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photographed, inspired, swapped & bought

David Hurn


Why does one collect? How does one collect? I have given much thought but haven’t really found satisfactory conclusions.


One honest/accurate reason is the hope in ones treasures rocketing up in value. You buy a ‘dinky toy’ in the 50’s, keep it unused in its original box and it value has gone from, a ‘Foden Chain Lorry’ made in the early 1950’s and originally costing 19/6d, to recently fetching £12,000 at auction.


Maybe it’s simply like doing a jigsaw puzzle, keeping going till all the pieces are in place.


But I don’t think that has ever been my rational. When I was at boarding school I had on my wall space, postcards. Manet, Bruegel, Seurat, I presume I thought they had something in common, in hindsight all are very photographic in their structure, but as I had never taken a photograph, and didn’t for many years, I don’t think visions of photography was my motivator.


Becoming a photographer was seemingly by chance - if I had been better qualified I would have been either an archaeologist or a vet - in my time to go to  university to deal with animals you had to have Latin as a main subject. I have no qualifications.


What I do know was that shortly after calling myself a photographer I met Sergio Larrain, he was the first photographer  I met who took pictures that I wished I had taken. This was 1959. To all intent and purpose there were no photography galleries then - in fact the first gallery in both England and USA was not really until the early 70’s- one could  possibly argue a few years before or after - the importance is that, no gallery - no art. Photographs value came from whether a picture editor  wished to publish, the actual print was simply  valued at the price of printing - I expect then about £1 a picture. I did what seems to have been impossibly unusual for that time, I asked Sergio if I could have some of his prints. He gave me some - I persevered, knocked on the front door of Bill Brandt and ended up with some prints of his - I reiterate photographs had no intrinsic value in the art market. I suspect photographers were flattered to be asked. It meant you appreciated what they did.


I guess I had become a collector. Why? Was it simply owning something I thought beautiful, produced by someone I highly admired and that maybe the being able to handle the product gave me some link to the originator? I kept at it, firstly simply asking, later when I had more success and confidence in myself, by swapping. But right from the start I always asked for specific prints, maybe luck trait, but it produced a collection with authorship.


Out of photography became other opportunities. I would photograph an artist and swap a painting, etching, woodcut, for my photograph and the use of that picture. In the case of musicians it might simply be a CD, normally a signed CD.


Whatever it has given me a great deal of pleasure, produced a great deal of thought and as I said before continually given me a mystical feeling that I am in some way in touch with the producer.

Below are David's own photos that are included in this show, and are available to purchase. Please email for details.

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