I understand your point, however, I come from quite a different perspective. My cheapest print, a framed 11x14 sells for $350, a price that is driven by the cost of materials and gallery markups - even at this price, I'm not totally recouping my costs. My prints are all Fuji Crystal Archive, triple mounted on archival mounting board using tapes and hinges, wood frames and UV quality glass. Each of my 11x14 prints has about $150 just in materials. I don't skimp on materials, and I'm not going to compromise on quality, just because I am a "no-name" photographer.
Originally Posted by esanford
Boy, I think you guys have hit one of the nails on the head. "When a photographer does not make it clear then we cheapen the whole process." This is very true. If someone is selling Mercedes-Benz cars, but doesn't tell the customer the difference between a Mercedes and a Chevrolet, then the seller has only himself to blame if the car doesn't sell.
Let me come clean a bit here. Before LensWork, for fifteen years I had a management consulting company specializing in retail sales and management. I wrote a couple of books on the topic and lectured all over the world on business skills. Got tired of traveling 45 weeks of the year and decided to start LensWork so I could travel less. This may be a bit of a stretch when talking about art, but stick with me here. In my books on merchandising, I emphasize that the word "store" and the word "story" come from the same Latin root. To be a "store-keeper" is to be a "story-teller." That is what merchandising is all about -- telling the story of the product in a way that presents information to the buyer can they make an informed decision.
This is my real beef with the current state of affairs in marketing photography. There is now so much to talk about with buyers when it comes to fine art black and white photography! There are issues of the medium, the artist's story, the collectible nature of the work, the archival properties, the place of the image or the artist in photography's history and traditions, the edition size, the publication history, the photographer's curriculum vitae . . . it goes on and on. And so little of this is ever communicated in most marketing.
My contention is that all of these components are so very important. They each contribute to the story of a photograph. And in doing so, they all contribute to the buyers perception of value. Our job -- as marketers, not as photographers -- is to tell the story of our work so buyers have a complete, open, and honest understanding of what we are offering for sale. And, in doing so, they might conclude that our perception of value agrees with theirs and the price is just right. Then a sale might occur. Clearly, if they don't agree, they won't buy!
The $3,700 print I talk about in my article might be underpriced! What is its story? Is the story both believable and persuasive? If it is, then $3,700 is reasonable. If it is not, then $3,700 might not be the right price. Each of us a photographers who choose to sell our work need to think deeply about this. What is our story?
Michael and Paula, for example, have a story to tell about their cameras, about their process, about their way of seeing, about Azo, about the market and investment potential for their photographs. They do a fine job of "merchandising" their story and they are to be congratulated for it. This may be one of the best lessons to learn from them.
Those of you who choose to sell large, unique, beautifully crafted, gelatin silver, matted and/or framed prints have a lot to say about your work. Beyond that, what is the story of the individual image? How was it made? Why is it important? Why do you believe it is worth what you want to offer it for? If all this remains uncommunicated, how do you expect the buyer to write the check?
This requires a great deal of creative thinking skilled communication. It is a skill that many image-makers are uncomfortable with, so they "hire" galleries to do it for them. But are the galleries doing an adaquate job? Not by a long shot, in my experience. For example, I stopped by a gallery that was offering some of those great Christopher Burkett images. Wow. Stunning. There was a sign next to each that explained they were "NOT DIGITAL." I couldn't resist. I asked her why this made a difference. Her explanation -- her "story" that was intended to convince me to buy -- was "they're real photographs." That's all she said. Period. I wonder how many non-photographers are going to be persuaded by this reasoning? There is so much that she could have said but didn't! She was not representing Chris very well and actually doing him and his work a great disservice, in my estimation.
So, my advice (not that anyone was asking!) is to get talented at telling your story. The more an audience appreciates your story, the more engaged they are, the more interested in your work they will become. They may not buy it, but at least they'll understand it more.
Back to my prints. I have a story -- one of "art for everyday life." I tell my story plainly and up front -- what materials I use, why I print and price the way I do, etc. For some people, this story makes sense. For some it does not. Some people buy, some do not. That's okay. We can't be all things to all people. For those of you who think my ideas are silly, it may be that they are -- at least silly when applied to your work. Your story is diffent than mine. Apples and oranges. So take a look at your "stories" and how you present your work to the public and see if it makes sense to the audience at which you target your marketing.
Editor, LensWork Publishing
Written Thursday January 12, 2006
Originally Posted by Satinsnow
Do you mean collectable or investable? People collect matchbooks. Some invest in baseball cards. Collectable is anything a large enough group of people want to collect. Could be paper napkins.
Do you consider your work an investment or a collectable? and I have to agree with Brooks, how do you market it? the inherent nature of the human being is if I am collecting something I hope it will raise in value, if I am investing in it I believe it will raise in value, kind of like buying stock market certificates, we purchase them with the belief they will rise in value, we purchase an amouir because we like it and collect it with the hope it goes up in value, but even if it does not, I am still enjoying the beauty of the item..When I purchase a print, I do so for myself, in the back of my mind I hope it will go up in value, if I purchase a print for investment I expect it to go up in value..
It is our responsibility to market our product correctly if there is to be any value in it..On the other hand if we market it irresponsibly, we not only do ourselves a disservice, we also do disservice to our fellow photographer..
Brooks, I can understand the point you are trying to make, and for you personally, how you run your business is none of our concern. However, in some ways you are a "public" figure, in that your magazine and editorials are read by many, and probably influence more people than you realize. In other words, your words and actions have more impact than you realize. That is what people are reacting to, more than anything else I think.
Originally Posted by lenswork
For example, yesterday I picked up a copy of the Jan-Feb Lenswork in the bookstore; in the past I automatically purchased the issue without any thought, but now I look at each issue individually, because of your stance on "digital". While I don't care that you highlight some photographers working with digital technologies, I expect you to still highlight those using traditional technologies as well. I realize that you do, but when I see an entire issue devoted to people using digital technologies, it leaves a lasting impression that your magazine doesn't care about the traditional photographer. Remember, marketing is based upon perceptions, and that is my perception based upon your last issue. Why does it matter? Because, because we live in a world that is very pro-digital and those of us who want to continue using traditional materials see our access to the world through the print media rapidly disappearing. I realize that I and my work will never be part of Lenswork, but I am saddened to see such a fine quality publication moving away from those whose only focus is quality - that is what drives those of us using traditional materals. It is sad, because there are so many excellent B&W photographers here that you could have in your magazine.
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I agree with your reasoning about print pricing and marketing here, Brooks, but the etymological analogy seems a bit dubious to me. I double checked the OED, and found that "story" is related in Latin to historia which comes from Greek--a narrative of past events. "Store" is related to instaurare in Latin, which means "to stock, fortify," etc.
There are analogies to be made, however, between a store and a story. In Beowulf, for example, there is a reference to a story as a "word hoard." In Latin, the term copia may refer both to the rhetorical device of expatiation as well, say, to an "abundance" of soldiers or some other thing.
Probably more than you realize. Most people don't see the quality of something they can produce on a home ink jet print to be the equal of a real photo print, and the non-photographers among them don't know really know anything about the high-end ink jet printers.
Originally Posted by lenswork
FWIW, I had the opportunity to tour Christopher Burkett's darkroom last May; one visit will show anyone how committed Christopher is to quality.
No they don't... mi dispiace.
Originally Posted by lenswork
But your version is certainly much cuter for the marketing workshops - and the point you make is nonetheless valid.
If you tone it down alot, it almost becomes bearable.
- Walker Evans on using color
Hmmm Sounds to me like Brooks is really talking to the gallery owners, more than photographers....more to "collectors" , than the person making the image (ie photographer). Now could be wrong, and probably am, but the whole idea of worth of a photograph (or any art) seems to what someone is willing to pay....I mean, we would all love to find an original dag or tin type from some famous photog in some little mom and pop and pay a fraction of it's so called worth in order to sell it for $$$$$ at one of the auction houses because someone estimated it was worth $$$ but the auction bidders wanted to push the price up. It is my opinion that the prints in the APUG gallery are priced quite well (some are under valued IMO) and some may be over valued (though I can't think of any right now).
What I hope Brooks meant was that there are many photographs out there, not available to John Q Public, because they are priced out of his reach. In the Chris Burkett example the 'person' in the gallery could not explain why it was important that the print was a real photograph...big failing there IMO. If someone works in a gallery they had darn well know what makes a print 'worth' the price on it, otherwise you should run, not walk, to another gallery.
I find it quite funny that APUGers can simultaneously denigrate inkjet prints as worthless and castigate Brooks for selling them too cheaply.
"The food here is terrible!"
"Yes, and such small portions!"
In Europe it is quite common among photographers to aspire to publish a book, but not care in the slightest about print sales. Partly this reflects the poor European market for photographic prints, but it also reflects a different approach to photography as an act of communication or expression. In this tradition $20 inkjet prints make perfect sense: they are a way of disseminating your personal vision, not individual objects of intrinsic value.