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.

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