My theory is that as documentary images get further away from the ‘present’ they become more valuable. You’ve caught a moment or series of moments in time. Seen as part of the present they are ubiquitous and vying for attention with many other moments from that particular ‘present.’
“But as those moments recede into the past, the more they reflect not the ‘now’ but the ‘then.’ And as something that represents a time lost forever their value increases.
“When I first photographed the physical and social effects of the building of ‘the last freeway’ in Los Angeles in the early 1980s, a critic called them ‘prosaic.’ Dull and mundane. Last year a major museum bought the work, in part because they had grown out of their dullness. They became vintage.
Jeff Gates (from here)