Background and Mission
Like many new businesses, Collector Daily was founded with the simple hope that we could do better. Faced with an existing selection of photography criticism that was frustratingly thin and often unhelpful, we wondered whether we as collectors could step into the void and provide a potentially valuable perspective on the ongoing artistic dialogue. The site began its life in 2008 (under the name DLK COLLECTION) as the intermittent blog musings of one active photography collector. Many years later now, the site has expanded to apply collector-centric critical thinking to everything from museum and gallery shows to photobooks, worldwide auctions, art fairs, and the opinions, trends and viewpoints that fall in between.
From the very beginning, our approach has been consciously different, rejecting both the incomprehensible artspeak of academia and the dumbed down, PR driven breathlessness of over-hyped media. In addition to thinking critically about to the work at hand and offering some thoughts on its place in the larger sweep of art history, our structured reviews have consistently included tallied facts and details of the images on view and offered systematic analysis of prices and auction histories. The underlying premise is that for a collector, every work exists not only in a personal “do I love it or not” interaction but in a larger market context, and that these broader forces can and should be considered when thinking about our own individual trade-offs and choices.
Over the years, we’ve also developed little tolerance for the idea that everything on view is inherently good or even worth seeing. Even for the most curious or voracious of us, this simply isn’t the case (especially in a world of limited time), and we believe it is the responsibility of those offering criticism to attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff. This conclusion led us to develop a rigorous three star system that we have applied to every museum and gallery show we have ever reviewed, with the goal of offering a consistent shorthand that communicates clearly how much of your time and attention we think a show merits. Unlike most other reviews you might read, we take a stand on the relative importance of everything we see.
In a time when thoughtful arts criticism is increasingly under threat, Collector Daily aims to be an example of a venue where economically sustainable arts criticism can thrive and where superlative writing about fine art photography can be found on a daily basis. We wholeheartedly believe the photography community deserves thriving, rigorous debate, and we aspire to be a place where such discussion can flourish.
How We Use Ratings
A rating system is only useful if it is both 1.) easy to understand and 2.) applied with enough predictable rigor and consistency that meaningful comparisons can be made. It is our view that time is the most precious resource that any of us has. And in our experience, there are few things more annoying than blocking out some time to go to see a museum or gallery show, only to travel there and find that your time has been wasted. So the Collector Daily rating system is built on a foundation of time constraint; depending on how much time you normally devote to seeing photography shows in a given year, the system should give you a decent guide as to which ones are worth your attention.
Unlike most 5 star systems, the Collector Daily rating system has only a maximum of 3 stars, with no intermediate half star equivocation: shows are given a rating of 1, 2 or 3 stars, or not reviewed at all. Here’s the framework:
EXCELLENT. If you only go to one photography show a month, or approximately 10-12 shows a year, you should limit yourself to this category, as you can’t afford any missteps. These are, in our opinion, the best photography shows of the year, based on the quality of the work on view, the level of scholarship that accompanies the exhibit, and the overall thought provoking transcendence of the experience.
VERY GOOD. If you go to one photography exhibit a week, or approximately 50 shows a year, then this is the category for you. It has a broader mix of large and small, broad and narrow shows, all of very good quality.
GOOD. This rating could be called “the best of the rest”, a sort of top half of all the potential photography shows one could see in and around New York. If going to lots of shows is your passion and you are interested in all kinds of photography, then this rating will provide a diverse list of things worth seeing. There is a nugget of interest buried in each and every one, even if many of the shows are somewhat flawed or may be one dimensional. But since you love going to shows, you can handle some unevenness in quality.
In our view, collegial grade inflation is the downfall of rating systems, where every mediocre show is accompanied by five stars and lots of exclamation points. Instead, our stars are metered out with a miserliness that is often misunderstood, often to the point of discouraging both the photographers and their galleries/museums; no one seems to like a 1 star rating, even though we absolutely see it as a positive rating.
Also note that our ratings are not arrived at by committee – each writer has the full authority to set his or own rating. So given the normal human variation that makes one person love a show and another find it forgettable, make sure to understand both what the rating is and who gave that rating, as some writers have an affinity for certain kinds of work or are somewhat more generous than others.
In the end, however, even if our system has the trappings of objectivity, it is of course a subjective exercise. Our goal is to try to take a long view and measure every show we see against the long reach of the history of photography. If nothing else, we hope that by applying a specific well considered rating, we will at least spark some further debate by those on both sides of the ongoing analysis.
How We Handle Reader Comments
Any reader is welcome to join the conversation and encouraged to add comments or contributions to any review or article.
Readers need only register with a name and email to post a comment. While anonymous comments were allowed on our predecessor site, they will not be allowed on Collector Daily; we’re all grown-ups here, so let’s act like it and stand behind what we have to say. A reader’s first comment will be fully moderated, to both screen out spam and other unrelated product promotion and to establish trust with the reader/commentor. After a reader’s first comment has been approved, all subsequent comments will go unmoderated to allow and encourage the free flow of ideas. Please comment in English only, as multi-language commentary leaves some people out of the dialogue.
We will not tolerate comments that are obscene, profane, or are personally hostile or insulting to other readers. The goal is active, hard hitting discussion, but within a respectful environment. Comments that don’t respect these guidelines will be removed.
Loring Knoblauch is the Founder and Publisher of Collector Daily. He has been an active fine art photography collector for more than 20 years. Beyond his photography activities, Knoblauch has had a successful career as both a technology start-up entrepreneur and as a venture capital investor. He holds a BA from Middlebury College and an MBA from Stanford University.
Collector Daily is always looking to collaborate with great writers to develop articles for the site. If you are interested in being a regular contributor or guest writer, just contact [email protected] with your ideas and links to samples of your prior photography-related work.
Our Design Team
Stacey Edelstein and Dalton Rooney of Raygun have provided seemingly endless creative and technical assistance on the development of this site. If you like what you see in terms of graphic design and technical infrastructure, follow up with them for your next project.