I was wondering if you ever sold limited edition prints and
what is the usual number you limit them to?
Thank you for your inquiry. That is a touchy topic with some people,
so I have put some thought into it before now, in case I was asked
this by someone. Please understand, this is my opinion, and it may
or may not apply to anyone else. Each person, each artist, must
live and work in his/her own space, place and time. We are governed
by that limitation on our nature, our environment...both economic
and creative, and our desire to have our work seen and purchased.
I have read many op-ed pieces in several magazines, journals, etc.,
and what follows is what I have decided is best for me at this point
in my career and life. I hope it will help answer the question that
I perceive you have lingering beyond the actual words: "should
I or should I not?"
The nature of the photographic image, much like the hand-pulled
prints such as lithographs, etchings, etc., is one of making any
number of prints from a "master", "plate" or
a negative. I have read into where photographers are selling limited
edition prints, and as successive prints sell and quantities available
grow smaller, then the prices go up. This is not how one prices
an original lithograph, serigraph, etching, etc., so why should
it apply to photographs? Is this to say that images become more
valuable as they sell out, or is it that someone has put an arbitrary
limit on a perfectly good negative that will artificially inflate
prices? I am not one to answer for anyone but myself on this. Sometimes
it may be the artist's manager or gallery representative who wants
a limited number of prints made.
Now, I do not see that is the way to go, as it will just sour people
on buying our prints. What will the last person to buy a print think
about the original "lower" price? Most of all, what will
that person think about the artist? Would you want to go back to
someone who was into raising prices at the end of a run, simply
because they took a chance on whether or not the image would sell??
Since they have "closed" that "edition" on that
image, could they not go back and begin a second edition in a different
tone, different paper, different color, just like the traditional
fine art printmaker?? (I suppose that you can tell I am also a printmaker
of hand-pulled photo intaglio images.) Another consideration is
the persons who would gain control over my negatives after my death.
Who is to say that they would have the integrety to NOT reprint
an image that was particularly popular??
My art is an art of multiples, and though each one is created from
an original (plate, stone) negative, each one is an original work
of art. For each image to be exactly like the succeeding ones, they
would have to be made from the exact same batch of emulsion on the
same support paper, and processed in the exact proportion of chemicals,
and the exposure......well, let's just say that all of this would
be impossible for the individual photographer, and even for a lab.
They can get close, but there will always be slight nuances between
the images and how they are/were printed. I may also print an image
in different sizes to find the best one for the subject. Someday,
I may limit my photographic work, but why limit myself??
I limit my hand-pulled prints due to the medium and its limitations.
A plate of zinc or copper will only last so long before the image
degrades. A lithographic stone will print only so many images, and
afterwards, images may begin to degrade. I refuse to put out a bad
or degraded image, and some of my students and assistants have been
shocked that I would tear up images with abandon. At the time of
the finished edition, I determine, with my business manager, what
the price should be for the series of images (the number of prints).
This pricing is based on a number of factors such as overhead, assistants,
costs of materials, intellectual property, creativity, and what
amount of profit do I need to make to stay in business, among other
things. Once the price is set for a series of images, it rarely,
if ever, goes up, at least while I own and sell it.
If my work is becoming popular, and my reputation grows, or I get
represented in a different market, then the next series/edition
may be higher priced. On the other hand, I will have achieved more
mastery of the medium, and the images will be better, larger, more
creative, etc., and they will be worth more. But that is a long
way off for me. I own prints in my personal collection (of some
top 20th C. artists), and I got them for a bit less from the artist
themselves rather than from a dealer. Or, I just got lucky and acquired
the print prior to their success. It is all a chance we take. I
am a practicing artist, and as such, make mistakes, miss cues, lose
sales, and hope to do better in the future from my experiences.
In short, I am human, with my own opinions, and I have no qualms
in voicing them when asked.
If someone wants to own limited editions, they can buy a print and
the negative, ...for a price. That way they can be assured of owning
the last image made from that negative. Personally, at this moment
in time, I do not forsee my art being limited. The limitations are
those that I put upon myself, and my materials (negatives will eventually
degrade). I can do production printing by hand in the lab, but I
would probably get tired of having to make the exact same image
over and over!! I feel that my vision will grow as I print the image,
and it will change as I work with it. The only limitations on my
prints such as the intaglio and lithographs are those of the plate
and stone, when the image begins to degrade, I stop making prints
and destroy the plate or clean off the stone. That way, I know that
some unscrupulous person will not re-strike an edition from my plate
and make works of art.
I hope this may clear up some things, but I fear that this may just
muddy the water for you. If you would like to get more information
on anything I have told you, or would like to get some links to
other opinion, similar or different, please let me know and I will
send them to you. Thanks again.