions or one-off pieces.

“Sadly, when it comes to collecting, Britain is unusual in not having developed a wide collector base for its photographers, who often seem to gain more success abroad than at home. But we are doing what we can to spread the word.

“We are committed to education and to making the collection publicly accessible through our website and numerous loans. We have also made donations to important institutions to raise the national and international status of British photography

Untitled From The Series The Village 1991 93

‘Village wedding’, from the series The Village 1991-93, by Anna Fox HonFRPS


“We have always tried to be inclusive and to support artists of all backgrounds and ethnicities. In 2010, for example, we were one of the first collections in the world to acquire work by the South African artist Zanele Muholi.

“We have championed women working in photography, and at least half the photographs in the collection are by women. Last year we commissioned a powerful new series by Heather Agyepong, Wish You Were Here, and this year our major purchases have included works by Sonia Boyce, Anna Fox, Karen Knorr, Jo Spence and Jane and Louise Wilson. We are also working on three institutional shows of works from the collection, all of which will be by female photographers.

“We believe photography, especially British photography, is one of the best value sectors of the entire art market. So, even in these appalling times, we anticipate continued growth in the photography market and in particular a rise in the international status and appreciation of British photographers past and present.”

1 Rob This England 0146

From the series Wish You Were Here, 2019, by Heather Agyepong



Nick Sutton is a playground designer based in Bristol and London. He also writes music for short films and adverts, and has performed classical and electronic music around the UK, Europe and the USA. He has been collecting photography and sculpture seriously since 2013.

Juno Calypso Thehoneymoon A Dream In Green 2015 Courtesy Of The Artist And TJ Boulting
CREDIT: Juno Calypso

‘A dream in green’ from the series The Honeymoon, 2015, by Juno Calypso, courtesy of the artist and TJ Boulting


“I’ve been obsessively collecting ‘things’ since I was small. Owning things that were ‘mine’ was very important to me and I suppose it still is. I have around 60 works by living artists who work in photography and sculpture. I am not interested in works by names for names’ sake. I have several standout images by Juno Calypso including the infamous ‘A dream in green’, and pieces by Julie Cockburn, whose work I love.

“I put down my collection on paper recently and in doing so realised I have a particular tilt towards a new wave of female-led photography. There may on occasion be the odd work by a dead male artist I want to buy but why would I, when there are plenty of talented living women artists?

The Penultimate Lie 2015 Julie Cockburn
CREDIT: Julie Cockburn

‘The Penultimate Lie’, 2015, by Julie Cockburn


“I can’t pretend I don’t review the works and feel proud of such a cohesive group, which spurs me on to keep refining and expanding my collection. I am in a constant state of anticipation – what comes next – and don’t want it to stop.

“I think daily about a particular work that went out of edition in 2016 before I could buy it and I am still reeling. If you like it, buy it.”


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