Naomi Cass

PHOTOFAIRS’ Staged sector explores the relationship between photography and other art forms such as installation art, sculpture, video and painting. One of the leading institutions taking part in PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai’s Staged was Melbourne’s Centre for Contemporary Photography, which presented video works by artists Daniel Crooks, Joe Hamilton, Katrin Koenning, Sonia Leber and David Chesworth.

Naomi Cass, Director, Centre for Contemporary Photography, explains to Jill Cotton her thoughts on photography collecting.

With the fourth edition of Photofairs Shanghai to open this year, what influences you think art fairs have on the the photograph collecting of professional institutions?

PHOTOFAIRS is an important way for curators from public museums and from private collections, as well as individual collectors to experience a broad range of work from across the globe. Increasingly, photography festivals and photography fairs are a great way of experiencing a breadth of contemporary art photography. Professional institutions and private collectors must be informed and keep up to date with artists and trends and PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai is a remarkable way to do so in a varied and intense four-day period. It is very exciting for a large community to gather together to respectfully celebrate the achievements of photographic arts. For many visitors, it will be their first introduction to the photographic arts of China and for others, it may be their first time to really consider collecting photography and video. The great contribution of PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai is to create a shared interest in viewing, purchasing and studying contemporary photography.

As a professional photography institution from Australia, besides photographs in still form, would you include moving images and video installations into your collection?

Collecting art is a way of expressing oneself. Video and moving images are an exciting way to commence or develop ones own collection. Moving image forms such a strong role within all our lives: from news video though to entertainment and even to sharing videos of our own lives amongst friends: video is all around us in contemporary life.

Collecting art videos is a simple extension from the centrality of moving images within contemporary life. Contemporary video often also includes a sound component, making for an enhanced visual and audio experience. Some collectors focus on either still or moving images whereas at Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, we exhibit both still and moving images, making a truly rich and contemporary experience for visitors.

Do you have a different preference What is the range of interests in terms of selecting artists and artworks by comparing the art galleries, museums and photo centres from Europe, America, Australia and Asia?

At Centre for Contemporary Photography we exhibit work from across the globe. Earlier this year we exhibited work by the wonderful Chinese artist, Chen Wei and following this exhibition we exhibited great work by German artist Andrea Grützner. We are driven by work that excites audiences, work that is intelligent and moving, sometimes beautiful and sometimes challenging! We seek work that stand out and moves audiences. Photography brings the world together; photography speaks across language and country of origin.

The artworks baring oriental cultures and poetic matters presented in this year’s fair are in a higher level of quantity and quality. Would this be an attraction to non-Asia- Pacific collectors?

Collectors and curators from across the world are very interested in Asian art, from longstanding traditional art forms and crafts through to contemporary expressions. In many cases Asian art is recognised for its ability to express emotion and poetry as well as complex ideas. It is remarkable how poetry and specific cultural values can be expressed in the relatively contemporary forms of photography and video.

What do you think of the future trend in photograph collecting?

Photography is a great way to commence an art collection. Photography is highly accessible and is a relatively cost-effective way of developing confidence, taste and knowledge. Due to the breadth of work on view at PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai visitors can find their own confidence and express themselves through their collecting. Visitors can learn about the field of art photography. It is very important that people purchase work they love, work that moves and excites them.

Some people will be drawn to documentary photography; some are drawn to staged photography; some people collect old technologies such as ‘photograms’ and darkroom photographs, while other collectors are interested in digital photography. There is definitely a renewed interest in traditional methods of analogue photography. The important issue is that you trust your taste, do some research, connect with a great gallery and most of all, you should love the work you purchase: this is the trend!

Photo: © John Gollings