I read a great Twitter thread this weekend on the digital art space, collecting and so much more. I couldn’t stop thinking about it as the collector shared about his own love of art and acquiring an Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup Can. It led me down a path for hours thinking about photography, the first significant piece we purchased for our home, and why I am so passionate about this art form.
After reading this post, I wanted to share my views regarding a piece of photography we collected that has been a part of our lives for almost 20 years now, and that expresses the value of photography as an art form to me. I am a nature photographer with a life-long passion for wildlife and conservation. I found a Thomas D. Mangelsen gallery in Park City, Utah, in the 1990s and instantly fell in love with his work. We purchased his work through calendars, photo cards, and posters and eventually bought our first two large signed, matted and framed pieces by Tom from his gallery in 2005. While they don’t compare to a Warhol, they were a large investment for us as we paid over $8,000 for the two pieces while also buying a home and raising two young boys. The larger of the two photographs, “Glacier Travellers,” has been a mainstay in our home for two decades. It is an Alaskan landscape image with mountains, a coastal inlet, wildflowers, a sow grizzly bear and her three cubs wandering by. To me, it is perfect. Tom captures stormy skies, incredible soft light, color, and a scene that I want to visit and witness every single day. A good photographer has to capture light perfectly, with the right conditions and the scene they envision all at the same time. It can take weeks or years to capture an image that we have been trying for. When we bought this piece, I had not seen a grizzly bear in the wild. It would only be a month later that we would watch a sow grizzly bear with her own three tiny cubs in Yellowstone National Park for the first time. It was magical – it was as if the photograph that just became part of our home came to life in front of my eyes. It was what I dreamed of.
While art is very personal and comes in so many forms, the thing with photography for me (I am not discussing composites here) is that one can view the image and immediately know that it is possible to see a scene very close to what they are looking at, somewhere in the world, whether they ever choose to or not. It is real in such a pure sense and as we get pulled into a photo, we dream about what it would be like for us to get to witness this scene. There is a true possibility that you don’t have with many other art forms.
I believe this is an incredibly unique aspect to the art of photography and hope that it becomes more and more appreciated as digital art continues to grow. Whether it is a street shot where a photographer captured an intimate moment between two people, a drone shot giving vantage points that we can’t see in a certain location, a portrait capturing a person in a moment in time, or an image from nature – the images pull us into something that is real. Something that we can hope in and dream about. I look at the large, framed photo, signed by my favorite wildlife and conservation photographer, every day. Every day for 20 years it has brought me joy and peace in knowing that places and scenes like this are real and can be experienced. When you collect photography, you are getting more than a piece of art. You are getting a glimpse and a story of real life – a true experience that happened between the photographer and a moment in time. It is real and that is something we are losing more and more each year as technology advances at a rapid speed. I hope that more and more people see the value in this art form as we continue to see advancements in all forms of art.
“Glacier Travellers” above our couch in two different homes for almost 20 years.