I finally found that B&W (USA) Magazine issue 14, August 2001 with my letter to the editor in it. Get a beverage, sit back, relax, and give it a read if you dare as it's a loooong one *This was written six years ago and there's a more than a few things I'd change, but... He titled it;

"Could The Internet Make The Conventional Gallery Obselete"?

"I have just finished Rosiland Smith's article in Issue 10 about the Internet and fine art photography sales - what was missing was any reference to the potential of individual photographers websites.

The real power of the Internet is equalization. No matter if it's a big name gallery or an artist who lives in some remote corner of the planet, everybody begins at the same point on a level playing field. For those who choose, the Internet could even replace galleries as the way photographers sell their work to collectors.

As I see it, there are three compelling reasons why photographers should consider sidestepping the whole gallery scene. Number one is commitment. Howard Greenburg couldn't have illustrated this more acutely in his quote, "I have an enormous inventory and represent so many photographers that I can't get it reviewed enough..."

How much effort is a gallery putting into promoting each artists work when what matters to the gallery is a sale - any sale. There are only so many square feet of wall space, and your photographs could well be lying in a drawer, unseen. If your sales trail off due to a lack of attention by gallery staff, no problem...a new flavour of the season could walk through the door at any moment, portfolio in hand, possibly providing a fresh flurry of sales.

Your own website works for you and promotes only you and your work.

Number two is the price of photographic works to the collector. Galleries call it a 50% commission. I call it a 100% increase above what the artist recieves. In the past, the most accepted way a photographer could increase awareness of his or her work was to become associated with a gallery - the bigger and more prestigious the better. The gallery then has to hire knowlegeable staff, have a premier location, and so on, thereby increasing the cost of the prints. It also has to represent enough photographers to slake the thirst of as many different collectors as possible, bringing us back to problem number one.

Number three is the galleries acting in their own interests by pressuring photographers into putting limitations on the number of prints for sale. It's an old story (ask OPEC) reduce availability and prices go up, but it's galleries, not photographers, who win in the long term. With their own websites photographers could formulate pricing structures that reflect their images and methods. Over time, prices would increase and sales drop off for an image; but doesn't it stand to reason that if, as Ansel Adams did, you set a deadline on the sale of new prints from old negatives before turning, let's say 70, sales would jump before the deadline? Wouldn't those who bought early and even those that bought late have made a sound investment? Wouldn't this provide the artist with an opportunity to generate a retirement income? Galleries can always get fresh talent to keep sales up. Photographers only have themselves - why put limitations on your lifes work?

Photographers are a fiercely independant lot. We move seperate from reality, seeing tonal / textural / spacial relationships no one else notices. Even if photographing with a friend we are essentially alone, seeing the world through the layers of our own life experience and expectations. We photograph and print the images ourselves because no one else can solidify our vision - why then leave our finished work in the hands of others to sell?

The Internet now provides photographers with an incredibly powerful earth-encircling alternative to galleries. A collector who doesn't have the time to wallow through the Web could hire the services of an Internet agent - somebody who after discussing the collectors likes and dislikes could (for far less than a 100% increase above what the photographer recieves) search on behalf of the collector and submit a variety of relevant choices.

It may sound as if this is an advertisement for my own website, but I don't have one. I have been using large format gear for 18 years and have kept my photography an intensely personal expression. I have not entered competitions or submitted work to group shows. I have had three one-man shows in local museums at pivotal points in my growth as an artist, but have not sent my work to any galleries.

What has brought me to mull this all over is that my work has reached a level where I would like to see where it sits in the scheme of things, to see how it will be interpreted.

Do I join the gallery herd, or keep my independence and set up a website? A huge question.

The nearest photography gallery is 1,200 miles down the road and there is nobody in these parts I can discuss things with. I'm hoping this letter will stir the pot enough to get some answers to these questions. What exactly are the benefits to the artist in gallery representation, and what exactly are the benefits to the collector to justify the 100% increase in price above what the artist recieves"?


P.S. I didn't get any answers, as the letters to the editor part of the magazine disappeared in the following issue.