Posters or ... Art????

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by bill schwab, Feb 7, 2007.

  1. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    I recently got an offer through a rep that markets my work to the printed matter world... posters, cards, etc. It is from a huge seller of home items that I will not divulge. What they are interested in from me is to be part of a "test" market for signed and numbered "giclees". When I asked why I should help in putting a product out there that will directly compete with and undercut myself, the answer was this. "They are not to be sold as posters, but also not to be sold as real photographs. Something in-between". In any event, they want me to agree to sign 250 of them which will in turn be framed and sold through ??? for 3-400.00 dollars a piece. My take? Twenty dollars for every one sold.

    When I balked, they tried to sweeten the deal by saying that the only other photographer to sign-on so far is Imogen Cunningham... or her "trust". It would be pretty hard for Imogen to give her OK. Something tells me she would not be happy about this move on her behalf. Anyway... So far, I have told them no, but they have not taken that as a final answer and want to meet with me further on this. They asked what I wanted and I asked that they define what "not a poster, but not a photograph" means if it is to be considered collectable art. In my mind a "giclee" IS a poster. Sure it is on nicer paper, but it is nothing more than a poster. What is the difference? I also told them that if they wanted to act like "art dealers" they should pay like art dealers. Fifty percent or nothing. I feel this is nothing more that the big guys trying to cash-in on the art gallery market and try to pass-off posters of recognized artists as real art simply because they are signed.

    I put this out here for discussion. I'm interested to hear what others think about this. What would you do faced with a similar situation?

    Bill
     
  2. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    I'd like to be on their end of that deal - $380 per sale for them?!?

    Seriously though, regardless of what Imogen's trust is doing, I wouldn't take that deal based on the return to you. Sure, they have expenses getting them printed, framed, and distributed, and what not, but still, that's one hell of a gallery charge.

    In your position, I would certainly tell them 'This is what I expect to make per item - period' If they are willing to pay that, then fine, if not, no big loss.

    - Randy
     
  3. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Maybe you can think of them as another form of poster, then go for a much bigger piece of the pie, and agree to initial them only!

    Murray
     
  4. George Losse

    George Losse Member

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    I wonder if it would undercut your gallery sales. These would be cheaper yet not really the price of a poster.

    My take on it is you have more to loose then to gain from this.
     
  5. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Wait a minute...$300.00 to $400.00? That's way too much. Try and talk them down, if you go for it.

    Murray
     
  6. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi bill

    sounds like they want to take you for a walk down the path ...
    i would say no, unless they give you 50% ..

    - john
     
  7. kjsphoto

    kjsphoto Subscriber

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    The sad thing is that many will take the offer screwing the rest of us just like the photo stock market where now the norm has become royality free images.

    I am really sick of this type of behavior. Everything in their power to discredit artist and their work. I would tell them 60% me 40% you off full price. Take it or leave it. The problem is the mentality that one editor spews out that more than $50 for a image is too much. I am still waiting for the magazine to get to real people prices of ten to twenty cents an issues just like back when Edward Weston was alive as that is a real people price also.

    Really irritates me to the umph degree.
     
  8. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Would you agree to machine prints on RC and larger cut?

    My concern is that 1) they are misrepresenting the product; 2) they are being greedy. As for no.2: If you assume that the framing and matting costs 75.00; that they will pay Bill up front regardless of sales; Then they are therefore taking a greater risk and maybe justified in paying Bill 'First Cost.' First cost might be anywhere from 75.00 to 100.00 (~25% of retail).

    Item one is where I have the bulk of my concerns. Posters and machine printed RC prints may look good, but aren't often mistaken for the original. If the sales rap on these include all of the buzz words, archival, carbon pigment, giclees then it is proabably a misrepresentation. If Bill sells a 4x5 pt/pd contact print for 200.00 then why would I not be willing to pay 300.00 or 400.00 for a 16x20 fancy archival, carbon pigment, giclee and skip the tiny little brown print?

    My advice: get more money upfront and the right to approve or reject the marketing pitch.
     
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  9. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

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    I would sell standard posters unsigned http://www.allposters.com/
    And real prints signed. This new in-between market they are trying to create makes no sense to me other than filling their wallet..
     
  10. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    I appreciate the input on this everyone. Thank you. I do feel that it would do more harm than good in the long run. It will be interesting to see who goes for it... someone alive I mean!

    In fairness, I have allowed several of my prints to be made into posters that are popping up everywhere it seems. Still, they are nothing more than posters and haven't proved to be any direct threat to real prints sales. The fact some are framed and passed off as something more bothers me a bit, but at least they are not sold as original art as these would be.

    Bill
     
  11. joshverd

    joshverd Member

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    I think they are two different markets: "posters" and photographs.

    The posters are for entry level buyers that want something to look pretty on their wall, for god sake, their being sold through some sort of home decoration outlet. These are people who otherwise wouldn't have encountered you possibly. Now I know you have a name for yourself...but these buyers aren't looking for a 'Bill Schwab,' are they?

    The actual photographs will be more for the art enthusiast/photography collectors. These two markets wouldn't really overlap.

    I'd say if you can get them to sweeten the deal a bit more (quite a bit more) for you, take it, if nothing else consider it a cheap advertisement for your photographs hanging in someones house!

    Let us know how it turns out.
     
  12. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

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    I have battled with this myself. There is a certain amount of marketing that helps get your work out in the public. I have allowed a select few images of mine to be put out in a mass produced fashion in order to help people recognize my name and work. I also want to make sure I have something available for those that might not be able to enter the market due to not being well established in life. I offer other prints as digital reproductions, but on the back of the print it is stated as such and they are not signed. I have a number of cards that I sell as well in this way.

    As to taking 5% from any image sold to others, especially signed, I would say, "No way!"

    Even with one commercial art distributer I will take 30% of the sale price plus reproduction costs as they allow me to produce the work, either digital, or with the wet darkroom. These are works sold to companies to decorate their offices.

    What I worry about most is what will the sale of such an image in this form do to the value of my work that is currently out there, owned by collectors.
     
  13. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    Exactly... a poster is one thing and they do work well for branding and name recognition. I accept this and am grateful for the attention.

    Ahh... but they will when you start talking about signed prints at these prices. I know I am very far from a household name... I am certainly not fooling myself there. That makes this even more ridiculous. Are you going to pay $400.00 for a signed poster? They are only a few hundred dollars less than my galleries sell "real" prints to start. That would be in direct conflict I think.

    The more I think about this, the more it turns me off. It's really nothing more than the "Wal Mart-ization" of art if you ask me.

    Bill
     
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  15. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

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    Yes, quite.
     
  16. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    I'd ask, the business deal aside, do you want your images seen as these giclee prints (signed or unsigned). If you do, then the price is the issue. If you don't but you could be swayed by the right price, then there's a different issue. The distinction between *the right price for something you're perfectly comfortable with* and *the price required to get you to do something you're not comfortable with* makes all the difference in the world.
     
  17. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    I don't know what company is making this offer, but visiting a Crate and Barrel or Pottery Barn store offers a glimpse at what you may be referring to. Some of their reproductions are very convincing and quite attractive as decor. BUT...they are NOT signed. (In fact I've peeked behind them to see if I can find out who the photographers are, but with no success....they're not identified.) OTOH, Target has similarly framed reproductions that at least include the photographers identity...but still NO SIGNATURE!

    It sounds as if the retailer in question is attempting to perpetrate a near fraud by offering the purchaser the supposed cachet of having guests see what they can assume is signed original art. Even some 'art galleries' (particularly in Florida where I've seen them the most often) offer giclees of 'paintings' that look very authentic since they are sprayed on canvas, and are signed, but are nonetheless posters.

    I understand the potential for financial bounty this practice may offer the artist, but I balk at the compromise in quality and the confusion between the original and the reproduction. Tough call. At least....get a better deal!! :wink: Or, offer them a deal they can't accept...you'll then not have to go through with it, and you won't come off as a hardass ivory tower artist, but rather a hardass businessman for which the corporate world has immense regard!!
     
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  18. joshverd

    joshverd Member

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    You raise a good point, I didn't know the margin between the prints would be small.

    Well follow your heart...its gotten you this far, right?

    Good luck to you, and down with the walmartization of art!

    Josh
     
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  19. laverdure

    laverdure Member

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    I'm hesitant to sign anything. Who's signing the Imogens?

    Otherwise it seems to me this project is about exploiting unsophisticated would-be art collectors. Anyone think these posters have a shot at retaining value? Do signed Ansel posters even go for that much?
     
  20. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    You're real close... wink wink, nod nod...

    To answer Jstraw... to be honest, perhaps I am a little too comfortable with them and that is the problem. Perhaps this isn't the place, but it is not the "Giclee" aspect that is bothering me so much. I have done inkjet "carbon pigment" prints that are quite beautiful. I just could never wrap my mind around them being machine done. The concept of a "limited edition" of them is even more fuzzy than the idea of LE photos. This is why all those prints we made were "open editions". They were big, beautiful and perfect for a corporate or other institutional installation. Sold a lot of them... and for much higher than these guys are planning to do. I printed them and signed them, but the fact they could be printed out by anyone and in large numbers, among other things, is what cooled me on them and the process. This is a perfect example of what I feared.

    Perhaps it is just a price thing, but I am certain they would never consider offering me what it would take. After all... it would just feel unseemly to put it mildly. It's not that I am feeling high and mighty as an artist, it is more that everything has been digitized and walmartized to death. No matter how inevitable, I've decided not to lend my name to that game.

    Bill
     
  21. photomc

    photomc Member

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    Bill, I am in complete agreement with what you are saying but wonder if there is another approach to this. What IF you had a work, that let's say does not seem to do well in a gallery - would you consider it? If they are asking for one of your more popular works, then your comment about "Wal Mart-ization" is dead on IMO. However if it a work that either has not done as well or one you have not placed in a gallery then maybe it's not a bad way to get your name out there. There is just something about the approach of having you sign the work, then paying you $20 while they sell it for $3-400 that seems to be a slap in the face....or how little they actually value you as a professional.

    Which ever way you decide to go, I think you will end up with doing what is best for you. Thank You for sharing this with the rest of us...it could be a new trend or just some marketing type trying to make a buck and get their name out there....not a good way to treat someone.
     
  22. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Wise words. If you're leaning towards the latter, Bill, walk away.

    Don't you sell photographs (monthly, bi-monthly specials?) on your website for around $400.00(?) that are 1/2 the going gallery rate? If that's the case then 1/2 that price, or $200.00, would seem about right for this project. No offence, but $400.00 for a reproduction is crazy.

    I would refuse to sign them the same way as my original photographs, have it clearly stated on the back how they were produced, and would have my website printed on the back as well.

    They want you...make them work for it and squeeze as much out of them as you can...

    I can't wait to post a dilemma like this :wink:

    Murray
     
  23. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    Thanks Murray, I agree.
    Actually, and not to be a shameless self-promoter :smile: ... it is $100.00 and is for a small, signed 4.5 x 4.5 inch palladium print of my choosing. The offer goes out to my newsletter list. I do it because I've found it is a lot of fun, I love the connection with people and it serves as an intoduction to my work without having to spend an arm or leg if you don't want to resort to a poster. It also has led in many a case to collectors going to one of my galleries for something more.
    Be careful what you wish for! :smile:

    Bill
     
  24. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    Thanks Mike. Unfortunately they are asking for some pretty heavy hitters, not less poplular work. I agree that it can be good exposure though. The posters I have licensed have served well at this and have been of less popular prints in most cases.

    Bill
     
  25. photomc

    photomc Member

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    I expected for this to be the case...they did their marketing research well :smile: - at least they have good taste. What you describe reminds me of a chain resturant (Italian) that has some very nice work hanging all over the place - but there has always been something about the work that made me wonder (never quite as sharp as I thought it should be) and the color was always off to me. The whole thing just sounds wrong for the artist...and not that great a deal for buyer either.
     
  26. Baxter Bradford

    Baxter Bradford Member

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    The 'deal' is rather laughable.

    Should you choose to go into this market, 16 poster-prints @ $200 would buy you an Epson 7800, paper and all profiling stuff, leaving you the sorry prospect of having to spend the remaining $46800 cash..... ($200 per print used to allow 50% for gallery/retailer as indicated, or a bigger differential between your proper prints.)

    So perhaps it becomes evident why they are struggling to accept 'No' as an answer!