We met Gary at Unseen photo festival in Amsterdam last year. We caught up with him to chat through his growing art collection with help from photographer Jake Kenny.
Can you offer a quick introduction into who you are, where you live and what you do?
I have a degree in Philosophy, so saying “who I am” would be a long dissertation, and at the end I’d probably say I don’t know. 😉 But some of who I am is a software engineer at Adobe who is passionate about art, specifically photography. I’m originally from Los Angeles, but have been living in London for the past 5 years.
“Book by Daisuke Yokota”
How long have you been collecting art for?
Art (paintings) for about 20 years. Photography (prints and books) for the past 4.
What do you feel is the biggest pull of collecting art works, do you feel that you are directly contributing to an artists development?
For younger photographers, definitely helping with their personal development. As it stands most of the contemporary photography I have been buying has been made by women, but that’s a coincidence. I never buy based on gender. But buying art is really just a socially acceptable form of hoarding. So I’m probably just trying to fill some psychological void.
“This is a photo by Abbas.”
Is a personal connection important for you between yourself and the artist?
No, but it can make the purchase more sentimental.
Do you see artworks as an investment or simply a hobby?
I’d like to say it’s as an investment. But I buy (mostly) what I like, so it’s hard to say if others in the future will agree with my purchasing strategy. Only time will tell I suppose.
“Ombra looking at a print by Brassai, my hand, and then Alma Haser’s “Cosmic Surgery.“
When we first met, you told me that you were also once a practicing photographer, can you tell us a little about that ?
Not much to say there. I thought I was better than I actually am. Being around good photographers has allowed me to gain some perspective here. I’m technically ok, but the main pieces I miss in my own work is a personal voice and a distinct lack of poetry in the work.
“For young artists… don’t be afraid to take risks and really push past your comfort zones.”
“To the right is a contact sheet by Bruce Gilden from his “Go” series.”
What would be a piece of advice for young artists / collectors?
For young artists… don’t be afraid to take risks and really push past your comfort zones. It’s less about having your own style and more important to find yourself. That being said, I do think it’s important to know what’s come before you, that is, the history of photography.
Collectors… collect what you like. If the investment doesn’t come to fruition it won’t matter (as much) if you still like the work.
What do you look for when buying work?
It depends. I usually like photos that tell a story. But sometimes it’s about design (concrete or abstract). But in the end I really want something that moves me.
“Here is a popup book by Alma Haser “Cosmic Surgery” (who by chance is currently doing a kickstarter for the same book, second edition). Next to that is a whole bunch of books, but quite a bit of the second row has a bunch of books by Maurizio Cattelan. The last book in that row is by Sergio Larrain “Valparaiso”
Are there any pieces you regret buying?
Only with photo books. Many I buy sight unseen, solely based on buzz or personal recommendations. Sometimes the work doesn’t hold up for me. But regret is a strong word.
Do you often research the artists you buy, or do you buy on first sight?
I rarely research artists. I love going to fairs (Unseen, etc) or university shows and find something that surprises me. When I go to shows I tend to ask friends what I should look out for. It’s how I found you.
“The cat is named Ombra. He’s a boy cat with a female name. He was given to me as a girl but he had other ideas. The book next to him is by Daisuke Yokota. I’m not sure of the name as it was a one-off.”
Do you have a preference to finding work online, in print or in exhibitions ?
I’d prefer to find the work as an exhibition or in a book store. Seeing the realisation is always the best way.
What is your favourite piece you have at the moment ?
My favorite book is probably Tomatsu’s “Nagasaki” but I also have a one-off color book (untitled) of Daisuke Yokota’s that’s wonderful. The pages stick together as I turn them so there’s a sound of them being pulled apart that is super cool (and scary). There is one piece I’m lusting over, but don’t currently have… it’s a three dimensional book-like object by the artists Nerhol.
As for a print, the most special print I have is by Graham Smith. The photo is interesting, but the print itself is special.
“I don’t care what they do to make money. The work is what speaks…”
“The above photo is a carton of cigarette books “Until Death Do Us Part” by Thomas Sauvin peaking out.”
Does it matter to you if the artist practices commercially?
Heh, don’t all photographers need to do commercial work to make a living? But honestly, I don’t care what they do to make money. The work is what speaks.
Would you buy a picture that belongs to an editorial and isn’t from a personal series?
Definitely, this image comes to mind.
Photography by Jake Kenny