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View Full Version : "Editions": A way to limit yourself and your overall marketability in general?



Daniel Stone
10-Nov-2014, 17:30
Hey all,

I've had a notion for a few weeks now, and have decided to put it out to y'all, since many of you are much more experienced than I with dealing in the art gallery/business scene than I(which, to be honest, is practically ZERO experience :)!).

My basic, raw question is this: Editions, what's the point in the end? Are we attempting to "lure" people in, with this sense of "investing" into the pieces hung on the wall, that we're so proud of making? If me, as an "unproven" artist, financially speaking, a gallery that I approach to sponsor and/or sell my work has a preference for an "edition" mindset, vs. a "anyone who can afford it can own one" approach, I'd rather have the latter. Personally, I don't like the idea of a good photograph only being enjoyed by a few people(that were there early enough to get in on the "editioned" prints), but anyone who truly enjoys looking at it, should be able to plunk their credit card down, and take it home and enjoy it! I'm not simply looking at it from a capitalistic point-of-view, but one that is interested in getting my name "out there".

If I understand correctly; as a young artist, Ansel Adams sold his handmade prints for quite a small sum, compared to his later/last years, where fame and vastly increased popularity had caught up with him and he was able to enjoy a nice reward financially. Prices ROSE because the demand was there. But the prices were still "reachable" to most people, and a good many folks have an Adams print in their home now, simply because of that lower initial pricepoint, and a seemingly "open edition" mindset. (please correct me if this is wrong)

I have had the opportunity to sell/gift(my choice) a few photographs that I have made over the past few years, to people I know, and some by word of mouth. I attempted to set up/run a website for a short spell relating to my photography, with the intent to display and sell my printed & matted photographs through that channel. Well, things aren't in the right season yet for that to happen. And I don't have a body of work put together that, in my opinion, is worth the time and effort of displaying on a website. Yet. So I took the website down. Word of mouth only, right now.

But back to editions. It obviously works well for many gallerists/artists who sell their art this way. Limited production, so to speak. I'm not interested in making wallpaper art to sell at Ikea, but fine pieces that have the skill and attention to detail in them that a print might attempt to be sold for 4-5x as much in most galleries, in a "traditional" gallery setting that's selling to the middle/upper classes with more disposable income. I'm interested in ALL of the markets. From Susie Q. making $25,000 a year in Omaha, to John D. making $1,000,000 annually, and having a second home in Aspen. A "pricepoint for all" approach, where smaller prints(marketed to smaller homes and apartments w/ less space), to large prints, that can be properly displayed in a large home(aka that Aspen home). Not every size available under the sun, but a pricing scale that is open to everyone, top to bottom.

So what say you? I'm not looking to bolster my opinion or self-worth, but wanted to see what others thought of this "open season" type method. Appealing to the masses price-wise, where a print for almost any budget is available to enjoy.

cheers,
Dan

BrianShaw
11-Nov-2014, 07:28
Editioning is a way to establish/maintain a higher market value for notable works by notable artists.

Price and value are dynamic and based on many factors, some of which are not well understood.

For all the rest of the works/artists, it probably isn't worth the time or effort... especially if the artist is hungry and eager to make sales to pay rent or buy food.

p.s. No votes granted to the poll because each option includes a "it depends".

DrTang
11-Nov-2014, 08:10
You gonna destroy that neg after the limit is reached?



It's a silly gimmick that I always found to be super pretentious


that's my take

Jim Jones
11-Nov-2014, 08:31
I agree with the OP and other above remarks. Edward Weston was selling original open edition signed prints for $25 late in his life. Unlike him, I don't rely on photography for income, and can still meet that price. It's easier with a good digital printer. Limited editions is one of the ways a gallery or photographer can pander to the rich while limiting some others the genuine pleasure in owning good photography. At least it is less pretentious than inflating the notoriety of photographers to justify obscene prices for inferior works. Open editions sold at low prices is one way we can enrich the lives of many rather than aspiring to mere riches for ourselves.

bob carnie
11-Nov-2014, 08:46
Ok I chose selling at a lower point for more people to see... but also if you have the goods and are able to push the work to the upper gallery's who then think they can sell your work , my choice does not work.

Most photographers - lets say 95% will never sell out an edition... but who is to say which photographer with the right stuff and good guidance cannot be part of the 5% or less where strict editioning and extreme high prices make sense.

Right now you can buy a Ed Burtynsky at Metivier Gallery for 35 thousand... and he is indeed selling out his editions.... took Ed about 25 years of hard , dedicated work to get to this point..

When I grow up I want to be like Ed.

Daniel Stone
11-Nov-2014, 08:50
Ok I chose selling at a lower point for more people to see... but also if you have the goods and are able to push the work to the upper gallery's who then think they can sell your work , my choice does not work.

Most photographers - lets say 95% will never sell out an edition... but who is to say which photographer with the right stuff and good guidance cannot be part of the 5% or less where strict editioning and extreme high prices make sense.

Right now you can buy a Ed Burtynsky at Metivier Gallery for 35 thousand... and he is indeed selling out his editions.... took Ed about 25 years of hard , dedicated work to get to this point..

When I grow up I want to be like Ed.

Hey Bob,
Thank you for chiming in here. As a gallery owner, I appreciate your candor on the matter. Yes, I don't think anyone(especially photographers making prints for sale) would turn away people willing to spend that kind of money on a print away in a heartbeat :D! However, everyone has different aspirations in life. We all have to eat, but some of us are perfectly fine with the simpler life, versus having the options of top-shelf filet mignon every night. But saying that, it's been a good while since I've had the opportunity to have a really nice steak, but I'm in no rush :)


Open editions sold at low prices is one way we can enrich the lives of many rather than aspiring to mere riches for ourselves.


THIS ^^^ sums ups exactly what my opinion is on this topic. I just couldn't put the words together myself yesterday :)

BrianShaw
11-Nov-2014, 08:57
Not everyone runs a business "to enrich the lives of others"; some run a business to make a living, turn a profit, etc. There are multiple goals/objectives, each of which is different but OK. One has to respect each value system equally if it isn't doing direct harm to others.

Daniel Stone
11-Nov-2014, 09:09
Not everyone runs a business "to enrich the lives of others"; some run a business to make a living, turn a profit, etc. There are multiple goals/objectives, each of which is different but OK. One has to respect each value system equally if it isn't doing direct harm to others.

Totally hear ya on that one, and totally agree! My take is that one can still make "affordable" prints of high quality, but sell at a lower price point, then trying to swoon big-money clientele into purchasing something for it's "investment value". I'd want to know they are buying it because they will enjoy it, first and foremost, not because they're hedging that it will rise in value so they can flip it(which I'm not against, I'm a capitalist myself, in the end)

jnanian
11-Nov-2014, 09:10
You gonna destroy that neg after the limit is reached?



It's a silly gimmick that I always found to be super pretentious


that's my take

i have made series of prints that there is only 1 image that exists. some have
called them "artist proofs" i just call them single edition prints ( i called them hybrid prints 25 years ago
but the analog/digital mafia eventually hijacked the term hybrid to mean something else ... ).
the negative is / was made of a variety of materials and destroyed soon after the prints were made.
no additional prints would be able to be created.
this might be seen as a gimmick to some, limiting the amount of images generated ...
but to others it is a way to only create 1 image, nothing more, nothing less.

the ability to create countless images from the same negative to me is photography's greatest weakness and greatest strength.

Corran
11-Nov-2014, 09:10
You gonna destroy that neg after the limit is reached?

I had a prominent art dealer tell me once that I should do 1/1 editions and include the negative with the image, perhaps affixed to the back of the print in a negative sleeve.

I thought that was an interesting take on it...but I haven't done it!! I feel like editions make little sense when it's so easy to make more, without the purchaser even knowing to boot. I would think a savvy buyer would realize that too, but maybe not.

Eric Biggerstaff
11-Nov-2014, 09:13
I am all for editions as long as they are low, say no more than 25 with 2 AP. When you have an edition of 100 or more, it sort of defeats the purpose. The VAST majority of photographers will never sell out an edition so if it creates some form of demand in the mind of a buyer then all the better. It can drive someone to make a purchase. I know the argument of "why limit your work" but since most of us will never even reach the limit then who cares. Also, if you have the talent to sell out an edition, then you should have the talent to make other images that people will want, I see it as a driver for the buyer and the photographer.

That said, it really is a matter of ones personality and the risk they want to accept. If you don't mind the risk, then editions are more acceptable. Each method is fine, it all depends on the person.

BrianShaw
11-Nov-2014, 09:13
Totally hear ya on that one, and totally agree! My take is that one can still make "affordable" prints of high quality, but sell at a lower price point, then trying to swoon big-money clientele into purchasing something for it's "investment value". I'd want to know they are buying it because they will enjoy it, first and foremost, not because they're hedging that it will rise in value so they can flip it(which I'm not against, I'm a capitalist myself, in the end)

I suppose the biggest difference is the quality of the product and the savvy of the selller. Look at cars: Toyota vs Rolls Royce. Totally different products and totally different marketting schemes. Both products essentially do the same thing and both marketting schemes seem to work quite well. Which is more enjoyable... depends on wheter you enjoy just getting form here-to-there or if you enjoy getting there in totally luxury.

bob carnie
11-Nov-2014, 09:34
I am thinking that if this was really done, only one or two people would ever see my work.

I like the idea of an edition of 10 , with the ability to escalate the price as the image gains popularity.
This gives me hope that some day I will print out my entire body of work and as I age into the sunset I can see some income from the very thing that gives me most pleasure in life..

other than my wife and two dogs of course.


I had a prominent art dealer tell me once that I should do 1/1 editions and include the negative with the image, perhaps affixed to the back of the print in a negative sleeve.

I thought that was an interesting take on it...but I haven't done it!! I feel like editions make little sense when it's so easy to make more, without the purchaser even knowing to boot. I would think a savvy buyer would realize that too, but maybe not.

Daniel Stone
11-Nov-2014, 09:35
I mean, I'm not looking to have my photographs printed by Costco, then I cut some primo mats and mount it myself, and charge a kings ransom for it. But if market trends continue as they have for the past few years, the Toyota will probably hold more resale value over a longer period, compared to the depreciation value of that Rolls Royce, despite the astronomical difference in price points.

adelorenzo
11-Nov-2014, 09:50
I've got no skin in this game (don't sell prints) but it's an interesting discussion. I was reminded of this video I watched the other day.

The TL;DR is that he made four prints from a glass negative, then cut the negative in quarters and packaged them with the print. Worth the 15 minutes to watch IMHO as he talks about "exploring contemporary issues of consumerism and the issue of selling art." Plus he's an interesting guy and his prints are awesome.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vupLBLk8OHI&list=UUCjjZ-Qc43dF7xHBC92MAuA

BrianShaw
11-Nov-2014, 10:16
... But if market trends continue as they have for the past few years, the Toyota will probably hold more resale value over a longer period, compared to the depreciation value of that Rolls Royce, despite the astronomical difference in price points.

It depends on if it is a limited-edition Rolls or a regular Rolls. :o

Will Frostmill
11-Nov-2014, 11:52
If I understand correctly; as a young artist, Ansel Adams sold his handmade prints for quite a small sum, compared to his later/last years, where fame and vastly increased popularity had caught up with him and he was able to enjoy a nice reward financially. Prices ROSE because the demand was there. But the prices were still "reachable" to most people, and a good many folks have an Adams print in their home now, simply because of that lower initial pricepoint, and a seemingly "open edition" mindset. (please correct me if this is wrong)
It does seem an attractive model, doesn't it?



I'm not interested in making wallpaper art to sell at Ikea, but fine pieces that have the skill and attention to detail in them that a print might attempt to be sold for 4-5x as much in most galleries, in a "traditional" gallery setting that's selling to the middle/upper classes with more disposable income.
I'd take that Ikea job, if I could control the print quality, and get credit on the artwork. Have you seen some of the wall- sized posters they sell? Printed large, available to the mass market, and sold through a retail channel that I don't have to manage? Sounds good to me. Especially if it creates an audience for more expensive work later.

That, I think, is what Ansel had going for him: since he wrote those ubiquitous books, he created an audience that would want to see the "originals". Partly because of his 'story'. Never underestimate the power of narrative. Fine art tends to lack that quality, and the story of "there are only 10 of these" isn't very compelling of itself.

One story we could tell is this: "this is an inkjet print from 2011. I've changed my interpretation of that image, so I don't print it that way anymore. I only made five in 2011, so if you like this version, buy it before it's gone. I'll reprint in the fall of 2015, but it won't be the same."

This reflects the true nature of the ease of digital printing, and the real consequences of an artist's power over their work.

Vaughn
11-Nov-2014, 11:55
"Limiting myself"

I am (perhaps overly optimisticly) sure that I will be able to make new meaningful work without having to worry about living off the older work.

cowanw
11-Nov-2014, 13:52
I believe it was David Vestal who wrote about this and pointed out that non limited edition work usually consisted of 2 to 5 copies of a print and limited edition work might be limited to a certain number but that the actual number of prints produced was seldom the number suggested.
In addition the concept of limited edition now is limited to that size, that paper, that technique, and that interpretation re burning and dodging, i.e. meaningless in terms of limiting the actual number of prints of that negative.
It's just a marketing term to convince yuppies and collectors of the exclusivity of the purchase. Not unlike the exclusive luxury vacation that you just bought for Mexico; same as all the others on the plane.

Drew Wiley
11-Nov-2014, 13:54
Ha! Ikea, sure..... Given how cheap they sell those big framed and laminated prints, and how many have to sell to make a profit even at the mass production level, you'd be lucky if you got five bucks royalty per sale. Better off standing on some street corner with a cup and cardboard sign, "Starving. Will work for film" (at least gelatin is edible, if push comes to shove. You can lick off the antihalation backing first). Of course, you might not do any better at a high end gallery, after they'd sliced away sixty of seventy-five percent, you deduct the cost of framing and materials, the overhead of all the prints you had to mount that didn't sell,etc,
lucky if you don't have a net loss, or even a big loss. So what is the solution? In the poll, one option is to only sell to very wealthy people who can afford big sums. Well, if you have interacted with that kind of demographic, you will already know that the richer people are, the stingier they are, the more they haggle;
in other words, they would want to pay you less than Ikea would, then would want you to hand deliver it, hang it yourself, then will turn around and sue you if
you get any dust on their carpet. So maybe it's easiest just to hang yourself in advance.

arca andy
12-Nov-2014, 02:30
Ok Peter Lik is a guy that's not short of a bob() or two....how does he do it? Limited or open? If limited I bet he won't be destroying any negs soon!

gregmo
12-Nov-2014, 09:13
Ok Peter Lik is a guy that's not short of a bob() or two....how does he do it? Limited or open? If limited I bet he won't be destroying any negs soon!

Lik's editions are limited to 950. Pretty meaningless. He moved to digital years ago.

If you have the type of work that can sell in masses, don't over look the reproduction licensing segment. I do it thru a company that sells thru Walmart, Kmart, Sears, Overstock, Amazon, ex. It's a nice quarterly check & statement of what sells and continues to grow. It's a segment I would not be marketing to myself.

My direct marketing is localized to Wash DC with my buying demographic being age 40+ with $1M+ in assets. They only buy prints 40 inches & larger for themselves. Smaller stuff is bought as gifts for others.

In my opinion, living in a market that can support the work is key. Know who your buyers are so you can target market & not waste time.

Lenny Eiger
12-Nov-2014, 11:20
With respect to everyone.

I hate the whole concept of editions. I find it downright offensive. This past month we had a discussion of droit-de-suite. If one doesn't have droit-de-suite, which we all agree does not work, and you edition something to 5, then you allow collectors to make all the money on your efforts. By the time an image becomes known enough to be valuable, you will have none of it.

It isn't that I dislike collectors, or don't want to protect them in some way. I do. However, there is a much better way to do it... In the last century there was a practice of selling portfolios, which was a collection of 10-15 prints in a nice box. They were valued as a set. It might be that in the future a portfolio gained in value, or it might be that a single image, or 2 or 3, would gain in value. The collector could then realize their return on the investment. This way, no one loses.

As much as we don't have droit-de-suite, it is also true that most photographers, given the right conditions of lack of funds, might sell another print of an image that was editioned. In fact, an edition printed in 16x20 can be printed at 16x21 without breaking the contract.

I do see both perspectives. However, as an artist, I see no reason why a collector, a gallery, or a museum, would want to limit my ability to make an income - to feed my family, buy more film and do more work, or anything else relating to one's personal finances. Having stepped back and looked at this from a purely business perspective, I think any artist that would agree to this is nuts. I think to ask such a thing is inappropriate, rude and immoral.

I understand that there are types of art that are more ephemeral, performance art, for example. However, i am actually trying to make art that is worthwhile and lasting. People at a much later time will decide if I have succeeded at all, or whether they are interested. (Likely not.)

There are plenty of movies about 'indecent proposals' of one form or another. If someone tells me that they will give me some amount for my next years income, or worse, for my income in 10 years time, I will turn it down. I want to believe in possibility, I want to believe that things will get better as I hopefully figure out how to do life better. I do not want to be a slave in the future. This is what this creates, almost every time. It's a disgusting part of the industry that should be dismissed out of hand.

Just my opinion,

Lenny

Darin Boville
12-Nov-2014, 12:09
Editions benefit the gallery, not the photographer. If you are both, then fine. If you are selling prints for $40,000 each then, fine.

Otherwise, consider just dating your prints with the print date--and keeping track of how many there are, especially of the early ones. Collectors will mainly be interested in those earlier prints. They won't care if you start printing a bunch more ten years later--in fact it will make their print even more valuable. Your interests and those of the collector are aligned.

--Darin

Chuck S.
12-Nov-2014, 12:26
Didn't the whole limited edition thing really start with 'mechanical' artist prints - etchings, stone lithographs, gravure, etc. - where there is an actual physical limit to the number of good impressions possible before the stone or plate deteriorates? Seem to recall hearing that in freshman Art Appreciation....

Also, re. photo editions of one: years ago, heard of one guy who dry mounted the bare neg to the back of the mount board to give absolute assurance that no one - not even the buyer - could ever make another.

Drew Wiley
12-Nov-2014, 15:04
Lik's marketing strategy is showroom samples - not a gallery of what you are actually getting shipped - that is printed to size and mounted on demand. The original chrome is meaningless, since these images are so drastically altered in PS that they might have well been done in Hollywood. Editioning is also meaninless, since the whole marketing strategy involves only one key ingredient: suckers. But editioning per se is really geared to something which can be mass produced. It it is a genuine lithograph, the stone or plate simply wears out at a certain point, same for a set of dye transfer matrices. I find the whole concept idiotic when it comes
to anything printed by hand. Peter Lik, Ikea = the same thing. One is hyper-expensive, the other hyper-cheap. Aesthetically, Ikea is better, so go figure.

Lenny Eiger
12-Nov-2014, 15:08
Didn't the whole limited edition thing really start with 'mechanical' artist prints - etchings, stone lithographs, gravure, etc. - where there is an actual physical limit to the number of good impressions possible before the stone or plate deteriorates? Seem to recall hearing that in freshman Art Appreciation....

Also, re. photo editions of one: years ago, heard of one guy who dry mounted the bare neg to the back of the mount board to give absolute assurance that no one - not even the buyer - could ever make another.

I think there is a difference with prints from any type of press.... one can make 5000 impressions and that might lower the value a bit. I think most artists would find a happy medium between them and their collectors.

As to the single print edition with the neg on the back, that is also a fallacy. Anyone can take a picture of a print and make another, or in today's world, just scan it, or scan the image before cutting it up into pieces and including it in an envelope on the back. There is really no way to protect against duplication. Just ask Sherrie Levine.

Lenny

Randy Moe
12-Nov-2014, 15:10
ha! Ikea, sure..... Given how cheap they sell those big framed and laminated prints, and how many have to sell to make a profit even at the mass production level, you'd be lucky if you got five bucks royalty per sale. Better off standing on some street corner with a cup and cardboard sign, "starving. Will work for film" (at least gelatin is edible, if push comes to shove. You can lick off the antihalation backing first). Of course, you might not do any better at a high end gallery, after they'd sliced away sixty of seventy-five percent, you deduct the cost of framing and materials, the overhead of all the prints you had to mount that didn't sell,etc,
lucky if you don't have a net loss, or even a big loss. So what is the solution? In the poll, one option is to only sell to very wealthy people who can afford big sums. Well, if you have interacted with that kind of demographic, you will already know that the richer people are, the stingier they are, the more they haggle;
in other words, they would want to pay you less than ikea would, then would want you to hand deliver it, hang it yourself, then will turn around and sue you if
you get any dust on their carpet. So maybe it's easiest just to hang yourself in advance.

lol +1

Drew Wiley
12-Nov-2014, 16:34
A duplicate is not an original print, so someone taking a picture of your print then reproducing it themselves is categorically not reproducing that print itself, but
merely a generic image. No different than someone sitting in a movie theater pirating it with some little video camera propped up on a chair seat. Any fool can
detect it's a fake. I realize that a lot of today's digi images are so poor in the first place that it is difficult to tell what is what. Some people are even making prints of web screen images like Google Earth then framing them, and yeah, some pathetic curator out there is going to display that kind of nonsense. So what. Most of us are not in that kind of category to begin with, and anything pirated will stand out like a sore thumb. And I doubt that even really good inkjet prints can be duplicated at will just anytime whenever at ideal quality, in unlimited quantities. If I wanted to make posters, that what I'd offer, not real prints.

Will Frostmill
12-Nov-2014, 17:28
Otherwise, consider just dating your prints with the print date--and keeping track of how many there are, especially of the early ones. Collectors will mainly be interested in those earlier prints. They won't care if you start printing a bunch more ten years later--in fact it will make their print even more valuable. Your interests and those of the collector are aligned.

THIS. A thousand times, this. Collectors care about provenance, about historical context, about "stamp collecting" (e.g. it's an early one!). Getting your interests and theirs aligned is the thing.

Shen45
12-Nov-2014, 17:49
Changed my mind. Will have another coffee and consider the topic.

Jeff Dexheimer
13-Nov-2014, 05:50
Once again, I am about to go against the grain. I edition my wet prints to 10. I decided that while working on a series of photographs that became my first show. After making 5 prints of the same negative I found myself bored of the negative and not wanting to print it further. I decided to double that number and arrived at 10. I don't know if this practice will continue into the future, but at least for now, the 12 wet prints I have on display are limited. If they start selling like mad, I will simply raise the price future sales.

I also sell inkjet prints. They are all open edition. So I end up adopting both methods.

BrianShaw
13-Nov-2014, 07:41
Working both ends of the market, Jeff. Great way to do business!

Toyon
13-Nov-2014, 08:23
I agree with DrTang. Editions in lithography or etching make sense, since the plates degrade each time they are used. Editions in photogaphy is a gallery-driven marketing gimmick. Anyone that uses the technique is kind of an photography sell-out in my opinion.

Daniel Stone
13-Nov-2014, 08:24
Once again, I am about to go against the grain. I edition my wet prints to 10. I decided that while working on a series of photographs that became my first show. After making 5 prints of the same negative I found myself bored of the negative and not wanting to print it further. I decided to double that number and arrived at 10. I don't know if this practice will continue into the future, but at least for now, the 12 wet prints I have on display are limited. If they start selling like mad, I will simply raise the price future sales.

I also sell inkjet prints. They are all open edition. So I end up adopting both methods.

Well that's an interesting approach, Jeff. Thank you for sharing your experience!

I have to be in the "right" mood for making good prints in the darkroom. I've found that for me, if I like a print and know that I would like to sell it one day, I will spend the extra time to make a few extra, identical copies for storage until that time comes. The original master print, with printing notations, will get filed, and the spare prints will get stored into another, separate archival box. I leave them untrimmed, but ready to go, when that day comes that they get a new home. Fully toned, maybe just a light spotting required(in case of b/w fiber prints) to minimize the chances of smearing during storage. For anything larger, down the line, this could become a storage issue space-wise, but in a few years, I hope to be in a space that's more accommodating to a workflow, the way I want to have it going forward and allowing for more print storage space that doesn't involve storing in a place that's not under my control(aka a climate controlled storage unit, currently).

-Dan

bob carnie
13-Nov-2014, 08:39
I edition in 10 silver gelatin and 7 in tri color on pd.

I make one or two and live with them and try to sell them.. I work with a lot of source images so some are more popular than others.

When I have time and inclination and feel that the print is as good a I can make it, then I print out the edition.. I do not destroy the negative ..

neil poulsen
13-Nov-2014, 08:59
It depends on if it is a limited-edition Rolls or a regular Rolls. :o

:D

neil poulsen
13-Nov-2014, 10:02
I can see why galleries might like the idea of editions. It's an encouragement they can ply to their customers. But as I understand it, the era of the galleries is fading. There are too many other venues of display.

I remember reading in Ansel Adams autobiography that he experimented with editions by scraping a small "x" in a corner of each negative in of one of his portfolios. (OUCH!) But, it sounds like he discarded the idea. I'm probably not familiar with all the details, but I recall that he announced he would retire from print making (except for museums, etc.) at such and such a date. But up to that date, he would take orders for any print at $900 each and (eventually) fulfill all orders. So, no limits on the number of prints. I think this occurred in the mid-seventies. I thought about ordering a Moonrise, but for a graduate student at the time, $900 was a lot of money.

I'm in the "enrich the lives of others" camp. But, one needs to meet financial needs. The marketing strategy that I find most appealing is to begin each print at such and such a price, and then to increase the price as the image sells in greater numbers. This encourages people to purchase interesting prints early. It also does a better job of getting prints out there to be seen, which in turn helps prints become better known. So, no limits on production, but prints with true artistic merit bring improved financial benefits to the photographer.

Drew Wiley
13-Nov-2014, 12:33
There is a minor debate about just exactly how many "Moonrise" prints were made, but it was ballpark around 350 of them - hardly a "limited" number. But since
only less than a dozen very well-known images were the real money-makers of his entire career, and then only quite late in life, it's understandable that so many were printed. Of course, it's largely savvy dealers and heirs that made the big bucks, as usual. And sometimes the less iconic earlier version, prior to the neg being enhanced, seem to be the most coveted. A few years before he died, you could pick up a spectacular classic "Moonrise" from a retail gallery for 16K. Then immediately after his death the auctions went briefly nuts, with a couple Moonrise going for around 45K. Word of this got out, and naturally a lot of prints came out of the woodwork, and the prices dropped right back down to 16K. In the meantime, scarcity has developed again, and prints are going well into six figures. It's all supply and demand. I wonder what kind of tug of war will ensue when two bums are digging thru a dumpster at the same time right after I croak,
and find a big pile of prints. Might be better tasting than the average pizza crust around here!

Daniel Stone
13-Nov-2014, 12:57
Drew,
You can always leave me in your will, if you have no one interested in your family interested in your work :)

-Dan

Drew Wiley
13-Nov-2014, 13:52
I'll probably just set aside a bit of spare change in my will to make sure the matboard is sprinkled with bit of cheese and pepperoni before it goes to the dumpster.

Daniel Stone
13-Nov-2014, 14:59
Drew,

I tried sending you a PM right now, but your inbox is full.

-Dan

Drew Wiley
13-Nov-2014, 16:16
Hmmm... I'll try emptying it again...

paulr
14-Nov-2014, 13:34
I didn't vote in the pole because it seems kind of beside the point. I don't think I have much agency in that decision anyhow. Work tends to find its market.

I have a bit of an experiment going on right now ... a body of work that I'm selling in a couple of small sizes in open editions, for cheap (to raise funds for a book) and a couple of large sizes in editions of ten, for not cheap.

I've sold several large, not cheap prints (40x60", $2000+) and a grand total of one small open-editioned print (8x10, $75).

People who bought bought the large prints have said the small edition size made a difference to them. Since I've never once sold ten copies of a single image, I doubt it will make much difference to me.

dsphotog
14-Nov-2014, 22:44
It would be great to be in such high demand, that one could increase prices by manipulating (limiting) supply.

Paul Ewins
15-Nov-2014, 04:35
I've just finished a four year (part time) diploma course - last assignment submitted today, graduate show next week - and I majored in Art and editioning was explained as expected practice in the local (Australia) fine art world. One photographer who talked to us found by trial and error that her best result came with editions of eight prints (plus two artist proofs for shows) with each print selling through galleries at $4000. The editions usually sold out. Another one who was getting towards the end of his commercial career and was transitioning towards fine art print sales for semi-retirement. He was selling through local art shows with editions of ten that started lower but rose in price as the edition sold out. In both cases there was just one size for the print, no chance of a second edition at a different size since it was felt that this would destroy their credibility.

For my graduation show I decided that since the likely demand was very low (they are conceptual portraits that take a few minutes to explain) I might as well price them high and have an edition of just three (plus two artist proofs). If they sold out I'd be amazed but I doubt that lowering the price would do much to increase demand. They are the sort of thing that has to be printed reasonably large to work properly, so there is no point in knocking out cheap 8x10s for the masses even if I viewed them as loss-leaders or advertising. So the limited edition gives me a reason for printing at the size I think works and pricing them accordingly.

Don't worry about whatever profits collectors are making from your work, it just helps to justify raising your prices for the next work you make.

gregmo
15-Nov-2014, 05:57
Paul, congrats on the degree.
For the woman you referenced at $4k and editions of eight. After the gallery cut, she's only making about $16k per image and then its closed. Not much in the course of a lifetime for each image. Hope she has created additional revenue streams with the images.
Why worry about the collectors. Just focus on putting together a success career.

Jim Jones
15-Nov-2014, 07:28
Paul, congrats on the degree.
For the woman you referenced at $4k and editions of eight. After the gallery cut, she's only making about $16k per image and then its closed. Not much in the course of a lifetime for each image. Hope she has created additional revenue streams with the images.
Why worry about the collectors. Just focus on putting together a success career.

$16k per image? If she succeeds in making only one fine image each month, that's a good income for someone doing so little for so few. Perhaps not one of my farming neighbors who work every day of the year to provide the rest of us with some of the necessities of life make nearly that much.

jp
15-Nov-2014, 16:15
http://www.johnpaulcaponigro.com/store/prints/

is an interesting variation... "Print prices start at $2000 and escalate 25% each print. This open edition escalates rapidly."

Still despite these prices and popularity, he's super busy doing workshops.

Paul Ewins
15-Nov-2014, 17:25
Her usual working method is to come up with a concept, refine the idea meticulously, work out the logistics and then shoot a whole folio in the space of month or two. This becomes a solo show which she spends the next eighteen months promoting before starting the process again. $16k per image isn't a huge amount, but when you eventually sell out a show of 12 - 20 images the equation looks a bit better. There are probably a lot of expenses involved as well so it probably isn't quite as rosy as it looks but the key to it is to keep working. The other bit of advice we were given again and again was to hold on to the artist proofs just in case our careers do take off, in which case they become a little retirement nest egg.

Like I said, it's probably all a bit academic in my case, I don't expect to sell out an edition of three, let alone ten, so it is easy to play the game. For others in my class who were producing very saleable work it was a huge issue working out price and edition size.

Lenny Eiger
16-Nov-2014, 09:58
$16k per image? If she succeeds in making only one fine image each month, that's a good income for someone doing so little for so few. Perhaps not one of my farming neighbors who work every day of the year to provide the rest of us with some of the necessities of life make nearly that much.

I certainly don't make one sale-able image per month. It would be nice....

Lenny

paulr
16-Nov-2014, 11:05
It would be great to be in such high demand, that one could increase prices by manipulating (limiting) supply.

It would seem to be about this at first glance, but you're describing more of a commodity model. What many artists encounter (myself included) is buyers who want some assurance that their print's value won't be diluted by the possibility of unlimited multiples. It's peace of mind, and makes them more comfortable with the purchase.

I promise there won't be more than ten prints of an image. The unmentioned possibility is that there won't be more than one, because no one else wants one! But in the event that 20 people want one, the result will be increasing value for the buyers.

Jim Jones
16-Nov-2014, 14:15
I certainly don't make one sale-able image per month. It would be nice....

Lenny

I manage by selling in a market that appreciates what I can do and the prices I ask, and leave the carriage trade to others. Someone ought to do this for the average person just as someone else should do it for the rich.

Lenny Eiger
16-Nov-2014, 17:14
I manage by selling in a market that appreciates what I can do and the prices I ask, and leave the carriage trade to others. Someone ought to do this for the average person just as someone else should do it for the rich.

I must admit that after all this time of trying the other, I am coming around to this point of view as well...

Lenny

mikew
17-Nov-2014, 21:13
Interesting discussion everyone. My two cents:

Editions are really just a mechanism of branding. It doesn't matter what the edition/sale relationship is if the marketing and branding plan is right for the artist.

The poll doesn't take into a consideration who your clients are, who the gallery is, what and who that gallery has access too, your relationship to that gallery, your future opportunity with that gallery, etc. Selling your work "low" with a bluechip gallery as part of a larger business plan intended to build your market presence is different than simply selling low.

Drew Wiley
18-Nov-2014, 09:45
Graduated price scales might make sense for some individuals, but most of the time this just seems to be another website gimmick to make it seem like an image in demand or particularly valuable, when it might not be selling at all in any appreciable quantity. Other than inheriting a well-known last name, I don't know why
anything by JPC would particularly stand out from the usual crowd of Fauxtoshopped nonsense.