Collector Prints

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I wanted to get a few opinions on the marketing of collector prints in publications such as Lens Work and (Mostly Digital) Photo Techniques.

My question regards an article in the recent Photo Techniques (did not purchase the recent issue so I don'y remember author or title) that discusses digital vs. traditional. The author discusses how these collector prints are made from copy negatives, that in some cases have been adjusted digitally so the prints can be "mass printed" and offered at very reasonable prices.

If true, is this in some way false advertising? In the Photo Techniques advertisement there is no mention of the print being made from a copy neg. If I buy the print believing it was hand produced, like a similar print from the same photographer in a gallery for $300 am I being misled even if the price is only $75?

If, on the other hand, I buy a hand crafted print for $300 dollars from a gallery and a friend buys the same or similar one through a magazine that is made from a copy neg for $75 and the different method of production is not some how noted on the print have I been ripped off?

Do we need to make the purchaser aware of the method of production or is the final image all that matters? Am I just being naive? Is this how new prints of say old Weston's are made. Thoughts, opinions and anyone in the know would be appreciated.

-- James Chinn (JChinn2@dellepro.com), March 01, 2002

Answers

Gee, I can make a simple question complicated. The simple question is, should a print that is hand produced from a neg, that is all manipulations done with every new print be valued any higher than a print that is made from a neg that has had all the manipulations either made on computer or copied from a "master print".

-- James Chinn (JChinn2@dellepro.com), March 01, 2002.

YES.

-- ricardo (ricardospanks1@yahoo.com), March 01, 2002.

Lenswork is very clear about how they make special runs of prints. Cole Weston prints Edward's negatives and these too are clearly indicated. I don/t know if this is any help to you or not.

-- Ann Clancy (clancya@mediaone.net), March 01, 2002.

I'm assuming you are referring to the practice of photographing a fine print to make a negative, then making more prints from the negative. If so, there is bound to be some loss of quality over an original, and so a considerably lower price would be warranted. Such prints would not be collector items in the same sense that a unique fine print is, and a side-by-side comparison should easily show the superiority of the unique original print.

Some have criticized Ansel Adams for making so many prints of his best negatives--because in so doing he cheapened his own work. On the other hand, he was a perfectionist--his prints are technically superb and, to my mind, collectible due to their high quality. Both Stieglitz and Strand rarely ever made more than one fine print of a negative. My own practice falls somewhere in the middle. I make as many prints as I wish (though rarely more than 3 or 4), but I try to make each one unique, either in size, interpretation, or technique.

-- Ed Buffaloe (edb@unblinkingeye.com), March 01, 2002.


Yes, the price should be different. It's a different performance from the same score. There is a difference between the price of a ticket for a live concert, and a CD recording of the same concert.

I own several LensWork Silver prints and gravures. For the silver prints, one must use a powerful loupe to distinguish between an Original and a Collector print. Collector images are for those of us that would rather have the image that the incredible debt of purchasing, say a Wynn Bullock original photograph.

As a side note, Ansel Adams' most printed image is "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico." Kind of blows the whole supply and demand theory about art. If you have something good, people will keep buying it if you keep offering it for sale.

-- Joe Lipka (joelipka@earthlink.net), March 01, 2002.



The Lens Work prints are hand pulled photogravures (and clearly advertised as such), a process that dates back to the late 1800ís. This method actually improves some quality control aspects of the printing, since all dodging and burning is identical on each photogravure. With regard to whether they should be less expensive than silver gelatin prints, they usually sell for about $39-79 during the initial offering period. Is that "less expensive" enough? http://www.lenswork.com/gravureprimer1.htm

-- Michael Feldman (mfeldman@qwest.net), March 01, 2002.

I'm going to answer part of the hard question. ;-)

>>Do we need to make the purchaser aware of the method of production..<<

Absolutely we the consumer should know what we are buying. The only people trying to hide the truth are those doing digital manipulations who, for some reason, dont think its important for the consumer to know. I, the consumer, heartily disagree.

>>or is the final image all that matters?<<

yes to this too. Digital images are in no way inferior, but they are different and should be labelled as such so the consumer can make an informed choice.

-- Wayne (wsteffen@skypoint.com), March 01, 2002.


One would hope that we develop a class of collector who determine the value of an image on content.

In the meantime, I have my incredible, "close up of a quart of milk taken from inside the container"; hand printed by ....Salt, indigo, gum, carbro, callotype, albumen process, silver-mercury deposited nitrate evacuated, gold toned with palladium via the epson-crayola ferrocyanide sub surface diffusion process, on 110% rug methusela paper, framed and signed by the artist... just for you! Price $37,500

-- Fred De Van (fdv1@ix.netcom.com), March 01, 2002.


the issue sitting here in front of me, the current issue, has collector prints for sale and they are hand printed silver gelatin prints. Not inkjet prints. They are $75 each or $60 for four or more. Not a bad price but the photographer is Daniel Anderson. Not quite as famous as say Weegee or Ansel so is this a good price or not? I own several Lenswork silver gelatin prints made from enlarged negatives done with inkjet. The print is superb. I have put one of them up against the same hand printed original and I can't tell the difference. Would I pay the $950 for the same hand printed non enlarged neg print? No. Should the price be different between the two? That's for the collector to decide. And the buyer should be educated enough to know the difference. What's the diff between an AA Moonrise and a Ross reproduction? James

-- bigmac (james_mickelson@hotmail.com), March 01, 2002.

LOL Fred.....send me a couple of them prints.....!!!

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (rossorabbit@hotmail.com), March 01, 2002.


Fred - LOL. But I have to know. Is that print archivally processed?

Bigmac - LensWork Collector prints are printed from film negatives, not inkjet negs.

AA trivia note - From the late 1960's on, Ansel only made pilot prints. After that his various assistants (Don Worth, Ted Orland, John Sexton and Allen Ross) made the prints for portfolios and other orders.

-- Joe Lipka (joelipka@earthlink.net), March 02, 2002.


Many years ago our local gallery had a show of Wynn Bullock's work. Between the time that the show was scheduled and when it was hung, Mr. Bullock died. I bought a print of "child in the forest" for $1000. It was/is the most I've ever paid for a print; I bought it because I like it, not as an investment. The photographer was dead, that should have been the end of it. Now they're selling prints from the same negative for a fraction of what I paid, and frankly it pisses me off; I feel cheated! I have no objections to museums selling printed reproductions, but unlimited numbers of photographic prints as collector items undermines the concept of supporting photographers by buying their prints. (Printing of Edward Weston's negatives by his son, Cole, is a very special case.) I can no longer afford to buy prints, but if I could I wouldn't!

-- Bill Mitchell (bmitch@comcast.net), March 02, 2002.

This thread begins to touch upon an issue that has been debated in the past on this board. That is question of the value of Vintage Prints vs prints made later in the photographer's life of the same images. Gallerys and collectors will always value a print made by the image maker themselves or under their direct supervision as being more valuable than a print made after the photographer death. It should also be rememberd that the number of well known and important photographers who have not and who have never printed their own images is quite long and this fact does not deminish their value. As for the repro prints offered by Lens Work and other sources, reguardless of the quality of the process, you basicly are getting what you pay for concerning the prints value.

-- James Megargee (jmegargee@nyc.rr.com), March 02, 2002.

Joe, the lenswork prints are made from negatives that have been made via an ink jet printer. The prints are made by the artists and then enlarged negs are made from them on a hi dollar inkjet printer. The prints are then made from these negs with fb papers and archivally processed. Please read the adverts mac

-- bigmac (james_mickelson@hotmail.com), March 02, 2002.

There are a lot of questions here - is it okay for an artist (or an estate) to contract with someone else to make reproductions of masterworks? I think the answer is yes.

Should the answer be the same if the final product is, for most people, indistinguishable from the original? I think yes.

What makes it difficult is the fact that the posthumous marketing of great photographers - once limited to Weston and Adams - is gaining adherents. There's good reason for it - who would not want a fine copy of a Bullock to hang that, for 99.5% of the populace, looks as good as the original. Of course, if you know who Bullock is you're likely to be aware of the fact that there's a chance that what you're looking at is not original. And if, like Bill, you paid a lot of money for an original, you might feel cheated. Especially, if when you purchased it, you didn't know that knock-offs were going to be available some day.

However, the Lenswork reproductions fill a niche - quality photographs at an affordable price. You're not getting an original Wynn Bullock, but with a $99 repro you're still able to pay the rent and the kids' orthodontist.

From what I've heard, there is a visible difference between the copy and the original, but you must look very, very closely to see it. What we think is a big minus is, for the average guy who picks up a $99 Bullock, a great selling point.

But the original is still the original, and it will, I think, maintain its value regardless of what Lenswork is doing. Collectors know and appreciate the difference. If there comes a day when they don't, then fine art photography, like the dot-com bubble, was [is] all hype. But I truly believe we will never see that day.

IMHO, in the long run, the practice of selling high quality reproductions of fine art photography, if done in the open with full disclosure, is a good thing. If lots of people get turned on to Bullock and want the real McCoy, the value Bill's copy of "child in the forest" will be positively affected.

There might also be increased demand for similar work - struggling photographers might benefit if someone sees that a print that looks like Bullock's and decides that it is worth the $300 purchase price.

So what Lenswork and others are doing is, in my view, a good thing.

-- Richard Lingg (r_lingg@hotmail.com), March 04, 2002.



The method and quanities of reproduction should be plainly stated. Even if it is not legally required (I don't know if it is), there should be some sort of ethics. I'm planning to sell some of my prints - since this is not an ad, I will not say where/how/when - and in my case, these prints will be listed as being digitized copies/prints of the originals. It's always best to state everything openly and honestly. A "limited edition" is not limited if the plan is to make an unlimited number. A handcrafted print, since it requires some effort and time to create should be worth more and cost more than a mass-produced print. A print handcrafted by the original artist should be worth more than one handcrafted by another later person.

-- Steve Gangi (sgangi@hotmail.com), March 17, 2002.

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