My Collection: Trevor Traina

The San Francisco entrepreneur on his trove of photographs, which fill every room in his house—and then some.

Jason Madara
OF 5

A few years ago, Trevor Traina moved with his family into a new, 11,000-square-foot house in San Francisco’s tony Pacific Heights. One of the reasons he purchased it was that it was large enough to contain much of his blue-chip photography collection. But far from all of it. “A pivotal moment in any collector’s life is when they make the leap of collecting more things than they can display,” says Traina, who runs IfOnly, a marketplace for unique experiences, such as a four-day heli-skiing trip in British Columbia with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

“My wife gives me a lot of latitude,” he says. “I do the collecting, but she maintains a veto on any work entering the house.” Traina estimates that he owns 300 to 400 photographs, ranging from the so-called New Documentarians (among them Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand) to contemporary works by the likes of Andreas Gursky, Vik Muniz, and Jeff Wall.

“A psychiatrist once told me that there are two forms of collecting: One is compulsive, and one is hereditary,” Traina says. “I’m probably guilty of both.” He suspects he caught the bug from his parents: the late shipping executive and philanthropist John Traina, who collected Fabergé cigarette cases, and Fine Arts Museums president Dede Wilsey, who collects jewelry and Impressionist paintings. “What I realized about photography,” Traina says, “is that the masterpieces are generally still available, and usually affordable.”

His first major purchase was a black-and-white Arbus picture of identical twins, which is said to have inspired the haunting girls from Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining. Today, Traina concentrates on more colorful—and happier—works. “The benefit of bright, color photography,” he says, “is that it makes a home feel young and vibrant and alive.”