Intrepid entrepreneur Trevor Traina on the art of photography
WRITTEN BY JENN THORNTON
Trevor Traina has always lived an artistic life, born into both a creative clan and an “obsession” for collecting art. In Traina’s case, 300 world-class photographic works, many lent to U.S. and international exhibits, showcased via his present venture IfOnly.com—an array of curated experiences for the cultured that will soon launch a full art collection, along with premium museum access to LACMA. The platform not only invites art enthusiasts into the native San Franciscan’s beautifully restored Pacific Heights home, where all is dazzling on display, but also to the realm of a collector at the top of his game. Here, Traina’s perspective.
Tell us about your art collection.
I collect primarily photography, both mid-century and contemporary works. I’ve been building my collection over the last decade, and its something of an obsession.
Well, there’s a practical reason and a personal reason. On a personal level, while I was working for [Seagram’s] in New York, the company’s curator offered me a photo for a wall in my office. For years I had this wonderful photo…years later, when the Seagram’s collection was being sold, I got a catalog for the auction house and was able to actually purchase the photo that had been on my wall, and that kicked things off.
What is it about photography that speaks to you?
Photography is very fresh. It’s a younger medium—a kind of medium for our times, a very American medium.
In what way?
We live in the digital revolution, where it’s the perpetuation of the image, and many of the most advanced practitioners [of this] are American. I’m particularly interested in how we went from black and white photography, which was once the standard, to big, vibrant color photographs. American photographers led this transformation, and it’s their pieces I collect.
Describe the scope of your collection.
It starts with mid-century, so photographers we’d call New Documentarians, like Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, and Robert Frank; then it moves through the early color photographers, so William Eggleston, Stephen Shore and Joel Sternfeld; and finally to the big contemporary photographers like Andreas Gursky, Jeff Wall, Christopher Williams and others.
How much time do you invest in collecting?
It just depends on what’s going on in my life. Right now, IfOnly takes a lot of my time.
And yet there’s an interesting link between your personal life as a collector and IfOnly, as you curate both.
Yes, that’s true.
So can you curate your dream collection?
Well, I would love to have Gursky’s “99 Cent II.” And I’ve looked at William Eggleston’s “Tricycle” several times.
Any advice for novice collectors?
I suggest doing what I did, which is attending art fairs and auctions with an idea to just learn what’s out there. I think it’s worth taking a lot of time to really see what you love, and to educate yourself. One nice thing about original art is that you can enter at every price point; you don’t just have to leap in and buy the most expensive thing. You can start small.
How does art enrich your life today?
I have small children growing up in a home full of art. Having so much imagery around them will inform their eye and their little brains. They’ll grow up with opinions and perspectives on art, and I think that’s pretty cool. It also trains my own mind in all senses, whether I’m looking at something on my website or the world around me. It helps frame my perspective.