I had a strange discussion with a friend of mine at a Gallery Opening last night. He and his wife are avid collectors of art, and have made the odd foray into photography. They have impeccable taste (they are the owners of one of my large works, so they must be) but they only buy what they really like.
So it was with some surprise that I noticed he’d bought a pleasant, but not very distinguished print. When I asked him why, he said that he’d bought it as a Christmas present, and that while he wouldn’t have bought it for himself it was the only decent image under $100.
The conversation moved on, but later I started thinking about it and wondered why, if he wouldn’t have bought it for himself, why would he have bought it as a present for someone else? Because they had no taste? Because they wouldn’t know any better? Because he thought that they would like it?
Apart from an inglorious episode when I gave an uncle a hideous tie one Christmas (he gave it back to me the next), I don’t think I have ever given anyone a gift I didn’t like myself. Though I was once on the receiving end of a set of particularly ugly fibre-glass Aboriginal heads for the wall that were passed onto my daughter’s school fete … and for all I know are still doing the rounds.
Sometimes my motives haven’t always been completely altruistic. I confess to giving books so that I could borrow them later. But on the whole I don’t think that I could give anyone something that I couldn’t live with myself … unless they requested it specifically, and they I’d wonder why they had no taste. Why they wanted it …
I guess all this boils down to one simple fact. I have no real idea of why anyone buys photography. But I am glad they do so often enough to keep me interested.