Image credit: Jennifer Zwick
The Photographic Center NW > Blog

On Collecting  With Nancy Edelstein

In continuation with our On Collecting series, Lisa Ahlberg, PCNW alumni and Benefit Committee member spoke with collector and PCNW community member Nancy Edelstein.  

Nancy Edelstein was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, and has lived in Seattle for more than 40 years. She received her BFA from the University of Michigan, and enjoyed a career in marketing and design for the fashion industry. Later, she became known for her one of a kind custom books, honoring the lives and accomplishments of others. Recently, Nancy completed a four year MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Studio Practice. She went on to receive a month long artist residency at MASS MoCA last fall, and was invited to return this October to continue her interests there.

Nancy has been connected to the Photographic Center Northwest (PCNW) for several decades, first as a student, taking classes in studio lighting with Claire Garoutte, color printing with Seth Thompson, personal projects seminars with Nancy Levine, and many more. She was a PCNW board member from 2005-2009, and with others, created the first PCNW Auction, which has become an annual event to support the many amazing opportunities it offers. Nancy appreciates the rare gift that the Photocenter is to our community, and supports its continued contribution to our city and beyond.

Nancy’s current installation work can be viewed at: nancyedelstein.com

Lisa: What were the early influences that led you to become a collector?

Nancy: Both of my parents had a passion for style and taste, which fit right in with the minimal modernism of the 60’s. My father’s office was very cool-decorated in Knoll furniture and photorealism imagery. Eventually, this chrome and glass style infiltrated our home, which slowly became filled with contemporary art.

Lisa: What was the experience of your first purchase? 

Nancy: My own first art purchase was in the 80’s- predicated on a wish and a dare. I was trained as a photographer and followed the work of the dynamic photographers of the time. Silver Image Gallery was the only photography gallery in Seattle then, and it was there that I fell in love with a Richard Misrach split tone silver print from his Desert Cantos series- images of cactus at night in the desert. While I never dreamed of owning one, and couldn’t afford it, especially at that time when I was just starting a design and marketing firm, I was so smitten I just decided to ‘go for it’ as an outrageous declaration of my commitment to quality and the success of my business. It took months of payments, but eventually my first treasure came home.

Richard Misrach, Yucca #1, Baja, California, 1976

Lisa: How did your collection develop?

Nancy: My passion for photography fueled the core of my slowly expanding collection. As my business grew, I traveled to New York frequently and became familiar with the photographic work in the museums. The Whitney Biennial was where I was first exposed to work by the Starn Twins, and will never forget their installation of a beautifully distressed, torn and fragmented photographic collage of Jesus, laying full scale, full body, face up flat in a clear plexiglass box. A similarly distressed piece of their work now hangs in my dining room.

Starn Twins, Plant Details #3, 1988

Lisa: Do you believe photography is a good investment?

Nancy: Yes I do, but I have never been motivated to purchase photographs for that reason. I buy something only out of a strong connection to the work itself. While I don’t have much empty wall space any more to add to my collection, I am still moved to acquire that ‘special’ piece when it comes along. At one of the last Photo Center’s annual auctions, I deliberated bidding on a Paul Berger photographic silver print from his earlier series that I had seen and loved for a long time. As an influential teacher at the University of Washington for 35 years, expanding the direction of the medium of photography with his own work, I knew I would like to own one of his smart and beautifully executed images before they were no longer available. Unfortunately, I vacillated at the auction for a minute too long, and it was gone! Luckily, there was a retrospective at G. Gibson Gallery of his work in conjunction with the launching of his Minor Matters Press monograph, and I found something there that I equally loved, and this time didn’t hesitate for a second.

Paul Berger, Mathematics #61, 1976-77  

Lisa: What is your experience of living with art?

Nancy: A calm personal space is important to me, and in my home I resonate with a variety of photographic works that collectively create this mood which always enfolds me. Living with art that I love, whatever it is, is a fantastic gift to myself that I never tire of. My Misrach is still as full of wonder to me now as it was at first sight. 

Lisa: Any advice or favorite practice as a collector you would suggest to others?

Nancy: A habit I developed from the start that has been very useful has been to keep a section on my bookshelf designated specifically for manuals or books related to the pieces or artists hanging on my walls. Often when guests want to know more, these come in handy to give a broader sense of the artist and the work, and to help me remember some of the details myself.

Lisa: What is your vision for your collection in the future?

Nancy:  I am aware of the responsibility of legacy that is inherent in creating any collection. Recently, I inherited some of my parents artwork, which offered the challenge and opportunity of incorporating their non-photographic artwork into my space. While I had collected only photography over the years, integrating some new forms of art has made the visual experience even richer. I now have a full-size cement and bronze sheep named Claude in my entry! All I can say is, if you’re an art lover, don’t hesitate, find a way to bring art that you love into your home and share it with others. 

Claude and Francois-Xavier Lalanne, Belier (Ram)

On Collecting  with Rafael Soldi and Jerry O’Leary

As we approach PCNW’s Golden Hour Benefit Auction, we talked with some of our supporters about the art they’ve chosen to live with in their homes. Lisa Ahlberg, PCNW alumni and Benefit Committee member spoke with Rafael Soldi and Jerry O’Leary.  

Clockwise from top, Lisa Ahlberg, Rafael Soldi, Jerry O’Leary

Rafael Soldi is a Seattle artist and former PCNW staff member.  

Jerry O’Leary is retired and lives in Tacoma after living in Seattle for over 35 years. He says he has had the great fortune to live in many parts of the world which has spurred his interest and excitement in learning how other people see things and the ways they express their understanding of the world.  

Lisa: Jerry, you mentioned you both have a history of looking at art together, so I thought that would be a good place to start.  

Jerry: I have lived with art for several years. I actually started with an Edward Curtis gold type that my father’s parents bought from Edward Curtis himself. Over the years my taste has expanded but I never had a practiced eye. I was very impulsive. I met Rafael, through the Photo Center Northwest (PCNW) when he was working there. It was just a revelation to me that somebody with art training could communicate to me in a way that allowed me to experience art on a whole deeper level.  

Rafael: It’s been fun to share these experiences with Jerry. We share a lot of tastes, but we also gravitate toward things that are very different sometimes. The fun part is to foster curiosity about why we like certain things, and through those questions find out what those leanings may reveal about ourselves.  

Lisa: Where have you gone to look at art together?  

Jerry: Early on I was given private guided tours of the exhibits at the Photo Center. Later we visited the first Seattle Art Fair together. This experience was extraordinary because of that interaction with Rafael. The ability to be directed to look at things that I might have walked past and able to share my excitement. As he said, there were pieces I was excited about that were not on his radar particularly. But he could help me express why I liked it. It wasn’t important to him whether he liked it or not. It was important that I had the ability to understand why I liked it.  

Rafael: Once we bought the same piece, a photograph by CJ Heyliger titled Dead West, from the Gallery Luisotti booth at the Seattle Art Fair!  

Grouping on left, clockwise from top: Abelardo Morell, Anthony Cudahy, CJ Heyliger, Mary Ann Peters. Right, top to bottom: Victoria Haven, Gonzalo Hernandez. On chair: Marsha Burns. Photo courtesy of Rafael Soldi.

Jerry: Yeah we did. We both tend to rotate our art a fair amount in our houses. Seeing what he’s hung at this moment, how he’s grouped it, saying, “Oh, this is extraordinary. Tell me about  it.” 

Rafael: I love going to Jerry’s house and noticing something new and asking, “Tell me  about that!”  

Lisa: Do you both consider yourselves collectors?  

Jerry: I don’t, because the word collector to me implies a focus that I don’t think I have, other than being focused on what I like. It’s about surrounding myself with things that inspire me. To me, a collector is somebody who really wants to build something additive.  

Rafael: I think of myself as an artist who loves to live with other artists’ work. I’ve been lucky to build relationships with many fellow artists that have resulted in an intimate and personal collection. I just think of myself as a caretaker of these artworks that I have the privilege to live with.  

Jerry: Additionally, I live alone. But I don’t feel like I do because every time I walk by a piece of art that I got from somebody I have some kind of personal relationship with, it’s almost like I have a bunch of roommates.  

Lisa: I so love that.  

Rafael: Jerry and I—and you as well Lisa—live with a lot of portraits. I also feel a kinship with these subjects. Someone once asked me, how do you sleep at night with all these people looking at you? I thought it was so poetic, this idea of …  

Jerry: … being looked over.  

Rafael: Yes. 

In columns, top to bottom. Left: Sol Lewitt, Robert Yoder, Meghann Riepenhoff, Warren Dykeman. Right: Victoria Haven, Robert Mangold, Val Karuskevich. Photo courtesy of Rafael Soldi.

Lisa: Rafael you’re an artist, a curator and you are part of the photographic community.  How has that helped you develop your sense of what you choose to put on your walls?  

Rafael: A lot. I’ve been lucky to do a lot of trades, which has resulted in bringing artworks I love into my home but also placing my work in the homes of other artists. It’s a creative exchange. I also have a bit of an early access to seeing works in progress and early ideas, by nature of my relationship with artists who are friends and colleagues. I also have many things in my collection that are “uncharacteristic” of the artist, such as “rejects,” artist proofs, one-offs, early prototypes, test prints, etc.  

Lisa: Is there an emphasis to what you collect? Do you specifically collect photography?  

Jerry: I have focused on photography, not because I don’t love other things, but because I  have a relationship with the Tacoma Art Museum. They have what I think to be a nascent photography collection compared to the depth they enjoy in other mediums such as paintings and glass. They’re not able financially to collect contemporary works. And there’s a lot of really amazing stuff being produced that I think needs to be in the public. That speaks very much to the mission of what Tacoma Art Museum is doing. Their curator, Margaret Bullock is an amazing woman. Their director, David Setford, is an amazing man. They’ve been very generous in communicating with me when there’s particular things they want or that I can acquire for them or directions they’d like to see the collection go. So I can acquire things, live with them for a while and then donate them. I’m trying to have purpose behind the spend so I know it will  end up in a place that honors both the creator of the art and will speak to the broader community of people who will get to enjoy it.  

Rafael: Early on I collected a lot of photography. Because I love it, because it’s often smaller  and more affordable. In recent years I decided to shift my focus to buying larger works—my house was full of small prints. So I decided to save up to instead invest in larger-scale works.  I’m also trying to step away from traditional photography, which I have a lot of, and looking for paintings, drawings, and unique takes on photography. For example, this piece behind me is a  photographic woven jacquard tapestry by Peruvian artist Gonzalo Hernandez. Lastly, I noticed that I owned a lot of depictions of artists’ partners or lovers, so I’ve started collecting intentionally within that theme as well.  

Lovers grid, clockwise from top left: Erickson Diaz-Cortez, Ian Lewandowski, Kule Dunn, Marsha Burns, Anthony Cudahy, Chuck Howard. Photo courtesy of Rafael Soldi.

Jerry: I tend to like things that are pretty strongly graphic. The black and white dynamic  appeals to me. Strong shape appeals to me. People appeal to me a lot. I had several Carrie Mae Weems photographs that I donated to the museum. But the thing that drew them to me was the intimacy of African-American life that she portrayed across the spectrum of settings. Obviously, I don’t live that life and am privileged to see it through the eyes of somebody who does live it. I think in some ways, that’s sort of what Raf is saying about the images of lovers or partners, is that you’re getting a real insight into somebody else’s life experience.  

Rafael: I would say there’s a very clear aesthetic to the work that you like in that there is a muted, but rich, palette. There’s always elegance and warmth.  

Jerry: Yeah. For instance, of the Northwest artists, Guy Anderson’s work has always been the one I most admire. I used to live in London and I have a fairly large collection of English art.  They just reflect that time in my life and are a wonderful reminder.  

Image credit: Henry Moore, photo from the collection of Jerry O’Leary

I have several Henry Moores, I have Gilbert and George, things like that that are fairly graphic and fairly strong. As Raf said, they have a lot of warm tones in them. For whatever reason, the pieces I have are comfortable for me to live with. I do have one photograph by Huma Bhabha.  It’s amazing. It’s a big statement against war and it’s a constructed pair of boots with a metal calf, part of the legs and the rest of the body is gone in what obviously was a blown-out war scene where a bomb went off. It’s about the life of a person. It’s very out of character compared to most of the pieces. But for some reason, I needed to live with that.  

I also have some abstract works. Rafael introduced me to the work of Serrah Russell, a  local artist. I really like her work and have four pieces.  

Lisa: I recently saw the exhibit at Housewright Gallery Northwest Influencers, a lovely  exhibit of pre-and post war works by Northwest artists. I’m curious if Northwest photographers figure into your collections in any way?  

Image credit: Rafeal Soldi, photo from the collection of Jerry O’Leary.

Jerry: For me, yes, because it started with relationships. Besides Rafael’s work, I had several pieces by Mel Curtis. My initial art purchases in Seattle were via the Lisa Harris Gallery that represented Mel Curtis. She had a sculptor, John Sisko, whose work I love and I have several of his pieces. Tom Woods, who does both amazing prints and also oil paintings. I have a  couple of his pieces. I was really drawn to their art, but more to them as people. I like supporting contemporary, producing artists. I think that should be a big part of anybody who can afford to buy art; not just buying history. That to me is a really important aspect of how I spend my collecting dollars. Is it going to live on beyond me by being something a museum or somebody would want? But secondly, am I supporting an artist?  

Rafael: This is something I admire so much about Jerry. I know not everybody’s in a  position to do that, but there are so few true patrons these days. People who are really interested in supporting the development of artists. There is such a strong secondary market because every time something is sold, a collector gets richer. There are very few people who are just deeply committed to supporting artists. Jerry is the type of person who’ll ask an artist, “How can I support this big milestone for you? How can my collecting  support the trajectory of an artist in a meaningful way?” I just admire that about you so much and it’s really important to think about that every time you buy something from an artist. It makes a huge difference in their lives, you know? 

Lisa: Rafael, what are your ideas on how one can find art on a limited budget?  

Rafael: Books can be very collectible! Many artists also produce special editions of their books that will come with a print. You can look at non-profits and arts organizations, many of them have print programs or fundraisers. And don’t forget about students! Going to student exhibits, like PCNW’s thesis shows—making a sale can be so meaningful for a student. You can also purchase directly from artists’ studios, either by going to art walks and open studio events, or by reaching out to them via social media. Lastly, never be afraid to ask for a  payment plan, I’ve bought so many things on a payment plan!  

Lisa: Is there a favorite piece in your collections that you got through the Photographic Center  Northwest, either an auction or some other way?  

Rafael: There are definitely a few that got away. But I got a beautiful piece by Jesse Burke that I still love.  

In columns, top to bottom, L to R: Regina DeLuise, Clayton Cotterell, Zora J Murff; Jesse Burke, Zora J Murff; Shikeith. Photo courtesy of Rafael Soldi.

Jerry: I think my first Michael Kenna came through the PCNW auction. I enjoy Michael  Kenna’s landscapes.  

Lisa: I also have acquired two of his landscapes through past PCNW benefit auctions and I  see he has generously donated the image Snow Parfait Tree, 2004 for the upcoming auction. 

Jerry: I think my first one came from the auction, but then I got tied in to G. Gibson Gallery. When you talk about people like Gail Gibson and their commitment to photography and  PCNW, it really says so much. PCNW has drawn people in with such fidelity and commitment to inclusiveness and excellence. That’s a huge part of what the Photo Center is to me. Its success is that it’s not exclusive, it’s not a private club. 

Rafael: Gail has truly been such a champion of PCNW. The last photograph I bought was from G. Gibson Gallery, an image by Marion Post Wolcott that I just couldn’t get out of my mind.  

Marion Post Wolcott, Haircutting in front of general store, Marcella Plantation, Mileston, Mississippi, 1939, photo courtesy of Rafael Soldi

Jerry: The generosity of educating people that Rafael, Gail Gibson and Terry Novak (Executive  Director, PCNW), and all the other people I’ve met through the Photo Center is a huge gift to  us. In a world where art is not taught in schools and it’s really hard to not be intimidated walking into a gallery, to have a place where you can be exposed to art in a really accessible and consumable way is just a treat.  

Lisa: Are there any artists you are particularly excited about seeing in the Golden Hour Benefit Auction this year? 

Rafael: I’m particularly excited to see works by Martin Chambi, Odette England, Marion Post Wolcott, Barbara Bosworth, Craig Mammano, Kris Graves, Meghann Riepenhoff, and many recent PCNW grads! 

This interview has been abridged for brevity. 

BLACK HISTORY MONTH EVENTS & EXHIBITIONS

If you’re looking to celebrate or learn more about Black art, artists, and history, here are some suggestions for local exhibitions, events, and articles that promote Black brilliance. Check out our guide below, and make sure to swing by PCNW to see Pained Vistas, featuring Kris Graves, Dionne Lee, and Wendel White, and many others, before it closes March 17, 2022. We are also hosting an in-person artist reception on March 10th, 2022. This list is in no way exhaustive, but just a few ways we recommend spending the rest of Black History Month and beyond. You can continue to connect with PCNW for conversations and programs that promote photography as an agent for change in areas such as racial equity and social justice, and champion the work of BIPOC artists.

FILM SCREENINGS & EVENTS

Watch films written and directed by African American women at NW Film Forum:

Love & Basketball (2000)
Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Eve’s Bayou (1997)
Thursday, February 24, 2022


Celebrate Black History Month at Northwest African American Museum:

Blood Brothers Film Screening
Wednesday, February 23, 2022
2:30 PM and 5 PM Pacific Time
Virtual

Lift Every Voice and Sing: NAAM’s African American Cultural Ensemble
Thursday, February 24, 2022
7 PM Pacific Time
Virtual

NAAM Night at the Sounders Soccer Match
Sunday, February 27, 2022
5 PM and 7 PM
Lumen Field


Join Atlantic Street Center’s Youth Development Program and Langston for a celebration of Black History Month and youth talent showcase of popular fashions of the ages, inspired by Black culture in Fabrics Of Our Lives.
Friday, February 25, 2022
7 – 9 PM
Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute


EXHIBITIONS

Package Black at Henry Art Gallery
On view through May 1, 2022

Lauren Williams: Wake Work at Jacob Lawrence
On view through March 5, 2022

Lauren Halsey at Seattle Art Museum
On view through July 17, 2022

Contact High at MoPop 
Closes January 2023


ARTICLES

In conjunction with Packaged Black, read The Poetics of Barbaral Earl Thomas by Berette Macaulay

Learn about local hotels, restaurants, clubs, and barbershops listed in the national Green Book guide for Black travelers that operated along Seattle’s Jackson Street corridor between the 1920s and the 1960s in this free, self-guided, multimedia Seattle Green Book tour put out by Black and Tan Hall.

November 2021 Member Showcase

For this month’s Member Showcase, we are featuring the photographic work of Nicolo Sertorio. Read below to learn more about his recent artistic projects.

Nicolo Sertorio – member since 2021

What are you working on?

I am still evolving my ‘Simulacra’ project (see below).

Artist Statement

My arts practice has been in increased flux for three years. I wanted to produce more topical work without sacrificing aesthetic concerns. This meant introducing creative decision making into the lens-based creative process earlier. I found an approach during an April, 2018 residency working on the digital layering of photographic images. This is now the core of my practice. It provides a blank space in which to explore both social and aesthetic issues and at the same time provides a tremendous range of possibility in transparency, texture, and color that would be unattainable in most single-layered lens-based work.

See more of Nicolo’s photography project online at: http://nicolosertorio.com/projects#/simulacra


Thanks again to Nicolo for their submission to our Member Showcase. If you’re a member of PCNW and would like to share your photographs, we’d love to hear from you. Complete our online form by the 15th of every month and a jury will review your work for consideration. Not a PCNW Member yet? You can join online today!

PCNW’s 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

Give the gift of photography! Whether you’re looking to learn a new skill, add a print to your collection, or support the burgeoning photographer in your home we have something for everyone. Winter is a great time to dive into a creative practice and Photographic Center Northwest (PCNW) offers many ways to learn and engage with photography, including through many online and in-person classes and workshops, so we hope you’ll make PCNW your resource this season.

EXPAND YOUR LIBRARY AND ART COLLECTIONS!

Rock & Roll, by Jini Dellaccio



BOOKS

Shop the PCNW book store! Staff recommendations include Rock & Roll, by Jini Dellaccio; Natural Deceptions, by Natalie Krick; Snowbound, by Lisa Robinson and A Brave New Normal – Photographic Zine.

Detail of Henry Horenstein limited edition print



PRINTS

By shopping our selection of limited edition prints, you will be supporting both PCNW and the artist! Staff favorites include Jenny Riffle’s Limited Edition PrintsPeter de Lory, Chukar Partridge Nest, OR, 2002 and Richard Renaldi, Faith, Newark, New Jersey. 2001.

GIVE A CUSTOM PRINT!

Photo by Sandy King

CUSTOM PRINTS FROM OUR PRINT SERVICE

Did you know that PCNW offers online printing services through our Digital Lab? This service allows users to e‐mail files directly to our Digital Lab to be printed by our staff.


**HOLIDAY SPECIAL!**

11×14 print size w/ matte board and sleeve
$30 each, free domestic shipping
Submit files to printing@pcnw.org via WeTransfer

Deadline for holiday delivery:
Friday, December 10th*

*barring any unforeseen or COVID-19 related delays by shipping carriers

GIVE THE GIFT OF EXPERIENCE

Photo by Robert Wade

GIFT A MEMBERSHIP!

Members receive benefits including discounts on education offerings, facilities rentals and gallery purchases; opportunities for professional development and exhibition, and invitations to special member events.


GIFT CERTIFICATES!

Have a fellow photo-enthusiast in your life, or wondering what to tell others to get you? PCNW has gift certificates available!

October 2021 Member Showcase

For this month’s Member Showcase, we are featuring the photographic work of Neil Berkowitz. Read below to learn more about his recent artistic projects.

NEIL BERKOWITZ – member since 2020

What are you working on?

I am working on a design commission for art for 750 sqft for the interior of the new branch of Seattle Children’s Odessa Brown Children’s clinic that is under construction near Othello Station. The design is all multilayer photography and includes several larger-than-life-sized portraits, a mural, and several other elements. By contract, I cannot show the work until after Seattle Children’s releases it to the public.

I also began a two-month Shoreline Arts Cottage Residency in mid-August in that city’s Saltwater Park. I will be working on a multi-piece installation dealing with responsibility for carbon footprints and a side project with the community on the park and place identity. The carbon footprint installation will include but not solely photographic work. The side project will have a Web presence and will be the subject of a panel discussion in October. Details and open studio hours will be posted on neilberkowitz.com in late August.

Artist Statement

My arts practice has been in increased flux for three years. I wanted to produce more topical work without sacrificing aesthetic concerns. This meant introducing creative decision-making into the lens-based creative process earlier. I found an approach during an April 2018 residency working on the digital layering of photographic images. This is now the core of my practice. It provides a blank space in which to explore both social and aesthetic issues and at the same time provides a tremendous range of possibility in transparency, texture, and color that would be unattainable in most single-layered lens-based work.

See more of Neil’s photography online at: https://neilberkowitz.com


Thanks again to Neil for his submission to our Member Showcase. If you’re a member of PCNW and would like to share your photographs, we’d love to hear from you. Complete our online form by the 15th of every month and a jury will review your work for consideration. Not a PCNW Member yet? You can join online today!

On Collecting with William and Lisa Holderman

A deeper look into the art of collecting photography with PCNW community members

“As a young collector, look for a mentor. Someone you can trust. You may not find it right away. But they are out there. The thing for ‘us’ about photography, also, is how accessible it is. We meet the artists more times. It’s just really fascinating to hear the stories.” – William and Lisa Holderman

Lisa Ahlberg, Photographic Center Northwest (PCNW) supporter and 2021 Benefit Committee Member, recently spoke with William and Lisa Holderman about their diverse collection of photographic prints, books and their passion for collecting photography. Both William and Lisa have been enthusiastic participants in the PCNW Auction for the last 10 years. William is currently on the Board at PCNW and prior, spent six years on the Board of Directors for the Tacoma Art Museum.  

Interviewer: Lisa Ahlberg

Interviewee: William Holderman

Interviewee: Lisa Holderman

When and how did your love of collecting photography start?  

William: Lisa was the catalyst behind our collecting. I vividly remember Father’s Day 20+ years ago when she and our girls gifted me Tide Pool Point Lobos, 1957 by Wynn Bullock. It reminded me of my days growing up on southern California beaches. I admired his work via publications for many years and mentioned to Lisa in passing that it was one of my favorite images. She held onto that thought. Through sleuthing, connections, and conversations across the country, she found the work in a San Francisco dealer’s private collection. As luck would have it, she ultimately convinced him to let it go to a new enthusiast. We will admire a work, connect with an artist or dealer, and Lisa historically is the closer, helping to do the background work to bring it into our home.  

Lisa: I never imagined my Father’s Day purchase of Wynn Bullocks’ Tide Pools would spark our journey of collecting. It has enriched our lives in many ways. Not only is it a hobby William and  I share a passion for, it has connected us with so many diverse and fascinating people who share the same interest. Collecting has really become a lifestyle for us that has enriched our lives way beyond the photographs in our collection. We are particularly thankful for the friendships we have made and that our daughters have shared the journey with us since they were little, they are 26 and 23 years old now.  

Did you always have an interest in photography?  

William: I was a yearbook photographer in Santa Barbara. It was right next to Brooks Institute so  I had a darkroom in my home and I did black and white photography with a Nikon F and was involved in local camera clubs. I was at Yosemite when I was 16 years old when Ansel Adams still had his gallery there and I said “wow” you can have access to all these incredible artists and you can meet them. And you can have some of the world-class artists on your wall. And it’s not so crazy expensive, but you also get the stories and the connections. 

So, I did have a connection to photography as a practitioner, which then I kind of translated that to collecting. Just recently I took a Digital 1 class at PCNW class with Leslie Saber and it was spectacular. It just changed my life. My daughters would get so mad, they’d say “Dad, you can’t take pictures. My phone takes better pictures than you”. Now I take better pictures than their phones!

Is there an emphasis/theme to what you collect?  

William: I think there is. The world of photographic art is broad but also narrow. So many of the artists impact and know one another.  

As new collectors, we initially focused upon acquiring iconic works from major artists. Over time and with growing confidence, we sought to expand our collection and interest to those whose work was influenced by them, but less well known. We have collected a few artists in depth,  which has been satisfying, to selectively acquire a body of work, including images, books,  ephemera that spans a career and time.  

The Puget Sound and its unique combination of landscape and water, is a theme that resonates within our collection.  

We have also focused and have a deeper appreciation of the local, but internationally impactful work of the members of the Seattle Camera Club. I got really excited about putting together a  group of images that really reflected this incredible group of artists, primarily Japanese  American photographers in the 1920s that were on the cutting edge of photography.  

Which was the first piece that made you feel like a collector?  

William: A somewhat obscure but important work by Minor White, Easter Sunday, Stony Brook  State Park, NY, 1963 . It again reflects the story of our collection. Minor White had significant influence on multiple generations of photographers and continues to do so. I admired this work and reached out to others looking for this unique image. It was through a handwritten letter to an East Coast college professor, a phone call to a close personal friend of Minor’s, a dinner in  Portland, which in turn developed into a long-term relationship that we were able to purchase the photograph directly from his dearest friend. It was a very circular experience as we, through that relationship, learned firsthand about Minor’s teaching and impact and gained a  deeper appreciation of the work. It made this acquisition more than just a purchase. In the end,  we felt like true collectors.  

Where do you find your art? 

William: Everywhere. Lisa and I are big fans of single artist monographs and books with prints.  It is a great way to get to know an artist in-depth. It’s portable, affordable, and collectible too. We have connected and have worked with dealers, friends, auctions, trade shows, purchased ephemera on eBay and through local non-profit benefits such as PCNW’s Auction.  This will be our tenth year participating and we have had the honor to bring home a  great work (or two), each year from significant local and national artists.  

For us, collecting is a passion. When we were first married and we would go to a town we didn’t know, we would just have a book from AIPAD (The Association of  International Photography Art Dealers). We didn’t have the internet. Where’s there a dealer? Where’s there a gallery? We would just walk in and if you had a little knowledge it could get you pretty far. And you’d have a conversation and before you knew it, you’d find the best restaurants. There are all these secondary gains from visiting galleries in small towns and large cities. We met the daughter, Linda Walcott-Moore of Marion Post Wolcott, the FSA photographer.  

What advice would you give newcomers to art collecting?  

William: Read. Ask questions. Go to galleries, openings, museums, try a live auction or nonprofit benefits as those are all great ways to collect. Don’t be afraid to take risks and purchase something that pushes your budget limit at times, if you truly love the work, you will rarely go back and say, “I should have left that one behind.” Don’t be afraid to negotiate terms with dealers.  

Have you found art on a limited budget?  

William: Yes. Benefit Auctions such as PCNW’s are a perfect example of a place to find amazing works with great value (but that’s not why you’re there!) from upcoming and established artists and you support an important non-profit. We have been so lucky — as well as our friends and colleagues — to bring home great photographs. 

Lisa: There is always exciting work in the auction. We’ve gotten outbid on a few that we wanted,  but there’s always great work.  

Another important point is you can also ask a dealer for terms. Talk to the dealer, look at your budget, many galleries will allow payments. We had no idea about this when we first started collecting, but the guy offered it to us and it allowed us to buy an Ansel Adams portfolio.  

What do your family/friends say about all this art? 

William: Are you done yet? The answer is no. There is always new work, artists and stories to hear that inspire us to add to our collection. We have recently been excited to expand our collection outside the United States. It is always fun when our friends visit our home and we can share a new work, a story, travel experience, and maybe a little behind-the-scenes gossip.  

Lisa: They find it intriguing and enjoy hearing about the photographers in our collection and what draws us to certain images. Oftentimes they adopt a favorite and offer to babysit for it in their home. There are several images that perplex friends and family even in conversations about what the image is about and why we connect to it. Wynn Bullock, Child in Forrest, 1951 is one of those! 

What piece(s) gets a big response from visitors in your house? 

William: Most recently it is the hauntingly beautiful work by Hiroshi Sugimoto Seattle 5th Ave  Theater. 

People have visited the theater many times but the manner and way in which he captured the space is truly unique and stunning. When they return, they see the theater differently. It is exciting to share this photograph and hear how it changes their appreciation of this venue and its surroundings.  Another one that gets a lot of attention is in our dining room by Larry Fink, Grubman Wedding, 1995. I just love his work. He is influenced by Lisette Model. Larry was a professional photographer who often documented outrageously splendid parties and this is one of his many images that is not only just a beautiful black and white photograph but great social commentary.

Is there anything else you want to share about your photography collection?  

William: We remain excited about continuing to collect. It has and remains a platform for us to meet people and enthusiasts, mentor new collectors, learn, share our experience, support artists and introduce others to the world and power of photography.  

We own three pieces of Isaac Layman by first purchasing at the PCNW auction. He was the Betty Bowen Award Winner in 2008 and had two shows at the Frye Art Museum and also the Seattle Art Museum. The images we have are from his Paradise series.  

We have other Northwest artists — works and books by Eirik Johnson and Rafael Soldi. 

Lisa: We sometimes go a little crazy. Like with Minor White even. Gail Gibson, owner of G. Gibson Projects, she had a portfolio that she was selling and at first didn’t reach out to us because she assumed we had too much, but of course, we snapped it up.  

William: There is another thing I want to mention, I think there are some mentors here in  Seattle and it can be important to find someone who can hold your hand and guide you. Someone that you can trust. And that was just really powerful having that kind of relationship. Gail and Claudia from Gibson Gallery have been that and become very good friends. Michelle Dunn Marsh, publisher and founder of Minor Matters, has also been that. And another great mentor was our friend Karen Sinsheimer, a past curator of Photography at Santa Barbara Museum of Art for 25 years and a nationally known curator. 

As a young collector, look for a mentor. Someone you can trust. You may not find it right away. But they are out there.  

Lisa: For me not having a background in the arts, William grew up going to museums and I  didn’t, so the whole exposure to photography was new to me and art in general. Because I  don’t have the experience and education in it, I’m a little bit intimidated, but I’ve found the photography world to be super accepting and gracious and I really appreciate that.  

But I think the thing for me about photography is how accessible it is. We meet the artists more times. It’s just really fascinating to hear the stories.  

William: I have daguerreotypes from the 1960s to ephemera and letters from Minor White and  Harry Callahan to books and prints. The fun part is that you can have this wide swath of connection to whatever your passion is. And all the people we’ve met on top of that is what we’ve enjoyed.

More info on PCNW’s 2021 Benefit Auction and how you can start your own collection can be found here: https://www.pcnwbenefit.org/

On Collecting with Constance Brinkley

A deeper look into the art of collecting photography with PCNW community members

“I really don’t think of myself as a collector. It’s not about acquiring. It’s about  supporting. I have always loved supporting artists and purchased work from people who  create things that either evoke a memory or I am so enthralled with their creativity that I  need to have it,” – Constance Brinkley, PCNW Alumni

Lisa Ahlberg, a longtime PCNW supporter and 2021 Benefit Committee Member, recently talked with Constance Brinkley, her fellow photographer and community member about collecting art and what it has meant to her over the years. Read more from Lisa and Constance below and be on the lookout for additional conversations coming soon.

Constance Brinkley is a photographer and is passionate about supporting other artists. She’s an active member of the Photographic Center Northwest community, taking workshops, classes and exhibiting. She co-founded and exhibited her work at Studio F, a collaborative gallery in the Pioneer Square Tashiro Kaplan Building which hosted emerging and established artists working with photo based imagery 2011 – 2015. She has exhibited her work nationally in various juried shows and is currently part of the fotofemmes collective focused on photography projects. You can always find her participating in the PCNW Benefit and Auction and we are often seated together.  

Lisa: When and how did your love of collecting art start?  

Constance: I really don’t think of myself as a collector. It’s not about acquiring. It’s about  supporting. I have always loved supporting artists and purchased work from people who create things that either evoke a memory or I am so enthralled with their creativity that I need to have it.  

The first work I purchased was right out of college and created by a very good friend of  mine, Gary Jacobsen. He was an illustrator and graphic designer and we had been friends since high school. I loved the detail in his work and the humor he brought to his pieces. He has passed way and his spirit lives through the work I have on my walls. He was the major influence in my choice to support artists through the purchase of their work.  

I started acquiring photography when I attended the art walks in Pioneer Square in the 1980s. After I retired in 2010, another photographer and I decided we wanted to share our  street photography images and rented a space in the Tashiro Kaplan Building and  started Gallery F. This is where I started meeting other photographers and taking  classes at PCNW. I invited the Business Of Photography class to use the space for a  final showing of our work to promote our sales and some of them joined me in  participating as members at Gallery F for another 3 years. I have bought some  wonderful pieces from my fellow gallery friends and PCNW photographers including  Michelle Taul, Marcia Glover, Laura Sindell, Stacy Davis, Anna Ream, and Harini  Krishnamurthy.  

Lisa: Is there an emphasis to what you collect?  

Constance: I love street photography since that is what I am drawn to photograph. I look  for the humor and images that I wished I had taken! I love photographers who can  capture a great portrait and you feel their environment. I also like to photograph dance  and look for images with movement.

I collect because I know you, I like your work or it’s a memory jogger. Or I know I  couldn’t make it and wish I could! 

Lisa: Which was the first piece that made you feel like a collector? 

Constance: Well, I had already been acquiring some art work. But with photography, it  was seeing Carrie Mae Weems work in a museum. I was just taken aback by her work.  

I was with my mother and looking at a piece that had recently been acquired by the Seattle Art Museum and I turned to my mother and said I’m going to have a piece of her  work someday.  

And the next thing you know, the Photographic Center Northwest had a piece in the Benefit and I had to have it. So I bought one from The Kitchen Table Series. It is one of my favorite bodies of work that she has done.  

It’s the first piece that I purchased by someone that I didn’t personally know that inspired me to want to do portrait photography. And if also brings back memories of my time with my mother.  

So, I bought it. I had to kind of fight for it. PCNW’s auctions have a “Buy it Now” option and I did that to ensure that I got it. Someone else was bidding against  me. That was fun and PCNW even managed to get him the same piece and that sort of  brought us together. Every auction since, he has assured me he will outbid me.  

It was because of Carrie Mae Weem’s piece, I came to know LaToya Ruby Frazier.  When I read about her, I learned she had been mentored by Carrie Mae Weems. I was  lucky enough to have breakfast with LaToya here in Seattle through the PCNW. I went and was totally inspired by her and bought a beautiful piece of hers from her  The Notion of Family series when I visited Paris shortly afterwards. And another later on  another one from her series on the Flint water crisis from a PCNW auction.  

  

That’s how I started collecting – through either seeing pieces in museums or learning  about new artists through the Photo Center Northwest.  

But I want to clarify something. Collecting can have a certain connotation to me, like you  are collecting just for the value or to own all of a certain item. Or just to acquire  something. I think of myself really as a supporter.  

All the work I have is because I either knew the artist personally, loved their work and I  wanted to support them so they could continue to do their work or I bought it because I  was influenced by a style that I would really like to delve into. And if I wasn’t able to  reproduce it, I had to have it.

Lisa: What piece(s) gets a big response from visitors in your house? 

Constance: It depends on what I have up. I rotate my photos as I get new pieces. Two  Women by Damon Pablo always creates conversation. Thoughtful Hands by Harness  Hamese also is loved. The composition is so good!  

Friends also love my Vivian Maier prints, both are self portraits, and my stories that go  with them.  

Speaking of Vivian Maier, I discovered her work on John Maloof’s Flicker site when he  asked for an opinion of her work that he had purchased in a locker at an auction. He  later set up a kickstarter project to fund a film “Finding Vivian Maier”. It was a feature  length documentary film that I was able to back and attend the film’s premier in  Chicago. John brought her work to life and I was able to learn more about this  mysterious woman who produced amazing street photos that were not shared with  anyone before her death. I also attended the premier of her work at the Merry  Karnowsky Gallery in Los Angeles on January 7, 2012 and purchased my first piece of  her work, a self portrait taken in NYC from the John Maloof Collection. I could not see  enough of her images. She inspires me to continue to capture moments in the streets.  

I later acquired another Vivian Meier self portrait piece at the Photographic Center NW  gallery when they brought an exhibit of her work to Seattle from the Jeffrey Goldstein  collection. I love having these images around to look and motivate me to continue look  for new artists that inspire.  

Lisa: Is there anything else you’d like to share about your photography collection? 

Constance: A favorite is Paolo Ventura. I am obsessed with Paola Ventura’s work. I like  his storytelling style. I also like to tell stories with my photos. I love that fact that he was  a scene painter which I identify with having a theater background. And so I bought a  piece because it inspires me to be creative, not to do the same work as him, but for  inspiration.  

Lisa: You seem to support a lot of emerging artists as well. 

Constance: I have some wonderful work from many women photographers, many of  whom I met through PCNW including Kristan Park’s great images of Cooking with  Grandmother and What’s in Bloom, Ann Pallesen’s Tree Reflection Olympic National  Park; and Lisa Ahlberg’s Francisco from the White Center Series at the PCNW auction.  

Grace Weston is another one. She used to be here in Seattle and I bought one of  pieces from an art auction here in Seattle. Her work is so creative and she has been a  major influence in my still life photography. She also has just put out a book with Peanut  Press that I bought and love. 

Other emerging artists include Preston Gannaway. I have her print Watermelons and  her book Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. It has a very Midwest feeling and  really resonates with me.  

Lisa: Where do you find your art?  

Constance: I have purchased from galleries, fundraising auctions, online and friends. I  will look up new artists. I’m obsessed with photography. I just love it. It’s what my life is  about.  

I now also collect books of photographers since I’ve run out of room on my walls. What  a great way to have a reference of great work at your fingertips. I love zines for  example, that show me through pictures of a particular custom or tradition. I just sent off  for a print from a photographer from the zine you gave me from Cafe Royal Books,  Christmas Turkey Market, Dublin. 

Lisa: How have you found art on a limited budget?  

Constance: You can find reasonable art work in many ways, including directly from the  photographer. I also follow Aperture and Magnum. Magnum has a great sale of $100 for  a small print. I love Elliot Erwitt’s work and purchased a piece at a PCNW auction. And  then, Magnum came out with the small print sale. I have enough big prints now! He is a  street photographer and is so clever. He has influenced me to create some of my own  humorous and observatory photos. I love having a reminder on my wall of a  photographer who has influenced me.  

I have others from the Magnum square photo series — Alec Soth, a Midwesterner like me, who has done some work at fairs which brings back  memories and a snowman that reminds me of home!  

And, I just love Martin Parr. I went to the Portrait Gallery in London to see his work and  later bought a Magnum print of his.  

And finally, Inge Morath. Her photographs had a big influence on my mask series.  

But I also buy to give. There is nothing better than to give a gift of a memory. So I have  gifted some of these prints as well. How wonderful to support photographers and give a  gift of photography. You can do it really reasonably.

Lisa: What advice would you give newcomers to art collecting?  

Constance: Go to First Thursday and galleries. If you enjoy photography, then support  it. If you’re an artist, get on Instagram and and share your work. You get and create  community by sharing and following artists you like. Everyone has a little bit of money  to purchase a piece of art. Take classes at PCNW and at the end of a class, offer to buy  a piece from a fellow student that you love. Or exchange. That is how we start and can  contribute to the success of other artists.  

You can find some wonderful work at PCNW’s benefit auction, Collective Vision and  fundraisers like Chase The Light that will support new and upcoming photographers.  

Buy what you love, work that inspires you or creates a memory. It will last a lifetime. 

X