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Thread: Honest photographs?

  1. #1
    Scott Schroeder's Avatar
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    Honest photographs?

    After reading the Legacy thread by John K in the Lounge, it rekindled some thoughts I posed to some other photographers weeks ago. I would be interested in hearing what everyone here might have to say. The main question is: why donít photographers just sell their images as one off? Like an original painting, drawing, flute, guitar, motorcycle, etc.
    Obviously, many photographers make a living or supplement their income through their photographs. For the purposes of this question, letís leave money out of the equation.
    I realize it costs time, money, materials, etc. to make photographs, but IF the intention of the photographer is to make art and enjoy the process, the main goal usually isnít to derive income.
    I think far too often, if someone becomes Ďseriousí about a particular hobby or activity, they believe they must make funds for their efforts. So if you are really in it to enjoy the ride and the results, why not just make a print at the size you think fits it best and with the best presentation for that particular image then move on to the next one? Give it away, sell it or hang it on your wall.
    The best answer Iíve heard is to share your work with others and I completely agree with that. I think making a handful to share with other people sounds reasonable, but introducing the whole marketing dynamic of limited editions and pricing structures seems to dilute the initial intention.
    Dare I say, it might actually make for more honest interpretations of your given subject in photography. Without the external pressures to create popular, sellable pieces, the results might be more personal. This leads into the whole legacy thing and after a photographer passes. If they are more personal, they might be more treasured by those who knew the photographer.
    Comments?

  2. #2

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    Re: Honest photographs?

    Given the reproducability of photographs, it would be a shame to make only one. I've often thought about how hard it must be for a painter to part with a painting they really love. If I were a painter, I don't think I could do it-- I'd have a whole studio full of my favorite paintings, all not for sale! I print my photos in editions of nine, but #1 of each edition is mine, not for sale.

    ~cj

  3. #3

    Re: Honest photographs?

    Now that I'm doing wet plate collodion work - primarily ambrotypes and alumitypes - I've begun to deal with this issue. These pieces are one-of-a-kind and selling the first two was kind of tough. They were both 11x14's and a couple of the first really nice ones I made that size. It's gotten easier to let them go now. I also scan them so I can always make digital prints or digital negs and platinum prints later on. At least the image isn't gone forever, but there's nothing quite like an original ambrotype... try running a piece of glass through your Epson printer!
    Kerik Kouklis
    www.kerik.com
    Platinum/Gum/Collodion

  4. #4
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Re: Honest photographs?

    One of the innate qualities of photography is reproduceability. At least for most photographic processes. It's just like other printmaking media in that regard. Why not take advantage of its nature? No one says you have to make more than one, but it doesn't make sense to suggest there's anything disingenuous about multiples.

  5. #5

    Re: Honest photographs?

    I've been taking photographs for about 45 years, and during that time have probably sold fewer than twenty total. I have been involved with technical/scientific photography in my day jobs and really enjoy subjects outdoors for which I use only black and white film. I do my own developing, printing, mounting, framing and then either give as a gift or donate the photograph, usually to some benefit auction. I have my photographs in my home which my wife places for our enjoyment. I have friends over the years that slowly went from a hobby to trying to make a living from photography as well as other persuits. In most cases, the love of being out there and taking a few photos all the while enjoying the process was lost. Suddenly; time, cost of everything, schedules, and possible benefit became the driving force for tripping the shutter. They often felt limited or restrained unless they were using the latest camera gear and associated equipment. I think for many the lure of being paid to do what one initially simply enjoys brings disappointment. I have given away a great many photographs for enjoyment for both me and the reciepient. For those that have purchased them at auction, the benefit was then to both the buyer and seller. I don't suppose I will ever truly know if my work is more appreciated when received as a gift or as the result of the highest bid. I do know for sure, the pleasure has been mine and I can't wait to get the camera out for the next photo.

  6. #6

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    Re: Honest photographs?

    I'd guess it has to do with what it is you want to accomplish.

    Nearly all successful fine art photographers these days print limited editions. Gallery owners I talked to aren't interested in anything but limited editions. and niether apparently are buyers/investors.

    My objective is to print images that make me feel good and it stands to reason that I'd like to share those images if they give to others like enjoyment, so the more the merrier for me. Ironically I'm not a good enough printer to make identical hand made prints---each print is, in some small way unique--- not that I'm a sloppy printer but each print just begs to be 'tweaked' to give it individuality(not too much individuality being possible with contact prints, which is all I seem to do these days.) I look at it as a good thing since it identifies my prints as uniquely hand made products subject to my own caprices at the time.

    Its an interesting issue to think about. Thanks!
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  7. #7
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
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    Re: Honest photographs?

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Schroeder
    The main question is: why donít photographers just sell their images as one off? Like an original painting, drawing, flute, guitar, motorcycle, etc.
    Well, flutes, guitars, and motorcycles are typically made on assembly lines, and even when made by hand (a dubious undertaking) they are typically copies off a template - Strads were made off a handful of templates for example.

    But the reason to make more than one print is simply to be true to the medium. Part of what makes photography unique is the very fact that you can make multiple prints. To deny that is to deny an essential part of what makes photography photography.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Schroeder
    ...IF the intention of the photographer is to make art and enjoy the process, the main goal usually isnít to derive income.
    What makes you say that? I don't see why making art and enjoying the processes is mutually exclusive with deriving an income. Making art for money has a history thousands of years old.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Schroeder
    Dare I say, it might actually make for more honest interpretations of your given subject in photography. Without the external pressures to create popular, sellable pieces, the results might be more personal.
    Making just a single print couldn't possibly make my prints any more personal. My prints are me.

    I think that possibly you are on an interesting track, but it's not about the number of prints. It's about what it takes to make a living at photography.

    I've determined that what it takes to make a living at photography is simple. I can't do it, but that doesn't make it complicated. It comes down to this. To make a living at fine-art photography, you have to love selling your work more than you love creating it. If you don't love selling it, you aren't going to sell much of it, that's for sure.

    Bruce Watson

  8. #8
    Scott Schroeder's Avatar
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    Re: Honest photographs?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Watson
    Well, flutes, guitars, and motorcycles are typically made on assembly lines, and even when made by hand (a dubious undertaking) they are typically copies off a template - Strads were made off a handful of templates for example..
    Yea, I guess I was referring only to hand made 'singles'

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Watson
    But the reason to make more than one print is simply to be true to the medium. Part of what makes photography unique is the very fact that you can make multiple prints. To deny that is to deny an essential part of what makes photography photography.
    Paul mentioned that above and really wasn't something I'd thought about. Thanks for bringing it up.


    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Watson
    What makes you say that? I don't see why making art and enjoying the processes is mutually exclusive with deriving an income. Making art for money has a history thousands of years old.


    Making just a single print couldn't possibly make my prints any more personal. My prints are me.
    I think I switched gears midway in my original posting I guess I see the 'possible' trap of needing to sell you work as making things less personal or honest. Of course your prints are you, but I guess I was deriving from blindly making prints to meet marketing measures.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Watson
    I think that possibly you are on an interesting track, but it's not about the number of prints. It's about what it takes to make a living at photography.

    I've determined that what it takes to make a living at photography is simple. I can't do it, but that doesn't make it complicated. It comes down to this. To make a living at fine-art photography, you have to love selling your work more than you love creating it. If you don't love selling it, you aren't going to sell much of it, that's for sure.
    Excellent point.
    I guess I was meandering into an area of wondering how selling one's work affects how personal their images are. Again, this is for people who don't make a living from their photography but do so to create art. I suppose 'one off' was a way to just make it less of a possibility for those influences to affect honest work.
    By the way, I'm not chucking stuff out there, I see how all this has affected me over the years. So I guess a better question is how selling one's work affects creating what one truly feels connected with and producing how 'they' like it, not others.?
    now my head is spinning
    Hopefully something was clear in there.

  9. #9

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    Re: Honest photographs?

    This may open your eyes to the concept of editions or not and how similar prints in an edition need to be.

    Extract form Michael Kenna Interview follows:

    "BJ: You print in editions of 45 plus 4 artist proofs. Making 45 duplicates that are the same is often a serious challenge in the darkroom.

    MK: (Laughing). Well, first of all, I donít make all 45 at once. I usually start with 10 or 15. An edition of 45 is my limit. There are many images that are sold out, but the greater percentage never get that far.

    BJ: Do you find that near the end of the edition itís a challenge to make them exactly the same as the beginning, or do you allow yourself to change how you interrupt a negative as the edition progresses?

    MK: I allow myself complete artistic license. (Laughing). There is no reason I would get the print from, say 1981 and produce it exactly the same. I use it as a reference point, but if I feel thereís a different interpretation that will improve the print I will certainly do that. So, if someone has print #45 there is no guarantee that itís going to be the same as #1."

  10. #10

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    Re: Honest photographs?

    "try running a piece of glass through your Epson printer!"

    My son did that once. It wasn't pretty.
    Michael W. Graves
    Michael's Pub

    If it ain't broke....don't fix it!

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