I’m not sure but maybe when the print becomes a work of art.
Robyn and I have for years resisted the temptation to refer to our portrait photography as works of art. Many of our city based colleagues have for years done so. Referring to the photography as art prints or “works”. I guess this gives a sense of added value to a photographic print.
This was brought home to me recently when a new client suggested that it was ridiculous for us to charge so much money simple for a print. A print that he could have made just about anywhere for cents. To him, the act of making the print, which is an art in itself, was the whole job. All the skill in “seeing” the image, setting it up, creating the shot then the hours of of colour profiling, retouching out pimples, spots, removing double chins and a few extra kilograms around the hips was valueless. The only thing he should have to pay for was the print.
And then there is the actual print. We’ve just had a fine art quality print made. Printed onto exquisite art paper by a printer with years of experience making art prints for galleries and museums. The cost…. More than we normally charge for a print that size. But it is a wonderful thing to behold. And providing we don’t do something silly with it, this work of art will outlive us by one or two hundred years.
Contrast this print with one. I was recently shown by a fine art photographer. Destined to be hung in a gallery of some note. The photographer had taken the gallery owners advice and had it framed beautifully. Sadly the print job was rubbish. Very poor quality and very easily picked by any art buyer with even the slightest bit of knowledge. Worse still the print material used is rarely if ever these days accepted by the gallery world, because of its very limited life span. Temporary art if you like. Here today and gone in a very sort number of years. But as our fine art photographer friend said. Why would you spend money on getting a high quality print made when you can get a cheap job just as good from the supermarket. Why indeed?
Maybe its time we started thinking about our photography as art rather than just selling a print. Maybe it’s time we put a value on our time and skills rather than just selling a few prints.