Would You Buy a Photograph Without Seeing It First?

Hanging a photograph from your wall will always have its appeal. Make that photograph the work of a famous and respected artist, and the appeal starts to rise. This is why well-established artists can demand such a high price tag for their work. But this entire process relies heavily on the person purchasing the piece to actually enjoy the art. If the photograph does not resonate with you, then it loses a lot of its value.  With that in mind, would you buy a photograph without actually seeing it first?

Recently, Canon of Australia put on an art exhibit to prove that “every piece of paper has the potential to become a work of art.” To do this, the exhibit featured a set of blank frames. Each frame represented a photograph from some of Australia’s finest photographers. The catch is that although the photographs were already selected, the frames would be auctioned off before they were ever printed. The only thing the buyer had to go on was the name of the artist along with a brief description. Once a piece was won, the photograph was printed on the spot from a Canon ImagePrograph PRO-1000.

While this is obviously an ad for a Canon printer, it drives an interesting argument. Can a photograph have value before ever being seen? Obviously, knowing the artist and having a description is helpful, but at the end of the day, it still seems like a gamble. Even really amazing photographers release images that don’t line up with their overall body of work. Then, after getting the image, you are still left with whether or not you enjoy it enough to put on display. While this auction seems a little stressful for the buyer and artist both, it managed to bring in $22,000.

Below is the list of artists that had work in this exhibit:

  • Toby Burrows
  • Stephen Dupont
  • Simon Harsent
  • Gary Heery
  • Ted O'Donnell
  • Vicki Lee
  • Anna Pogossova
  • Jackie Ranken
  • Graham Shearer
  • Eugene Tan
  • James Tolich

So, what do you think? Would you buy a piece of art without ever seeing it? Who are some photographers that you would buy a print from sight unseen? 

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5 Comments

Steven Gotz's picture

I would bid on a Joe McNally image site unseen. I have trouble coming up with anyone else.

But then again, it would be a Joe McNally hanging in my home. Does it really matter what the image is if it is something that Joe was proud to put his name on?

Tom Jacobs's picture

Living photographers? Easily Jay Maisel, Art Wolfe, Joe McNally, Michael Kenna - but I am mostly a landscape guy.

Spy Black's picture

That is dumb-ass shit. Sorry, but the emperor has new clothes...

Andrew Ashley's picture

No. Just no. No.

aaronbratkovics's picture

After my undergrad in photography. I pursued a master's degree in art. It helped me appreciate and understand work like this lol. It took some time though. Two semesters worth =]