View Full Version : Signing Limited Editions

Alan Davenport
12-Nov-2003, 15:36
I'd like to know if there is a consensus on how, and where, to sign limited edition photographic prints? It seems to me that there are a number of ways to go about it. Should it be signed on the actual print, if so should I plan on a white border that is visible when matted? Or sign right on the picture? What to use if signing on photo paper: pencil, felt marker, ??? Sign and number it somewhere on the mat? What have you folks with experience in this settled on? Thanks!

Michael A.Smith
12-Nov-2003, 15:56
Sign in pencil. Printmakers sign on the paper under the print. You could also sign on the back. Do not ever sign ON the print.

QT Luong
12-Nov-2003, 16:02
Personally, I've never seen a signature in the image area by anyone serious. This leaves you with the choice of a white border, the mat, and the back of the picture. If the print is offered matted, pencil on the mat would have my preference, and you could double-sign it in the back, should the client decide to rematte the print. Otherwise, I sign with a very fine marker in a white border. This way the client can choose to mat the print with or without the signature.

Bruce Watson
12-Nov-2003, 16:17

For chemical prints, I dry mount them on 4 ply museum board. The overmat leaves about one and a half cm border around the image. I sign on the mount board under the image (lower right corner) so that the signature is visible with the overmat in place. In pencil (carbon).

For inkjet prints, I leave at least a two cm boarder around the print, with 4-5 cm at the top. I use archival linen hinge tape to tape the print to a mount board. Again, the overmat leaves about a one and a half cm border showing around the image. I sign, in pencil, on the print boarder (lower right corner) so that the signature is visible with the overmat in place.

Signing in the image area seems to be a no-no for photographers, while it is standard procedure with painters. "It's tradition" or some other cliche comes to mind ;-)

Frank Petronio
12-Nov-2003, 20:00
Mark Klett signs on the print area. And his prints sell for more than Michaels (no offense.)

tim atherton
12-Nov-2003, 20:57
"I'd like to know if there is a consensus on how, and where, to sign limited edition photographic prints?"

Now have I got this right? I understand the consensus on this list to be that our photogrpahic prints can be regarded as unique handmade individual works (pieces of art if you will). Witness the upset caused when someone suggested that photographs - even "hand made" ones are "mechanical reproductions" (in the general sense that Walter Benjamin meant it in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction - you can make 200 or 2000 prints from the same original negative - even if each one is painstakingly hand crafted it is still a copy).

Yet almost all photogrpahic artists seem to issue their work in numbered series of prints - like a print maker from a printing shop.

Why is this so? Do we want to have our cake and eat it as well? Are our photogrpahic prints well, sort of unique, but not really, not quite? Not as unique as say a drawing or a painting - they are, after all, all copies, reproductions from the same unique negative.

Or have we just basically given in the art and art marketing establishment who believe the above? When in fact we believe that what makes a photograph unique is the craft/hand made nature of each azo cotnact print or platinum print or carefully crafted enlargement - each print individually dodged and burned, bleached and toned. Editions would seem to give the lie to this? So why do we do it?

I've always been in two minds about it. I'm happy to let each print stand when I sell it and not try and artificially enhance it's "uniqueness" by giving it a number in a series. Yet the galleries want numbered (and most of ones contemporaries) editions because that's how you sell photographs and how the market works. But is it a cop out? Just giving in to market pressure?

12-Nov-2003, 21:41
alan -

i sign the back of the print, if it is matted/framed / at a gallery, after it is matted, i sign the mat. only in pencil, nothing else.

do people that number their prints actually destroy the negative after #50 out of 50 ( or whatever) is printed? some of the prints i make are individual / singular images, and the "negative" doesn't exist soon after i make the print, so i don't bother with the numbering thing.

Angelo Micheletti
12-Nov-2003, 22:42
I see several comments that "no one who is serious signs a print" but my experience is that's not true. I own beautiful prints from both Alain Briot and Jim Stamates and they both sign their prints with archival pens.

Martin Reekie
13-Nov-2003, 01:36
Consensus? Unlikely!

Look at what you are trying to achieve. Some form of marking that proves, beyond all doubt and for all time that the print is by you. In marking the print, not doing so in such a way that there is any compromise in the archival quality or the aesthetic value of the piece. Finally, marking the artwork in such a way that any change in the presentation or repair in future years doesnít remove the information.

Some well known photographers sign on the print, bottom right corner in pencil. Edward and Brett Weston for example. Edward just did his initials. Advantage is that the information is on the print, disadvantage might be damage to the print surface.

Others I know dry mount and sign on the back of the board. Advantage is that the print has the best possible chance of survival by being mounted on board. In addition the signature isnít next to the image so doesnít distract you. The disadvantage is that if the print is removed from the mount the information is lost. I sign my work this way along with the title of the photograph.

A compromise could be to sign on the front of the mount and then the mat could be oversized for those that like to see a signature and smaller if you donít.

What you use to mark the print is another issue but I wouldnít consider anything other than a soft pencil. This minimises the damage to the material and is relatively inert. I canít see any ink based material being so stable.

As to limiting the edition, I think thatís a little bit of marketing rather than anything to do with the process. If you print your own work, which I do, the prints are limited to the amount of time Iím prepared to spend in the darkroom, how popular the image is and how long I stay on this planet Ė I think thatís limiting enough!

Ole Tjugen
13-Nov-2003, 11:13
Printmakers sign on the paper, outside the image area. Painters sign inside the image area. I don't know of anyone other than photographers who will sign on the rear, nor can I see any reason for it. I'll sign on the front, below the image, just as anyone else who's made a print. The exception is if I have no margin, then I'd sign on the image itself. If anyone objects, that's their problem, not mine. It doesn't worry me at all.

13-Nov-2003, 16:43
It's taken me several years to gather the equipment that goes with this passion. And I'm almost there. To date I've mounted and matted one print! I signed in pencil on the mat under the print on the right side. (If I stop here, that print should be worth a lot!) LOL! I made that one just to test my skills and knowledge. I think that It looks proper signed in that way.