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In Conversation With Anna Walker Skillman

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Anna Walker Skillman has been a loyal and active participant in the arts community for the last 29 years. She began her career working at the Haines Gallery, a leading contemporary art gallery in San Francisco. In 1993, Anna moved to Atlanta to manage the studio of Atlanta artist Todd Murphy. After working with Mr. Murphy to help establish his career, Anna turned to photography and joined Jackson Fine Art in 1997. In March of 2003, she purchased Jackson Fine Art from Jane Jackson, who became curator of the prestigious collection of Sir Elton John. Anna is honored to continue a reputation of excellence in exhibiting photography by both emerging and established artists.

Where are you from?

Augusta, GA

How did you get into the photography business?

I have an art history degree from UGA, and after graduating I packed up and drove to San Francisco to work for Haines Gallery. I moved back to GA to work for famed artist Todd Murphy, and in 97’ Todd moved to VA and I was introduced to Jane Jackson. Jane took me under her wing and became my mentor in the history of photography and the practice of representing artists and curating exhibitions. I am in debt to her for her outstanding knowledge and support. In 2003, Jane was asked to curate the Sir Elton John Photography collection full time, and I had the opportunity to purchase the gallery with a partner, Andy Heyman. We bought the gallery in 2003 and have enjoyed growing the Jackson Fine Art for the last 17 years.

Some galleries do not have a full range of diversity in the work they represent and offer, but you do. Why is this important to you?

Aesthetically, I am drawn to works by female artists and I have found that I represent artists I am passionate about. This has led Jackson Fine Art to represent a strong group of female artists, as illustrated by the recent 30 Years of Women exhibition, a show celebrating the gallery’s 30th anniversary and co-curated by myself and Jane.

What do you look for when offering certain artists to present to your clients?

Aesthetic strength, technical ability, and craft. For me, it often comes down to the story and how it relates to them as an individual as well as to the art world in general.

For someone not familiar with collecting photography, can you please briefly explain what kind of prints are the most valuable and what one ought to consider when purchasing any photography prints?

This is a difficult question. It comes down to what a collector responds to, and then it’s up to me to guide them in the right direction in terms of investment or not. I enjoy teaching budding collectors the nuances of collecting photography — what to look for when it comes to print condition, edition size, etc. I am to serve as an encyclopedia of knowledge to help guide people to their perfect piece — that’s what we’re here for.

How has the universal shift changed how you conduct business?

The medium of photography is everywhere and to some degree, everyone is a photographer — from a 3-year-old to a 106-year-old grandfather who owns an iPhone. Everyone is a creator. The business has become increasingly driven by technology, and relationships are increasingly dependent on the virtual world. I am someone who fights the brick and mortar becoming virtual because there is the necessity of touch and relationships. You need to see work in person to really understand the depth of a photograph and its presentation. With the emergence of COVID, virtual online galleries are increasingly being presented, but I still equally feel the importance of the physical space for the sake of the collectors, artists, and art enthusiasts.

How are you caring for yourself mentally and physically with self-love, self-care during this health crisis that is also causing a global shift?

I have a French husband, four kids, a great espresso machine, and I take bubble baths every night. I have a collection of Rebecca Taylor dresses (over 100) — I scour the internet for 40% off sales and search Poshmark and eBay. I buy Diptyque Rose candles, I buy myself roses every week, and my Roomba cleans my black hardwood floors at 6 pm every night before I walk through the door. I have a myriad of TV shows that I watch while tucked into my white percale cotton sheets every night, and I sleep until 10:30 am on Sundays and have breakfast in bed.

Photographer Credit: Jennifer Yoffy

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