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art & modern technology

 
 
tim
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      05-06-2005
Hi there,
I'm curious to know whcih direction fine art
photographers are taking in terms of selling limited editions of their
work in an era where digital photography has reached a point where
digital quality is now of comparable quality, in most cases, to film.

Specifically, I'm intersted to know whether many are still confining
themselves to fine art prints using the traditional mediums of
negatives and photographic papers, or are now availing themselves of
the opportunity and ease of using digital equipment and high quality
ink-jet printers? Obviously the modern technology makes it much easier
to control the end result, and to print off 100 copies at the press of
a button, but I'm left wondering what this does in terms of selling
limited quantities at top dollar, the value of the work as a long term
investment, and so on. Buying an Ansel Adams print one knows straight
away that one is investing in a work of art that has been individually
crafted in the darkroom by the master himself, with all of the
flashing, dodging, masking etc, that went into each and every print.
Does a digital and computer generated print hold the same value to a
collector, even if the image is limited to the traditional small
quantities?

The reason I ask is purely out of curiosity. I'm a wood working
craftsman and attend fine art & craft shows across the country, and
one of my favourite activities, during the few quiet moments I get
during a show, is to walk the aisles and take in the work of various
photographers. Some, like Steve Vaughn with his large panoramic
images, are obviously using printing processes to mass produce their
images for mass consumption, which is great. What I'm more curious
about is whether fine art photographers - people like Les Sleznick,
for example - with their numbered and limited works, are doing the
same or sticking to the traditional print, produced in the darkroom,
for maintaining he integrity of their work as collectible pieces of
art. From an investment point of view I'm also curious how wary buyers
might be of printed output with a view to longevity - many of the
manufacturers of high end printers claim their inks give prints a
minimum lifetime of at least 100 years, and of course one has to say
that normal prints themselves can deteriote over time if not properly
fixed and/or are subjected to too much sunlight over time.

Any comments or thoughts would be much appreciated. It would simply be
interesting to know how art photographers are viewing and ultilizing
new technoligies and what dollar effect it has on their output as both
a work of art and as a collectible item.

Thanks......Tim
 
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Marvin
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      05-06-2005
tim wrote:
> Hi there,
> I'm curious to know whcih direction fine art
> photographers are taking in terms of selling limited editions of their
> work in an era where digital photography has reached a point where
> digital quality is now of comparable quality, in most cases, to film.
>
> Specifically, I'm intersted to know whether many are still confining
> themselves to fine art prints using the traditional mediums of
> negatives and photographic papers, or are now availing themselves of
> the opportunity and ease of using digital equipment and high quality
> ink-jet printers? Obviously the modern technology makes it much easier
> to control the end result, and to print off 100 copies at the press of
> a button, but I'm left wondering what this does in terms of selling
> limited quantities at top dollar, the value of the work as a long term
> investment, and so on. Buying an Ansel Adams print one knows straight
> away that one is investing in a work of art that has been individually
> crafted in the darkroom by the master himself, with all of the
> flashing, dodging, masking etc, that went into each and every print.
> Does a digital and computer generated print hold the same value to a
> collector, even if the image is limited to the traditional small
> quantities?
>
> The reason I ask is purely out of curiosity. I'm a wood working
> craftsman and attend fine art & craft shows across the country, and
> one of my favourite activities, during the few quiet moments I get
> during a show, is to walk the aisles and take in the work of various
> photographers. Some, like Steve Vaughn with his large panoramic
> images, are obviously using printing processes to mass produce their
> images for mass consumption, which is great. What I'm more curious
> about is whether fine art photographers - people like Les Sleznick,
> for example - with their numbered and limited works, are doing the
> same or sticking to the traditional print, produced in the darkroom,
> for maintaining he integrity of their work as collectible pieces of
> art. From an investment point of view I'm also curious how wary buyers
> might be of printed output with a view to longevity - many of the
> manufacturers of high end printers claim their inks give prints a
> minimum lifetime of at least 100 years, and of course one has to say
> that normal prints themselves can deteriote over time if not properly
> fixed and/or are subjected to too much sunlight over time.
>
> Any comments or thoughts would be much appreciated. It would simply be
> interesting to know how art photographers are viewing and ultilizing
> new technoligies and what dollar effect it has on their output as both
> a work of art and as a collectible item.
>
> Thanks......Tim


Some museums are buying digitally-printed photos. There was an article about in the NY
Times about 2 years ago (You could search for it at www.nytimes.com.) Three years ago, I
saw one in the modern art museum in Amsterdam, near the Reichsmuseum. I think there will
be more of this, but there will always be some who resist. IMHO, there is room for both
kinds of photography and printing. Paintings in different media co-exist just fine.
 
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Bill Hilton
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      05-07-2005
>Tim writes
>
>I'm curious to know whcih direction fine art photographers are
>taking in terms of selling limited editions of their work in an
>era where digital photography has reached a point where
>digital quality is now of comparable quality, in most cases, to film.


Actually many traditional non-digital photographers don't offer
"limited edition" runs, maybe 50-50? It's an artificial way to squelch
supply so the demand and hopefully price goes up, but I don't think it
works much of the time.

I have a small collection of prints by photographers I admire (and can
afford and half of them are limited edition, half aren't. The three
that are (Tom Mangelsen, editon of 1,200-1,500 for the images I have,
Freeman Patterson, edition of 60 and Tom Till, edition of 350 per size)
were actually less expensive than the three non-limited edition guys.
The three non-limited edition photographers whose work I have are Paul
Caponigro (black-white), Christopher Burkett (custom Ilfochromes) and
Jack Dykinga (Fuji Crystal Archive print) ... the Caponigro and Burkett
prints are 3x-5x more than the smaller limited edition prints from the
guys I mentioned, for example.

Burkett and Caponigro control the number of their prints by lifting the
price when they think the market will bear it after a certain number of
prints are made. For example, Burkett charges $750 for a 20x24" Ilfo
and twice that for a 30x40" Ilfo for about 90% of his prints, doubling
it to $1500/$3000 for about 5% of them, to $2500/$5000 for a few, then
$3,500/$7,000 and, tops right now, $5,000/$10,000 for I think his two
most popular prints.

>I'm intersted to know whether many are still confining
>themselves to fine art prints using the traditional mediums of
>negatives and photographic papers, or are now availing themselves of
>the opportunity and ease of using digital equipment and high quality
>ink-jet printers?


Of the six I mentioned Capronigo prints his own traditional black/white
silver prints, Burkett prints his own custom Ilfochromes (the finest
color prints I've ever seen), Freeman Patterson shoots film, scans it
and prints with an Iris giclee (inkjet) on Somerset Velvet watercolor
paper, Till shoots 4x5" film and was having his Ilfochromes printed for
him but was supposedly looking hard at printing on a LightJet digital
printer, Dykinga shoots 4x5" film and has his scanned images printed on
Fuji Crystal Archive paper on a Chromira laser printer, and Mangelsen
has his printed on either Type C or as Ilfochromes by the same printer
Till uses. So two are doing their own printing, all are using film,
three are printing digital.

>Does a digital and computer generated print hold the same
>value to a collector ...


Yes, if the image is good enough.

>From an investment point of view I'm also curious how wary
>buyers might be of printed output with a view to longevity


Every test I've seen indicates that the better digital processes should
have greater longevity than conventional color prints but less than
black-whites. I'm expecting my Type C Mangelsen prints to fade first
(and I keep them in dim light as possible), then the Ilfochromes, then
the Iris (may be wrong about that one), then the Crystal Archive
prints, but all should last long enough for me to enjoy.

Another point on this topic ... a gallery I visit 3-4 times a year in
Santa Fe used to carry mostly traditional black-white prints (last week
I saw a Weston selling for $150,000 and an Ansel Adams listed at
$135,000 for example). For some time the ONLY color prints they
carried were dye transfers, mostly by Eliot Porter. About 6-7 years
ago they started carrying Ilfochromes, mostly Burkett's. Three years
ago I saw the first digital print in the gallery, a LightJet print on
Crystal Archive of Steve McCurry's image of the Afghan girl for $3,000.
A couple weeks ago I saw a print marked as "Epson Ultrachrome Pigment
inks" from an Epson 9600, the first time I've seen a print with that
process in the gallery. So times are a'changing ... but the best color
prints there were the Ilfochromes of Burkett ... I noticed they had
four Porter dye transers and these were listed at $1,500 - $1,800 even
though Porter is dead (and so is the dye transfer process). I was
surprised they were this low (they had a $7,000 Burkett print on
display, for example) ... I guess the prints just didn't look
collectible based on the duller colors of the dye-transfer process.

One last story ... first large format photo gallery I went into in
Sedona about 15 years ago had a wonderful print of the area, the finest
I'd ever seen. The photographer was selling limited edition
Ilfochromes that looked great, in five different sizes, maybe 200 per
size. He had sold out all but the largest size, I think 40x50" and was
asking $5,000 each for those (this at a time when no modern print had
sold for over $20,000). Anyway, he eventually sold out completely and
started losing money on the gallery since that image was his money
maker ... three years later I was in the gallery and saw the same image
for sale ... I was surprised and asked the clerk how he could do this
since he had sold out all the editions ... he said "Oh, we discovered a
new size, 22x28' ". I'm sure the people who bought the *last* few
images of the original edition were not happy to hear this.

Bill

 
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