Lou Proud / Lou Proud: On Collecting Photographs
Lou Proud is an independent London-based dealer, advisor and consultant specialising in 20th and 21st Century photographs. During her career in photography spanning two decades so far she has worked directly with a long roster of internationally acclaimed artists and galleries, most recently leading the photography auction department at Phillips in London for six years.
In her newest venture, Lou Proud Photographs, Lou advises on collections, print sales and valuations of photographs. Below Christiane Monarchi caught up with Lou to discuss her interests and plans in the sector.
CM: Lou, I’m interested in your recent move to start your photography dealership and consulting business, after years of leading photography auctions. Could you tell me a little bit more about what area of photography you are most interested in now?
LP: I am interested in so many areas of photography – of course I have my real heart-pulls such as gritty documentary or glitzy fashion, but for me it goes so much deeper than that, I cannot always describe it in words but normally an emotional bomb goes off and I’m there! Having worked now with photo so luckily for 20 years, what I am very much concerned about is bringing it in to a different arena somehow – out of the doldrums and into the bright light – presenting it in new ways and combining it with other media such as music to create a whole surrounding experience and not a singular moment.
CM: Looking at your curating interests, what kind of exhibition strategies do you think are successful at the moment, and what might you like to see more of?
LP: I am interested in curating in the sense that I want to have an experience, and sometimes I feel that things can be presented very predictably – chronologically with painted walls – the work becomes more dead and dry than alive as many of our museum spaces are not that suitable for photographs. Exhibitions are not my personal strength in an academic museum way, so therefore I don’t want to be critical of what we have. I am interested in selling work and how you do something commercial that transcends the hierarchy of museum snobbery – we all have to make money and that includes the artists!
CM: From a consultant and dealer viewpoint, are you focusing on a specialty in terms of advising clients for their photographic collections?
LP: In short, not really – I have enough general knowledge across the board to know what is good and has longevity – well I hope so anyway! And I certainly would not advise them to buy just in terms of investment – however I have my areas of passion such as photojournalism and British photography which I feel are completely under invested in – there is so much substance in these areas. I suppose that due to having quite a varied career I can pull in lots of angles which suit individual clients and think outside the box. I don’t want to alienate anyone by being too niche but would rather help the client develop their own way by process of elimination and informed guidance.
CM: ‘Women in Photography’ has been a big discussion point this past year, with exhibitions and conferences themed thereon. It’s an obvious statement but there are not many female photography dealers in this country. How do you feel about being one of the few?
LP: It’s odd really because literally apart from two, all my clients are men which I always found strange – could that be due to the types of imagery available to them 30 years ago, especially in London – I don’t know. There are many women working in the field of photography, but yes, not as dealers. It is exceptionally hard to make money, you have to constantly present yourself, push yourself on people and convince your artists that you really can be good for them – totally exhausting but I am not complaining. It is quite alpha and aggressive in a way so perhaps it takes a certain type of woman – probably I am digging a hole here. I love the equation created by finding a great work for someone and then selling it – it’s a huge buzz for me and perhaps that’s why I loved the thrill of the auction world so much – although its not for everyone! Also I think I have been lucky in the way I have met some of the best people on my side of the business and have learned a great deal from them, people have been very generous to me and supportive – perhaps because they know how much I believe in this market. I have seen it grow greatly here in the last 20 years. I think it will be harder for people younger than me to get in to this business in a way because there are fewer people for them to learn from.
CM: Are you interested in representing artists and estates or working on the secondary market?
LP: I am interested in doing both because the dynamics are so different – there are so many photographers which I would love to work with directly of course and I am lucky to have the ones that I do have – on my page there are contemporary people like Paul Hodgson and Miles Aldridge but there is also the Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld. My goal is to have work across the board – from all genres, exciting and interesting pieces that are exclusive and rare but also work hot off the press from important contemporary artists.
Lou Proud is also a consultant for Beetles + Huxley Gallery and Patron of the Photographers Gallery. She lectures at Sotheby’s Institute on Photo Markets and collecting. louproudphotographs.com