Clay, glad you brought this up - I have also noticed this behavior, Joette O'Connor at Photogenesis had an excellent article about this behavior while she was writing for Photovision - she went on about how photographers would stop by and talk about how much better they could have done a particular print or they have one just as good at home. Let's face it, many photographers get caught up in the process and not the 'Art' of photography. BTW, I do have several other photographers work up at home, only one of my own....maybe that would make a good sperate thread..who's work is up on your wall?
Originally Posted by clay
"I do think that a good artist needs to carefully think about the economic effects of printing big editions, though. Again, asssuming the images is worth a sh** in the first place, there will always be a rarity premium that some buyers will attach to a very limited edition. On the other hand, there just aren't that many really well heeled buyers out there. So the perennial question: Do you want to sell one for $1000 or 5 for $200? It is probably less risky to take the 5 print approach, since if your calculation is wrong, you still might sell 3, whereas the unique print approach may leave yet another piece of orphaned art taking up space in someone's basement."
I printed lithographs professionally at Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque, NM. Their policy was no edition was larger than 75 prints - and that was enforced, even with very famous artists. As a side note, I've seen photographers who have prints in bins with "5/200" on them. Makes me almost laugh out loud. Like they're wishing they had to make 200 of them.
What was interesting about my experience at Tamarind (1980-1982) was even then, they were worried about the offset press printed image (a type of lithography) being compared to a hand printed lithograph (using stones or plates) - and the ability to print 100's or even 1,000's on an offset press versus the 75 hand printed images.
I could never understand their concern. The audience for the different types of reproduction is totally different. The hand printed lithograph looks different than the offset press image for a variety of reasons. A person that was satisfied with the offset print wouldn't want to spend the money required to frame a hand printed lithograph, much less spend the money to own one.
Now here's the really fun part. I printed an image for an artist that I saw later reproduced on a poster for a gallery show. The poster, of course, was printed on an offset press - and, you could buy the poster at the gallery for $10. So, now you had your choice of the real lithograph, or a poster containing an offset reproduction of the lithograph - all from the same gallery. The price for the lithograph was $2,000 and their were only 35 available from that gallery (the artist kept the other 40 for his direct sales and for other galleries). According to the gallery director, sales of the poster were "brisk," and they had sold 10 of the hand printed lithographs. When either the poster or a lithograph sold the artist was getting exposure (and money) so it was a win-win situation for both the artist and the gallery.
Then there is the photographer I know who had a photo in a well known catalog here in the U.S called Coldwater Creek. If you ordered the photo you got a real photo made by a lab from a 4x5 interneg of the transparency. The image sold for $59.95 framed and the photographer got $7.00 for each image sold. During the 3 years the photo was in the catalog, the photographer got checks that totaled about $140,000 - do the math on that one for the number of images reproduced!! They made 3 internegs during that time period because the interneg would fade from being used so much.
So, now we have the conundrum. The hand printed lithograph was printed by ME not the artist. All of the craftsmanship contained in the final print came from ME not the artist. The artist created the image by drawing on stones and then walked away giving directions for color for each portion, etc. Once the proof was signed by the artist, that was it - he was done. So much for the "hand craftsmanship" required for the lithograph from the artist. Yet, the lithograph is considered as being art, and the craftsmanship required to make the lithograph is an integral part of the image - yet the artist has nothing to do with the craftsmanship.
Now we take that one step further with the photo in the catalog. Each image was "hand made" by a professional printer (just like the lithograph), and the craftsmanship is an integral part of the final image. Only now we have 20,000 images out there - is it still art?
The question is not is it art. I believe that limiting a print run to enhance value or mass producing them to increase overall profit is business discission, separate from whether the item is art or not. The item is art or not based upon content.
Originally Posted by steve
Buying a handmade print because there is greater uniqueness and because it is 'closer' to the artist (or however you wish to say it) is, as you point out, often wrong.
I must have a very rare outlook on photography. I have a deep emotional connection to the scene and am compelled to use real materials to capture the light from it. Sometimes it feels impossible to express why I find this so important, I just can't seem to make some people understand. I 'feel' the light lives on in the film and print, a moment in time that I experienced is still there, burned into the film, and the film itself produces the print. Once computers do their thing, what was once there and somewhat real to me, no longer exists. It may appear to be the same thing but it's been completely changed. If you love photography, and love experiencing a real moment of light and time, I can't relate to that moment being altered out of existence as soon as digital manipulates it into something else. I almost find it tragic.
I think we are arguing different points -- or maybe I am.
In my mind and based upon my experiences...
A photographic print is generally if not always superior to the same image created digitally. A lambda/lightjet prints are often close and an inkjet always comes up short. I have yet to see a digital B&W print that surpasses the 'real' thing.
A print that is made by hand, even if my logic is twisted, is preferential to a machine print.
This not to say a digital image cannot be art.
At the end of the day, as an artist, I prefer the photographic process. It is more natural for me. An added bonus is that the prints are quantifiably superior.
Meanwhile, using digital to deceive or imitate is stupid. Blindly accepting that the print you buy, as steve contends, as being superior simply because of the process can also be stupid.
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It seems that digital is now invading all aspects of art. I just got done reading an article on the NY Times website about a 'digital xerox' for copying or producing stone sculpture from 3-d scans or cad drawings.
I think you have to sign up to read it, but it is free.
I've read it, and you've gotta feel sad for the 'non-lazy' stone carvers out there devoted to their hand crafted work. The stone carvers who start embracing this new technology will now shift full throttle into -born again- digital user mode and preach to their fellow carvers "it's great! and who cares if it does 98% of the carving, it's only the final product that matters! Anyone who thinks otherwise does not know what art is and is an elitist luddite". Soon the stone carver publications will be chock full of "Mill5 Machine" advertisements preaching the new era of stonecarving has arrived, and with it a new freedom to be truly creative and not held back by inconvenient tools and pesky stone dust. They'll be bombarded with software advertising such as "StoneCAD v2.3 - Serious Software for Serious Stone Carvers". Another art form is assimilated into the wonderful world of digital fast food.. -end rant
Originally Posted by fingel
Which pretty much sums up how a lot of us see digital.
Originally Posted by Sean
Home-cooked meal or McD? The choice is yours.
Anáil nathrach, ortha bháis is beatha, do chéal déanaimh.
One thing I find that is true about digital being used to emulate other media is that it is a lot like a new puppy that sh**s all over everything. What I mean is that all of a sudden people are discovering this tool and producing tremendous volumes of crap where before an artist had to take time and toil to create a work. My experience is that the more time and effort a work requires, the better the work of art.
I know of two photographers in NY who have popular web sites and photoblogs. Both would shoot film and always produce a couple of good and sometimes outstanding images every week. Now they have switched to full digital mode, post dozens of pictures and I have only seen one that is good since the switch. What is it about digital that makes someone think every damn piece of paper that comes out of the printer deserves to be seen in the light of day?
As far as the examples that Sean posted, the first one, the real water color actually is good. I could vomit on a piece of water color paper and produce a better picture then the other two.
"Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
I'm interested in what you think makes a photographic wet darkroom made color print superior to a LightJet print, and how they are quantifiably superior. I find it difficult to accept absolute assessments of superiority - since I could probably show you examples where one type of print works far better for the image than another type of print.
Originally Posted by mrcallow
The stuff from a Frontier machine I would agree with the assessment, I can see the scan lines without a using a loupe, and once you notice them you can't ignore them. But, when I've had LightJet prints made, I can't see the scan lines unless I get at least a 6x loupe (12 lines / mm). When I've put a LightJet print next to an Ilfochrome that I've made from the same transparency, as good as the Ilfochrome looked, to me the LightJet looked as good if not better.
As for an inkjet print - totally different look from either a wet darkroom or Lightjet print. They're really a different effect. I would certainly agree that on glossy paper, they come up short. Also, prints from inexpensive inkjet printers generally suck badly. I have an Epson 1280 and an Epson 9600 - believe me, the results from the 9600 are in a completely different category than what comes off the 1280. Sort of the difference between sending a negative out for a machine print versus the same image made by a custom lab.
When used with a high quality rag matte paper the ink printed effect can be stunning given the right images. They have a look that is between a photograph and a lithograph because of the pigment ink printing instead of dyes. There is no covering over the image like you have in a photograph and the image rests on the surface rather than under an emulsion.
I've just finished a series for a photographer who does abstract color work with lots of camera movements. They're printed on Moab natural 300 gram paper with torn deckle edges - and they are nice. Aesthetically superior to the same images printed as standard color photographs.