Editions and the future
I was talking to a fellow silver printer the other day (large and ultra large format), and he told me he is considering converting his work to digital output, buying the scanner, printer, etc. His reason is interesting, and something I hadn't considered. He, like many of us, does something else for a living (framer w/ a small gallery), so his available printing time is limited. His experience with gallery owners, in his effort to find representation, is that they want him to have complete editions printed up front. This is also somewhat tied into availability of papers going forward.
I thought about this. I usually print anywhere from 2 to 6 prints the first time, of a given size, with a detailed recipe to reproduce the print again later, the idea being an edition size of maybe 20. (Hasn't been a problem yet!) So what do I do 5 years out when someone wants a print that was printed on a paper no longer available, and how good a match does the market expect, anyway? With burning, dodging, toning, etc., I don't expect "perfect" matches, but I get very close (side by side match is very good).
We've seen the evolution of prints of Ansel and others over time as the technology changed, but it may not matter for famous guys, and most of us are not famous.
I'm opening a show this weekend printed on Forte 16x20 and am also waiting for Freestyle to receive their next shipment so I can continue printing.
I've probably said enough here, you get the idea. Any thoughts out there?
There will always be this problem whether or not you choose to print in silver, pigment, or whatever media will be used to make photographs ten, fifteen or twenty years from now. Materials will always evolve, processes will change, but the actual image that you have, the content of your artistic vision, will not change. One would hope that the prospective buyer would be so impressed with the content of the image and your vision that they would be willing to purchase your photograph no matter what the medium you chose.
I have several famous Bravo prints that were printed in later years by his wife.
in no way is the value of MY prints less than what the original was. Collecting wise yes; the originals are now worth about $35000 and mine roughly about $5000-6000
I Don't appreciate owning them any less.
Joe has it exactly right. Fred Picker once told me that NOTHING ever exists the same in a darkroom setting. Yes you can go back and duplicate a print but the overall factors suchs as temp and humidity will be diffrerent. My approach is to make roughly somewhere about 20 prints per session. Since I don't sell many yet I'm looking to the future. Besides if I walk into a Gallery they are going to want back up in case they sell them. Right now the paper is Gallery Matte #3. This is the END for this particular paper. I realized much too late the beautiful qualities of the paper and to my dismay the paper is gone-finished. The portfolio will have about 12 images and will contain 15 copies of each. To me this only increases the value of the portfolio.
The future-well everyone already has us written off right now so go out and make prints! If you find a particular paper you like buy it NOW and freeze it. An artist is always defined by his materials.
IMHO just another reason not to do 'editions'. The logic behind them seems more convoluted every day.
art is about managing compromise
There might be a different approach.
Instead of trying to match a future print to a master/near perfect print you have created, maybe try to make a "better" print down the road.
The "better" print will represent the products available at the time but also all the new skills, knowledge, and experience you have added in the years from the first printing session.
Myself I'm happy with the prints I'm making today.... but hope to continue to improve and tweak my skills so that my prints in the future will be far better.
I'm sure that's the case with most of us. We bring all are skills to the printing session at hand.... skills and experience we might not have had when we first printed the negative.
Just an opinion.
Sponsored Ad. (Subscribers to APUG have the option to remove this ad.)
I agree with much of the previous comments: there is no good reason for future prints to be identical to current ones. Think about other art forms. Remember when Eric Clapton released "Unplugged" ? Every song on that album had already sold mega copies and was being "covered" by hundreds of lesser lights every day. Then he comes along and does them all differently, and it was like they were all brand new songs again. This whole concept of "editions" seems so completely one-sided and short-sighted and wrong-headed, and by the way, I do not like it.
Rob and Joe, I'm with you 100%!
Wasn't it Ansel who didn't print limited editions? Didn't he announce, (when he was getting ready to retire), that he woundn't make any more new prints prints from old negatives after his 70th birthday? Didn't he sell more than $1,000,000.00 worth of prints in that last year? He spent his whole carreer building his fame so he could do that...but there has to be other options for us 'merely human' photographers that doesn't keep us broke while keeping gallery owners comfy.
Then again...some photographers print only 20 or so of each image, then go out and take more photographs...there's logic in that as well!
Note to self: Turn your negatives into positives.
Thanks for all the responses, and I must say, affirmation for my own feelings. Much of my previous printed work was done on graded Seagull, both the old and newer stuff. I replaced my cold light head with a V54 from Aristo, and the control and tonality of Forte VC is so much better that I'm really glad I didn't make editions of more than 3-5 at a time.
No one commented on this, though - what do you say to a gallery owner to the request that a complete edition be printed (beyond the practical extra 2-3 prints as backup for sale)?
Not that I've ever had it happen, but I'm planning on doing all future editions in quantities of 10, so that A: I can afford both financially and storage-wise to print the entire edition at one shot, B: I don't have to spend my entire life printing the same damn image over and over again, and C: be able to answer the gallery in the affirmative should the question be asked.
Frankly, while I enjoy making a great image, and it is fun to watch it develop in the soup, I'd much rather be spending my time making NEW images than re-hashing old ones. I've had the idea, recorded it, and reproduced it. Time to move on and let the old idea inspire/drive a new one.
No editions ever! I have serious doubts that photographs are things that are inherently editionable. Every photograph is an original not a copy and needs to be made from first principles every time you want one more. Remember, the final photograph on the gallery wall is a photograph of what was in the camera not what was in front of the camera.
It may seditious or politically incorrect but I would suggest dropping the word "print" in relation to photographs. "Editions" is printmaker talk and photographs are, at the root technical, aesthetic, and emotional level, different things with a different line of genesis to prints - etchings, lithographs, silkscreens, linocuts, etc.
If a photograph buyer wants an example of a photograph I have made previously I will prepare materials, go to the darkroom, and make one the absolute best that I can. The ingredients will be different to previous work. I will be different too. I guarantee new work will not match old work.
If the buyer really must have an exact match then they have to buy the original thing itself from who ever owns it. That is what the secondary art market is for.
The really big money in art flows through the secondary (and tertiary..) markets. The willingness of photographers to produce "editions" may be a factor in inhibiting the evolution of these markets. This may be a partial explanation why mediocre painters can become a millionaires while accomplished photographers struggle.
Photography, the word itself, invented and defined by its author Sir John.F.W.Herschel, 14 March 1839 at the Royal Society, Somerset House, London. Quote "...Photography or the application of the Chemical rays of light to the purpose of pictorial representation,..". unquote.