Collecting Photography 101

10 Oct 2022

I realized that no one was teaching how to collect photography. Given all the years I’d been collecting – making both good and bad choices – I wanted to share my knowledge and experience’.

Alice Sachs Zimet, collector and founder, Art + Business Partners


For beginners, collectors and photographers alike, the marketplace for photography can be overwhelming. Christie’s Education offers a five-part virtual series with abundant insider tips from a pioneer collector.


With two degrees in Art History, course leader, Alice Sachs Zimet began her career as a summer intern at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The following year, she was already running the museum’s summer intern program – aged 22. After a few years working in museums, Zimet transitioned to corporate sponsorship after being hired on the spot by The Chase Manhattan Bank, where she created the first corporate sponsorship program in a commercial bank. As Director of Worldwide Cultural Affairs, she used the arts as a strategic marketing tool to generate US$2 Billion for the bank across 14 countries and 20 US cities. In 1999, Zimet founded Arts + Business Partners, a consulting boutique that originally specialized in corporate sponsorship, a field she had pioneered. Eventually, her real passion won as her business shifted to focus on collecting fine art photography. Energetic, passionate and with a unique insider perspective, Zimet transitioned to teaching when she noticed a huge gap. ‘I realized that no one was teaching how to collect photography,’ says Zimet. ‘Given all the years I’d been collecting – making both good and bad choices – I wanted to share my knowledge and experience’.


Having discovered her passion for photography in 1975 while working as an intern at the International Center of Photography, Zimet’s collection begannearly 40 years ago. ‘My first purchase was on a trip with Sam Wagstaff, legendary curator, collector, and partner to Robert Mapplethorpe. I fell in love with an image and decided to buy a print. But I couldn't buy just one. I felt compelled to get a companion piece. To this day, I often buy works in sets of two or three’.  


Zimet has now amassed over 300 photographs in her museum-quality collection – from 20th century masters to contemporary photographers. ‘Back then, the photography world was still so nascent that I didn’t feel overwhelmed’, she explains. ‘In fact, I had to defend my passion because everyone kept telling me that photography is not art. Boy, do they wish they had listened to me now’.


Collecting photography is deeply personal and Zimet’s advice is to ‘buy with your heart first, but let your brain ask the questions. Never buy with your ears’. Still, collecting requires you to understand how to navigate the marketplace.  This course teaches students what to consider before making a purchase and helps explain why buying photography can be so complex. It spans across subjects of budget considerations, signature indications, negative versus print date, editions, condition issues and collection management.  To round out the experience, the final class includes exclusive intimate virtual visits with two prominent photography dealers. The course is designed to make students feel more confident and knowledgeable, empowering them to navigate their way through the photography market.


Zimet is on the board of the Magnum Foundation and chairs acquisition committees at the Harvard Art Museums and International Center of Photography. She is on faculty at the ICP School, Maine Media College + Workshops, LA Center of Photography, and the Griffin Museum and an Adjunct Professor of Corporate Sponsorship and the Arts at New York University’s Graduate Program, Arts Administration.


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