I know discussions arise from time to time about the desirability of printing certain images in limited, numbered editions. (Especially if you are fortunate enough to sell many prints).
The most recent issue of PDN has an article on the topic discussing legal definitions and varying views on how other photographers define limited edition. An interesting read. For non-subscibers, Photo District News is on the newsstand at Borders Books.
PDN has an online e-mag version as well. I will check it out to see if it's there. I have known photogs that print a limited edition of say 50 prints and then physically damage the neg to make it unprintable. They then sign an affidavid stating they have no other dupe negs and the 50 prints are the only ones in existance. The neg and document is stored in a bank safe deposit box or some similar safe place.
As I've mentioned elsewhere on this forum I am not a fan of limited edition series. It's an artificial method of trying to drive the price up. Adams printed hundreds if not thousands of copies of Moonrise and it's still one of the most sought after print around and demands major bucks. Helmut Newton prints as many pictures as there is demand and his cache hasn't diminished as a result of it.
I hope one day I create an image that thousands of people want a copy of. To limit it to only those with the financial means to buy a limited edition print is both the height of arrogance and a fouls gold as all the purchaser is banking on is that it will appreciate. The buyer could care less if it sings to him or not, it's purely a financial transaction. I don't want my art to be reduced to the equivalent of a greenback.
On the other hand I do make money at it, but I never will get rich at it. I do it first for me, and then the enrichment of my fellow planetary buddies.
Here is the link from PDNonline
It supports just what I was saying. All the "collectors" are interested in is return on investment. I'm sorry I'm not selling an apartment building here.
Each side of the argument is valid, it's just that I don't measure my success by how much money I make from an image.
Limited editions are strange. You can't predict what will be the best sellers, and if you guess wrong and then destroy negatives, then what? Wield gun, pull hammer back, shoot your own foot. I can understand why someone would get bored printing the same picture over and over again. On the other hand, just because someone makes only 50 prints doesn't guarantee anything. Maybe 5,000 prints at a lower price would pay off better (just to pick a big number). Rarity alone does not make it great. Collectors aside, I bet a lot of people do it so they can print the entire run in one big work session for consistency and then move on to other projects more easily.
"limited" editions as the article said is a gimmick created by galleries to make more profit. I can tell you the better galleries will not fail to take an artist just because he refuses to "limit" his editions. It is those galleries who are mercenary and want to make a buck as fast as possible before they close down.
I specially loved this "comment" by one of the gallery owners:
“That’s too bad. Go to another picture,” says Quasha. “That’s the whole idea of a price rise. If you keep printing the same picture, you’re not going to be considered a great artist, are you?” The photographer’s job is to create value for himself by producing a body of great work, she continues. “So we’re not going to sit here and cry for the photographer. The people who are trying to turn these people into somebody deserve a lot more credit than they’re getting because they’re the people who create the market.”
So in other words, let me make a profit of you, you keep putting all the effort and paying for the materials etc, and when and if you become famous I will make more money off of you, and on top I am going to whine about it....lol...
Aaron mentioned this on the thread about galleries, there was an article on lenswork about this and it is still online if you want to read it. It is rather interesting.
But anyways all this rambling might seem off topic but my point is, dont let the gallery run you....you run your work. I personally think it is best to let the market limit your prints, every so often raise the price of the print and eventually it will reach a price people are not willing to pay. let say every 8 prints you raise the price 40%, by the time you reach the 100 or 200 print it might be worth $10,000. that is money you make not just the gallery, and you keep "charge" of your prints, not the gallery.
So, to a new comer it might be tempting to "limit" his work to create interest, I think this is misguided. If your work is not good enough to create interest, then you are going about it the wrong way, if it is good enough for people to want to buy it, then you have nothing to worry about, people and collectors eventually will recognize your talent.
BTW I dont completely agree with the Lenswork artcle, good galleries are essential to promote a new artists and I dont bedgrudge their 50% cut. They have client and collectors lists and relationships which are beneficial to the photographer. It is just the arrogant SOB's like the one above whom the photographer should avoid.
You made some excellent points and I agree completely. Charles Phillips, whom I have mentioned here before, has indicated to me that the results that he has had with galleries have been disappointing at best. Perhaps early on he dealt with the mercenary types who have a very limited view of things.
He has, since that time, developed his own base of collectors and directly markets his own work. The problem, that I see, is the time constraints on his output. To be able to photograph, print, and market can be daunting at times.
I think that a photographer must first and foremost be true to his or her own vision. Secondly a decision must be made as to how one wants to spend their time. Then to follow that decision through with action.
Along the lines of how one wants to spend their time, I have had the good fortune to have met and dealt with the co-founder of Pizza Hut Corp. He at that time had two other restaurants each of which represented an investment of 1.5 million. I was surprised to learn that his time commitment to that investment was 8 hours per month. I was amazed because were it I, every waking hour would have been devoted to the success of that investment. He explained that his only saleable commodity was time and how he chose to invest it was the only success that he could control.
Exactly Donald, you can go the route of Michael A Smith and market your own work, but who wants to be a salesman on top of all the other stuff? I don't have the patience nor the "art" speak to sell art. Every-time I read and article in View Camera by John Paul Caponigro I think, jeeez...this looks like english but I sure as heck don't understand a word of it!
A good gallery with very interesting articles is the Afterimage Gallery in Dallas. Go to their web site and read about submitting work to their gallery as well as their "dealer opinion".
IMO if a gallery is trying to force me to do something I am not willing to do, then the relationship wont work.
As photographers we loose sight of the fact that galleries are there to make money. WIth that in mind one should be willing to become a "partner" but there is no reason why both the photographer and the gallery cannot profit from this relation.
The thing about galleries is that it is a cottage industry and if for some reason you piss one of them off, then the word gets around. I found this out in a funny way, my last trip to Houston I went to the John Cleary gallery and ask him if he had prints by MAS. He did not and he told me he would rather not handle his work because of the marketing done by MAS, bottom line was that he could not profit from his prints since he could not "trade" them, I guess he meant with other galleries. The entire explanation was rather strange and did not make sense to me, but I got the feeling that if you market your own work and bypass the "accepted" route, then galleries sort of blacklisted you and refused to handle your work.
I gotta tell you, anybody who wants to become a fine arts photographer, color or B&W and has not researched how the marketing and industry works is in for a rude awakening. Photography as a means to make a living should be approached like any other business with a business plan, to think "ah well I got talent I will just photograph and make the gallery rounds" is a recipe for disaster, which might have been what happened with your friend Charles.
I wouldn't be surprised, if what you say happened, did not not happen. Thanks for the direct to the site. BTW what lenses do you have for you 12X20?
I only have the Nikkor 450 M for the 12x20, I am looking for a G Claron 355. The story of my life, when I want the lens they discontinue the //$%&$ thing.....