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  1. #1
    Christopher Nisperos's Avatar
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    "Imogen Cunningham self-portaits have no market value"

    Last month here in Paris, the yearly international gallery trade show, “Paris Photo” was held.

    While roaming around, I saw that Bruce Silverstein, the knowledgeable and reputable New York galleryist, was free. I decided to ask him a question which has been on my mind for many years.

    Background : In the early 1970’s I visited and photographed Imogen Cunningham at her home in San Francisco. I’ve never published or exhibited the portraits, but I’ve always presumed that they have some value, particularly because Imogen was wearing her “peace symbol” necklace, representative of her anti-war politics at the time.

    I asked Bruce Silverstein if such a portrait would have any market value (for the record, I didn’t mention the peace symbol necklace, as his answer came quickly and, I would say, vehemently). His answer so surprised me that I wrote it down on his business card a few minutes later : “No. Not only would it not have any market value, but even if Imogen Cunningham took a picture of Imogen Cunningham, it wouldn’t have any market value either ”.

    Any thoughts ?

  2. #2
    laz
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    Quote Originally Posted by Christopher Nisperos
    While roaming around, I saw that Bruce Silverstein, the knowledgeable and reputable New York galleryist
    In everything, but especially where art is concerned "knowledgeable" is a relative term.
    -Bob
    [SIZE=1]I want everything Galli has![/SIZE]
    [SIZE=1]I want to make images like Gandolfi![/SIZE]
    rlazell@optonline.net

  3. #3
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Put it on the market and see if it has value. All kinds of people take photographs of famous people, and most of them don't have much of a market value. If it's a good or interesting photograph by a well known artist, then someone might be willing to pay for it.

    Maybe Silverstein was being ironic or making a joke or reacting instinctively to the sort of question I'm sure he gets all the time, and probably finds tiresome. Obviously, it would be impossible to make a hypothetical statement about the market value of an Imogen Cunningham self-portrait that doesn't exist, so I wouldn't take his statement too seriously.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
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  4. #4
    billschwab's Avatar
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    Christopher,

    I'm not certain, but I believe there were thousands of such portraits (complete with peace symbol) made of Imogen by aspiring young photographers and students. Imogen was very accessible, especially during the time of which you speak. Unfortunately it is rarely the portraits of photographers that have value to collectors, even when these portraits are made by other well-known photographers. It is the works they create that have the value to those who invest in and collect photographs. I'm sure though that someone will find value in your portraits and I suggest you place them on eBay for instance. You will see then what they might be worth to someone.

    Best of Luck,

    Bill

  5. #5
    billschwab's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David A. Goldfarb
    Maybe Silverstein was being ironic or making a joke or reacting instinctively to the sort of question I'm sure he gets all the time, and probably finds tiresome.
    Exactly. Dealers pay THOUSANDS to be in these shows and they have no interest in using the time to find new artists. I think a booth at Paris Photo cost each dealer at least $20,000. I highly recommend that no one use these expositions to try to see dealers with their work. If anything, it will prevent that dealer from ever wanting to look at your work again in the future. The business world of fine art photography is a very fickle one and unless you are god's gift to photography, you have to be very careful about these things.

    Bill

  6. #6
    reellis67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David A. Goldfarb
    Put it on the market and see if it has value.
    Exactly. The value of any object is only as much as what someone is willing to pay. Every day on the auction site I see objects that I assign no value to at all go for big money. And I spend money on things that others obviously felt were valueless, just not every day. I hit the antique shops and flea markets all the time to nab stuff other people have passed over time and time again.

    Just because one person stated that the image is worth nothing does not make it so. In this persons' professional realm of influence his statement may be accurate (at that time), but the entire world does not lie in the realm of any one person, no matter how large their head may have become.

    Ask around and I would be willing to bet you can find people who would like to have it. Hell, I might like to have it! I alway liked Imogen's attitude. Feisty!

    - Randy

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    Quote Originally Posted by billschwab
    Exactly. Dealers pay THOUSANDS to be in these shows and they have no interest in using the time to find new artists. I think a booth at Paris Photo cost each dealer at least $20,000. I highly recommend that no one use these expositions to try to see dealers with their work. If anything, it will prevent that dealer from ever wanting to look at your work again in the future. The business world of fine art photography is a very fickle one and unless you are god's gift to photography, you have to be very careful about these things.

    Bill
    On a related theme, I see that AIPAD 2006 (NYC) will be held in an armory building and not a hotel, thus short-circuiting those photographers and small dealers who were guerilla marketing by handing out cards and showing works in their rooms. Too bad, there was good stuff outside the display halls last year..........

  8. #8
    billschwab's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TimVermont
    On a related theme, I see that AIPAD 2006 (NYC)... Too bad, there was good stuff outside the display halls last year..........

    Fear not... there still will be. Not quite as convenient to the hotel rooms, but there will be things going on.

    The armory is a great place to have the show and they have been wanting to make the move for several years. 2 floors of Hilton made it harder for dealers on the second floor. Now everyone is on a level playing field. I will be there. We should meet.

    Bill

  9. #9
    Christopher Nisperos's Avatar
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    Thanks, all.

    I agree and recognize what you've said, especially the point about the galleryists wanting to at least break-even on the investment of being at the show itself (in fact I wrote about this in my 2003 Photo Techniques article on Paris Photo). However, keep in mind that I was neither looking for a rep, nor showing any photos. Just asked a simple question.

    Secondly, the point is well taken that many budding photographers, including myself, photographed Imogen. I will note however that there's a slight difference between a posed portrait of someone sitting in their livingroom and a snapshot of someone during a workshop.

    Still, accepting all of your points, it's just that it's hard for me to image a self-portrait by, Imogen — or, Ansel, or Edward Weston, or Steiglitz, or Strand, etc. — having "no market value". See what I mean?

    Anyway, no big deal. It's not my intention to make a long thread out of this. I just wanted to run it up the flagpole to see if it would flap a little. Thanks for the input.
    ==================
    Second-sudden thought: (on the premise that a photographer's self-portrait is worthless in the art market) Hey wait a minute! No fair! Why does a painter's self-portrait have value and a photographer's not? Or, when songwriters write songs about themselves (as they usually do), why are they worth anything at all? Afterall, isn't all artistic expression purely equal in spite of the chosen medium? (oh my gosh .. there goes the "short thread"!)

    And who are Cindy Sherman and Judy Dater . . . and what are they doing in my kitchen?



 

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