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  #1  
Old February 28th, 2011, 10:21 AM
Alain Briot Alain Briot is offline
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Default The Numbering Affair

My latest essay on Luminous-landscape.com focuses on numbering vs open edition:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/co...g_affair.shtml
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  #2  
Old February 28th, 2011, 11:16 AM
Doug Kerr Doug Kerr is offline
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Hi, Alain,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alain Briot View Post
My latest essay on Luminous-landscape.com focuses on numbering vs open edition:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/co...g_affair.shtml
Bravo!

I often make fun of the numbered limited edition concept by marking a print with something like "105/60"

Best regards,

Doug
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Old February 28th, 2011, 12:15 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug Kerr View Post
Hi, Alain,


Bravo!

I often make fun of the numbered limited edition concept by marking a print with something like "105/60"

Best regards,

Doug
Doug,

That's hilarious! Still, for exceptional work, photography is considered as a painting or a sculpture and there may be few or no other versions. works like "The Flag" by Japer Johns could easily have been made in multiples. However, his dealer kept the editions rare and only supplied them to a few privileged dealers and collectors.

Look here. Now if you do not have both the brilliance in your art and in your agent-market maker, who believes in you, then open editions make sense. You can always make more copies as this different market allows for any reason you wish to give. There's nothing wrong with unlimited editions, (as Alain points out over and over again, neither Ansel Adams nor Edward Weston seemed to have numbered their prints). They work well for a lot of folk. Still there's a definite need for limited editions too.

Collectors like the comfort of knowing that, like classical silver gelatin prints, even so-called "open editions", not more than 150-1000 will be made for small pictures and for the finest work about 10-25 is the expected limit. Limited editions of super-large sized photographs are generally expected. Folk like to think there are only 6 or so of a 10ft image they buy for their museum.

Asher
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  #4  
Old February 28th, 2011, 12:54 PM
Alain Briot Alain Briot is offline
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Asher,

I enjoyed reading your comments, but honestly, how many people on this forum enjoy the priviledge of having an "agent-market maker?" Similarly, how many photographers can reasonably expect to sell 150 to 1000 copies of ANY photograph? Except for a very small number of photographers, these numbers are simply unrealistic. Most photographers will not sell more than 10 to 50 copies of any photograph, provided they sell that many.
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Old February 28th, 2011, 01:51 PM
Michael Seltzer Michael Seltzer is offline
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Hi,

Mr. Briot, that was a nice, thoughtful, article. It is an issue I have wrestled with. I am a (struggling, let's be honest) fine art photographer now in rural southern midwest, in the U.S. If I honestly thought that numbering my prints would increase sales, or increase the prices at which I could sell, I would do it in a heartbeat. But I'm not famous enough.

For the very famous and the unknown, I think the value of limited editions is, well, limited. It is in the middle that it can work for you, once you have established your name as an art-brand of sorts. It is then, once collectors begin to recognize the name, that the value of rarity becomes any significant part of the purchasing metric. With the celebrated, numbering adds little to the value of the name and the work; with the unknown, value of that sort doesn't even come into the calculations. Anyway, for someone like me, for it to have any point, numbering is a mug's game: I mean, what would I do, limit an edition to four, because if I didn't it might soar to as high as six?

I think there may be a bigger issue involved in fine art photography sales, anyway. My impression, from haunting the galleries and shows in my area, is that photography is generally perceived to be less valid, and less valuable, as art than other forms. It is not uncommon for people to make comments about photography in shops and galleries like, "I can do that," or, "everyone takes photos." This attitude may effect pricing and buying decisions.

Please understand, I love the other disciplines, and there are more painters I would cite as influences than photographers, but the issue of legitimation, I think, is one photography must deal with to a much greater extant many other branches of art. It has been an issue for photography from the beginning. It still is. And it may be, in some part, that numbering is a response to offset the effects of this issue, as uniqueness is one justification cited for devaluing photography as art.

Michael
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Old February 28th, 2011, 02:46 PM
Alain Briot Alain Briot is offline
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Hi Michael,

You are correct that numbering makes little difference if you are little known.

But then fame is not a necessity in business. At least not in the beginning.

I always say that when I started I could not afford to become famous then make money. I had to make money right away.

As it so happened I made a name for myself and now I enjoy the leverage that comes with it. But that really wasn't part of the plan. The plan was to make an income with my work, and for that you need access to a buying audience and a product that is of interest to this audience.
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Old February 28th, 2011, 05:07 PM
Maris Rusis Maris Rusis is offline
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I anguished about numbering until I determined to do the opposite. This is how it works:

My agent holds one example each of my original photographs and they are offered for sale according to opportunity. If a photograph sells I will replace it with an alternate original which I guarantee will not be the same as the one just sold. How could it be? All my photographs are made one at a time, start to finish, and in full, by my own hand. The negatives stay the same. They are the subject matter for the rest of the process. But paper-based light sensitive materials evolve, hand operated chemical processes are inherently variable, my skills drift (upward?), I judge things differently, I am not who I was.

People who own Maris Rusis photographs can be confident they hold unique original material. And they are not the sort of people who appreciate their art collection more because they know that there are a hundred folk out there who have exactly the same thing. Value comes from singularity not similarity.

As the old adage goes "Just because everybody has a bath-tub do you want to be seen in yours?"
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Old February 28th, 2011, 06:24 PM
Alain Briot Alain Briot is offline
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Maris,

In other words you are doing what Adams, Weston and all darkroom-printing photographers who do not number have been doing for years. It's a valid approach, but one that is medium-based, not unique to any specific photographer.
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Old March 1st, 2011, 03:01 AM
Sandrine Bascouert Sandrine Bascouert is offline
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I had this discussion once with a copper engraver... (not sure about the job description)
He said to me: That artist I'm engraving the work for, wants only 110 prints and then we have to destroy the plate... I said: How do you destroy the plate? We scratch two small lines on the lower corner where the signature is... And sometimes, we put some varnish to fill the lines and are able to print some more (which are not numbered)... Cheeky smile.

Con Artists...
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  #10  
Old March 1st, 2011, 08:37 AM
Ken Tanaka Ken Tanaka is offline
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A good essay that nicely summarizes the subject, Alain.

In the higher echelons of photograhic collection, numbering of prints is relatively rare and largely ignored when found. The source of a print, the print's date, its provenance are really all that matter with regard to valuation.

In the high-end digital / ink jet print world editioning is done mainly by print size. Numbering is considered purely an artificially assigned label, like "New and Improved" that's generally confined mostly to general public offerings.
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Old March 1st, 2011, 10:37 AM
Alain Briot Alain Briot is offline
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Thanks Ken. I appreciate your comments.
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  #12  
Old March 1st, 2011, 01:16 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Tanaka View Post

In the high-end digital / ink jet print world editioning is done mainly by print size. Numbering is considered purely an artificially assigned label, like "New and Improved" that's generally confined mostly to general public offerings.
Ken,

Although actual numbering is not a determinant of perceived value for museum and collecting, but surely only a few prints would likely ever be made. What happens for photography at this top end that commands $20,000 or much more? Is there an accepted custom that some small number, like 6-12 are ever made?

Asher

BTW, an afterthought: what does Annie do? After all, she needs the money!
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