Nicky Bird purchased unwanted photographs from sellers on eBay. Her only rule was that there were no other bids; thereby genuinely classifying them as unwanted. Bird asked each seller where they had come across the photographs and what if anything they knew about them.
The information provided by the seller, regardless of detail, provides intrigue to an otherwise meaningless photograph. If a detailed description was provided, then the images could be studied to understand the story given. Conversely, if no information was provided – one seller said he found the pictures in a skip (Bird, 2013) – then equally one can pose the question ‘Why have they no value to the owner?’ The images possess an intrigue of the unknown history held in one’s hand.
By exhibiting these images or collections on a gallery wall, they have transformed from unknown, unwanted family photographs to unknown, unwanted family photographs shown by Nicky Bird.
There are several influencers on the market value of art, but talking generally and without thinking of any individual image, the primary factors would be the artist, provenance and, particularly in the field of photography, uniqueness (edition size).
These images were purchased and exhibited by the internationally known artist Nicky Bird. They are no longer unknown family snapshots. Economic value has been created.
In this case, provenance is an interesting idea. The images themselves have no provenance. But the acquisition, and subsequent exhibiting by Nicky Bird, has in its self created provenance. These images were shown in the Nicky Bird exhibition, that is their provenance.
Most often when an artist sells work commercially it is produced in an edition (plus possibly a few artist’s proofs). These images are unique. There is no edition. To acquire one is to purchase the only copy in the world.
Therefore I would argue that significant value has been created.
Bird, N. (2013). Nicky Bird – photoparley. [online] photoparley. Available at: https://photoparley.wordpress.com/category/nicky-bird/ [Accessed 10 Jan. 2020].