Photographic Image Gallery was opened in 1984 at 208 SW First St in Portland, Oregon. During the 1980's the gallery exhibited and sold work by such blue chip photographers as Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Brett Weston, and Minor White, as well as the work of local and regional fine art photographers.
In the 90's, as price increases placed much work out of the reach of beginning collectors, Director and Curator Guy Swanson turned his talent and expertise to discovering and nurturing the work of new artists. In the mid-90's, Guy began traveling to photography events around the country, and entered into collaborative arrangements with a network of fine art galleries to bring nationally emerging artists to Portland. Many of Swanson's discoveries, such as portrait photographer Phil Borges, have since become world class photographers whose work has skyrocketed in value.
In 1994,†the gallery was moved just down the block to†240 SW First Avenue in the Historic Old Town district and with†two floors of gallery space.† In 2004, the gallery moved around the corner to 79 SW Oak Streeet and houses a large collection of contemporary photography by emerging and mic-career artists, photography posters, and offers complete custom framing services, consultation, and classes in collecting art.
Many times I am asked to comment on the history and†
evolution of Fine Art Photography in Portland.
1984 was a turning point in the world of fine art
photography on a national level. Both
the Getty Museum
and the Guggenheim made substantial the investments in photography that
signaled the mediums arrival as a museum collectible. By adding about $20 million each and
establishing endowments for future purchases, they set the trend for
collectibles and higher prices.
1984 was the year that Ansel Adams died. Although he was only one of several fine art
photographers of that time period, his profile and environmental work made him
a household name. Fine art photography
became a populist medium.
Throughout the 80ís and
90ís Portland has lagged the rest of the country in
regards to fine art photography. Portland has always been painting and print town, and
the Art Museum has reflected this.
Thatís not by design, but relates to the influence of prevalent art
mediums in Portland when the museum experienced its last surge
of growth. This new expansion of the Portland Art Museum to include a photography gallery will now
bring Portland into the same league as the Seattle Art Museum and SFMOMA.
For a city to be a photography collecting community, it needs this
leadership from a museum to bring relevance to the medium. The
Photography Council at the Art Museum has only been in existence for a few
short years, but has been responsible for providing a liaison between collectors, the photography community and the Art Museum that is bringing a greater awareness
to potential collectors. I feel the future of fine art photography in Portland is directly related to community participation in the Photgraphy Council and encourage everone to become a member.
In the late 1990ís,
through the efforts of committed local photographers and two photography gallery
directors, Photo Lucida was formed. The
mission statement of this non-profit organization is to bring awareness of fine
art photography to Portland and to provide educational opportunities to photographers and
collectors. As only one of three such
events in North
Lucida now enjoys a great reputation worldwide
The result of this
endeavor is that every two years the local photography and collector community
is exposed to around 200 photographers, curators, educators from around the
world. By coordinating with the
Photography Council at the Portland Art Museum in scheduling a lecture program, Portlandís potential collecting community is
experiencing some of the energy that exists in a city committed to fine
art. There are no corporate
sponsors. An important point to note is that
these people travel to Portland at their own expense and support Photo Lucida through attendance fees,
and this international community probably brings a few hundred thousand dollars
into Portland every two years.