The Photographic Image Gallery


History of the Gallery

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

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 America, Photo 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.