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Thread: Editioning

  1. #1
    Pieter's Avatar
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    Editioning

    I have a question for those of you who make editions of your prints. Do you print the entire edition at once. or just one or a few at a time? I guess it might depend on the number of prints in the edition and the complexity of the printing process. For an edition of 5 or 10 prints, it might make sense to make them all at once while the darkroom techniques used are still fresh in your mind (despite notes, I don't describe all the minutiae that might got into making some prints).

  2. #2

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    Re: Editioning

    I don't do limited editions, but I do number my prints. I reserve the first few for "artist's proofs" and start my numbering after that. Each print of a size run gets numbered in sequence. In the rare event that one of my images would sell 100 copies, I don't want to get stuck having limited it to 10 or 25 early on. Besides, limiting editions of photographs is just artificial. Quality doesn't degrade with more prints, as it does with lithography prints (where numbering editions originated and where it makes sense).

    My "editions" are limited by the time I've got left to print.

    Best,

    Doremus

  3. #3
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Editioning

    I think that's just an old hat marketing game, and tend to distrust galleries that rely on it. It made sense back in the days of true lithographs or even when color dye-transfer printing was routine, but not today when things can be so easily mass-produced, or at the opposite end of the scale, involve just so much care and hand-work to begin with, that they're inherently self-limiting. I personally don't even like printing more than a few of any one given image. I usually settle on only two or three, with the very best example held in reserve as a reference print. I don't even like printing or toning the same neg exactly the same twice in a row. I think I once made and sold six of the same color image in the same print size. I already have stacks of both color and black and white originals awaiting printing. Just me; but having been around a lot of galleries too, I tend to get suspicious of certain marketing tricks. It is different in tourist galleries or popular content venues; but I've never wanted to be part of that. I'm more interested in quality than quantity. Life is too short to be my own xerox machine. My two cents worth.

    Logistically, when I do go back and reprint something older, its probable the available paper choices will have already changed, so therefore the specific look itself will be somewhat different. That's fine with me. And now, even as I'm sorting out duplicate prints relative to which constitutes the master set, at premium pricing, versus a set intended for sale, I don't claim prints from the same original will be exactly the same. They might be equally good; but that doesn't need to happen in a monotonous way. They might even be made decades apart on different papers altogether. But if you expect everything in a given "edition" to be as similar as possible, you'd have to print them all around the same time with the same paper, chemistry, and exact methodology. And that's not a straightjacket I'm personally willing to accept. If I think it can be printed better or in a more interesting manner later on, that's what I'll do.

  4. #4
    Pieter's Avatar
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    Re: Editioning

    Editioning makes sense if you have gallery representation. I personally don't care to make more than 5-10 prints of any given image anyway. I will have moved on. On the other hand, if your prints sell for good money, why limit your income? I once heard a story about Brett Weston being asked what he was printing in the darkroom. He was printing his Holland Canal image and he replied, I'm printing money.

  5. #5
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Editioning

    No gallery I ever dealt with gave a damn about the topic, and they had the pick of the litter, not just upstarts like me back then. But it does seem to make sense for certain especially well-known photographers who farm out their printing to someone else for sake of limited edition PORTFOLIOS per se, like a few individuals currently are, using one of the few remaining dye transfer printing houses for a sake of a last hurrah and serious collector opportunity. After all, with respect to color imagery, many of their vintage Ektacolor RC prints have already literally faded away.

  6. #6
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Editioning

    Good one! Good lesson

    Quote Originally Posted by Pieter View Post
    Editioning makes sense if you have gallery representation. I personally don't care to make more than 5-10 prints of any given image anyway. I will have moved on. On the other hand, if your prints sell for good money, why limit your income? I once heard a story about Brett Weston being asked what he was printing in the darkroom. He was printing his Holland Canal image and he replied, I'm printing money.
    2022

  7. #7
    Pieter's Avatar
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    Re: Editioning

    I believe Diane Arbus printed her famous box of ten photos a few at a time. She had only printed ten sets at the time of her death, and only sold four out of a planned edition of fifty. Richard Avedon bought two, the other two were bought by Jasper Johns and Bea Feitler (her set actually had eleven prints).

  8. #8
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Editioning

    I have several sets of fine art silkscreen photo sensitive emulsion, deckle edged hand torn fancy paper

    Numbered et al

    Just touched them, never sold nor given away and shown once

    I just bought 1 ply chrome watercolor paper 25 big sheets to hand tear for Salt and Albumen Prints

    So it goes
    2022

  9. #9
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Editioning

    Brett also stated that Holland Canal was his "Moonrise", and that he was sick of it, having printed it so many times. But I'll never get sick of looking at, even in repro fashion.

  10. #10

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    Re: Editioning

    Some years ago David Vestal wrote an article on this topic. Seems that those who do individual prints in "unlimited number" seldom print more than 5 copies of any particular negative. Fewer than the "Limited Edition" series done by many.

    If one is making prints by hand it is much different than doing so with digital printers. Hand coating papers, hand printing in the darkroom, carbon prints - all are much more closely aligned with the artist and it is nearly impossible to get two that are exactly the same. In ways this makes them even more valuable. No run of 10 to 500 at the push of a button.

    As Drew says, materials change and over time "The LOOK" may have to as well when newer material comes out and older is no longer available. Warm tone papers for darkroom now are very different from decades ago. Our choices in most darkroom papers commercially available are nowhere near what the used to be. Some newer materials may be technically "better" but that is not what most are after when they print their work. At least no after they have matured in their craft and art.
    "My forumla for successful printing remains ordinary chemicals, an ordinary enlarger, music, a bottle of scotch - and stubbornness." W. Eugene Smith

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