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Thread: Are Your Best B&W Inkjets Worth More Than Your Best B&W Wet Prints?

  1. #1
    tgtaylor's Avatar
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    Are Your Best B&W Inkjets Worth More Than Your Best B&W Wet Prints?

    Another thread in this column as if your best inkjets surpass your best wet prints. But what about their perceived value?

    A number of members on the forum, probably the majority, print digitally while a number print in the traditional darkroom. And, of course, there are a few that print using both mediums. The digital printers say that it takes them years to learn the software and the darkroom artists say that it takes years of darkroom work to become a proficient printer.

    Me? Well I do have an ancient scanner (except for a P&S I shoot film exclusively), an equally ancient version of Photoshop (CS-3), and to match the preceding equipment an ancient inkjet (Epson 2200). While I confess to not having used my digital equipment very much and have made very little attempt to "learn" the software, the few digital prints that I have made were successful in that they came out looking pretty much like the slide they were made from. I posted both on this forum back then. So I print in the so-called darkroom (which is actually quite bright with a Thomas safelight) and if I ever sold any of my work I would have to say that I would charge more for the darkroom print than the inkjet for the following 2 reasons:

    1. Each darkroom print is individually made by the artists who necessarily starts from a blank sheet of paper and personally brings it through the various steps employed to the final image. It's more "hand-crafted" than the inkjet.

    2. The darkroom print, especially some of the so-called "alternative" photographic syntaxes, is much more labor intensive than the inkjet print and I for one would place a value on that labor.

    There's also some precedent for my decision to charge more for a "real" darkroom print. You can, for example, still purchase a genuine Ansel Adams print for $20K or so from the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite but the cost for the inkjet reproduction of the same print will only cost you a few hundred dollars. And, of course, the artists working in oils, water colors, charcoal and the like charge far more for their prints than for the machine made reproduction.

    What about you? What value would you place on your respective prints?

    Thomas

  2. #2

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    Re: Are Your Best B&W Inkjets Worth More Than Your Best B&W Wet Prints?

    No. If I were printing with inkjet for my color work and in the darkroom for b+w, I'd charge the same amount. I was once told that photographers should price their work based on experience.
    If I saw a print I loved and it was offered as an inkjet (identical prints) or wet print for the same price, I'd buy the wet print. I think anyone would. What happens if the prints get wet at some point? The whole 200yr ink rating seems a bit phoney. Read the fine print. Do your own tests.

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    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Re: Are Your Best B&W Inkjets Worth More Than Your Best B&W Wet Prints?

    I charge more for silver prints because some collectors "perceive" that they are worth more because they think they are more archival and I honor their perception with a higher price. Its all a game of perception, nothing more, nothing less. My "originals" are what I deem is an original whether it is ink or silver. On many images my "better" print is my ink prints, but I will make you a silver print if you insist and charge you more for it.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 67
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

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    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Are Your Best B&W Inkjets Worth More Than Your Best B&W Wet Prints?

    In terms of "perceived" value, Kirk, silver prints have a relatively long track record. We already know a lot about their strengths and weaknesses in terms of permanence. Inkjet hasn't even finished a fifty meter dash yet. It all extrapolation, educated guesses. But people collect and pay big sums of money for all kinds of fugitive non-archival things anyway, like comic books. But if permanence is a consideration, it would be nice to know more.

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    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Re: Are Your Best B&W Inkjets Worth More Than Your Best B&W Wet Prints?

    Because something lasts longer doesn't necessarily mean it is worth more. A lot of very valuable art that is not archival yet sells for tons of money. Value is totally perception-nothing more or less. Yes we know about old style silver prints but what do we know about optical brighteners in contemporary silver prints or what chemicals are used in the making of the paper base? Do you know of a single paper manufacturer that talks about the properties of the paper support in silver gelatin paper besides paper color? Why do you think this is?
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 67
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  6. #6
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Are Your Best B&W Inkjets Worth More Than Your Best B&W Wet Prints?

    There are two problems, Kirk. One is that so much of this is in fact sold under BS claims. It's almost routine in "sucker" galleries for someone to walk up and tell you this or that kind of print won't fade for two hundred or five hundred years. That of course is a species of fraud; but it seems to work with a certain "investment" crowd. But otherwise, wise collectors will indeed be concerned about the character of the paper and dyes or ink etc, if for no other reason to understand how to best protect them. Maybe somebody will spend a hundred grand or more on some Picasso collage clipped out of newsprint and ordinary cardboard. It will have already faded and discolored appreciably. But that's the kind of thing where someone will spend another twenty grand on the damn thing to try to preserve it. Leonardo's Last Supper is a classic example of experimental technique which proved to be quite "non-archival", and millions of bucks have been spent trying to restore that. Nobody is going to do that with a photograph. Best to know up front, or else just take your chances. We might or might not live long enough to see
    some of the answers. But if my past experience with the claims of accelerated aging test is an indicator, whether speaking of dyes of even true pigments, I'll
    take this stuff with a grain of salt until sheer history proves otherwise.

  7. #7
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Re: Are Your Best B&W Inkjets Worth More Than Your Best B&W Wet Prints?

    I repeat value is just a perception. I once paid $1000 for a meal at Charlie Trotter's and that was a deal because my wife is a professional chef. To me it was worth every single penny. It had no lasting value except my memories and what I learned about extraordinary cuisine and what can be accomplished with craft and vision. One of the truly great experiences of my life.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 67
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  8. #8
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Re: Are Your Best B&W Inkjets Worth More Than Your Best B&W Wet Prints?

    For comparable prints, I charge more for silver prints, for the simple reasons that I made them in very small editions, and because there won't be any more of them (the papers I used for those projects don't exist anymore).

    But not all prints are comparable. My two most recent projects have been much larger prints (ink). Because of all the added work and expenses, including having the final printing done by someone else, I charge more for these.

    So the most I've ever been paid for prints (by a factor of over 2) has been for ink prints.

  9. #9
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Are Your Best B&W Inkjets Worth More Than Your Best B&W Wet Prints?

    People paid $5000 dollar scalper tickets to see Paul McCartney last week, plus several hundred dollars for someone to drive them thru the traffic mess. The old recordings sound better. His voice was better. Just a silly example, but people can spend money on anything they please. But why do so-so oil paintings by known names often sell for drastically more than really superb watercolors by the same painter? It's a matter of relative permanence and sheer durability (or as you
    say, the perception of it, whether correct or not). Paper is pretty fragile stuff. It gets stained, it gets mildew, it get acid discoloration on the wrong backing. And
    you can't clean it without ruining the watercolor pigments. But it actually takes a lot more skill to produce a great watercolor, cause you can't post-correct it.
    And anyone serious about collecting watercolors should know the basics of how to take care of them. No difference with photographic prints. None of them are
    exactly permanent, unless it's an image laser-etched on ceramic or granite, which is of course feasible.

  10. #10

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    Re: Are Your Best B&W Inkjets Worth More Than Your Best B&W Wet Prints?

    I don't see inkjet vs wet print really entering into the price issue to any great degree. Nor does "how much time it took me to do this" sorts of things. Almost all of the price boils down to rarity and reputation (or expectations of reputation). All tempered by overall market conditions and prices. That's it, nothing more.

    Oh, except the part about love. Some people just fall in love with certain art works. There's always that.

    --Darin

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