Rising Mist, Lake Abenaki
I photographed this scene back in 2004 while on my way to Lake George for a 9AM meeting at ADK Headquarters. I've shown it digitally several times and it is currently on my Zenfolio site but I made an physical print, actually two prints, for the first time today. I had proposed a print swap with a fellow photographer and this is the image he chose. I printed it 9"x18" (image area) on Epson Fine Art Watercolor paper.
There was a discussion today on Guy Tal's blog about limited editions. I wrote a piece about that back in 1997 on The Circle of Confusion, a B&W photography website I used to have. There are a few pieces of that site still camped out somewhere in webland. You can find them by doing a Google search on my name and "sharelessons".
So what's the connection with the photo and the title? I don't do limited editions. I number and date my fine prints on the back as well as sign them front and back. So far in eight years there are two (count them, 2) signed prints of "Rising Mist, Lake Abenaki" in existence. My friend gets print #1 in exchange for one of his photos that I admired. I don't intend to set an artificial limit on the number of times I will print & sign this photo before I die but I doubt it will be very many. This is the first time I've been asked to print it. In any case there is only one print #2. If you want, you can own it, the only #2 copy of this photo that will ever exist. The price is $150 matted to 16"x24" with 100% cotton museum board. Shipping & handling is $25. International shipping may be higher. Contact me at Jim dot Bullard at Gmail dot com.
If you are interested in the limited edition discussion and why I don't do them, you can read Guy's blog here http://guytal.com/wordpress/2012/04/the-ethics-of-limited-editions/ and my old 1997 article on the subject is reproduced below. It was written in film days but mostly still applies, if anything more so. With darkroom prints there was a finite number of times I wanted to dodge and burn the same image.
Thoughts on Limited Editions
I have mixed feelings about limited edition prints. I was trained in fine art where the "print" is the product of a printmaking process (intaglio, lithograph, woodcut, etc.) and is considered an original work or it is a reproduction of an original work (watercolor, oil painting etc.) and is considered to be a "print". Printmakers prints are often limited in part by the process. A lithograph drawing on a stone will produce only so many prints before the drawing deteriorates and won't produce a good print anymore. Other printmaking processes have some limits based on the durability of the plate, screen or whatever. A well cared for negative has no such practical limit.Painters often multiply their markets by having photomechanical prints made from their original paintings. The prints can be sold for significantly less than the original painting and in large numbers. These reproduction prints are sometimes promoted by limiting the edition to an arbitrary number because there is a notion that a limited edition print is worth more by virtue of its "guaranteed" rarity. Original photographs, however, are not reproductions.
Some photographers market their prints in limited editions to increase their value in the market place. Ansel Adams did not produce limited editions because he believed "the negative is the score and the print is the performance." Ansel had started out to be a concert pianist, thus the musical analogy. He believed that each print was an individual performance with no two exactly alike and it would be just as absurd to limit the times it could be printed as it would be to say that a Mozart concerto could only be performed 500 times then it had to be retired and never performed again. I can sympathize with that idea. I have negatives that I would not print the same way today that I did 20 years ago.
David Vestal, writing in PHOTO TECHNIQUES magazine, tackled the issue of limited editions in his monthly column by conducting a survey of several hundred photographers he knew. He got a remarkable 2/3 return of his survey forms so I think his findings are significant. He found that those photographers who do not do limited editions produce an average of 6 prints of each of their images while edition sizes for those who print in limited editions were over 100. He concluded that rather than insuring rarity of the print, the "limited edition" actually resulted in a larger number of prints than might have otherwise been produced.
I've had some people suggest to me that I needn't actually print X number of prints to have a limited edition, I need only decide the maximum number of prints I will print (if I get enough orders) and print them as they are sold. This seems rather dishonest to me. If I decide that a given image will printed in an edition of 100, then print only 10 (reserving the other 90 until after the 10 are sold) and only 7 sell, I will never print the other 90. The first print then is not, in fact, 1 of 100. It is 1 of 10 and I will have mislabeled those 10 prints.
So far I have done only two limited editions. Both were promotional pieces which were given away, not sold. If after I am dead and gone they are valued higher than my unnumbered prints it will be a testament to the gullibility of the collectors who buy them. I do not put anywhere near the care into the printing of 50 to 75 identical prints that I do to a print for exhibition.
The art market encourages artists to produce limited editions because many buyers of art are convinced that limited editions are more valuable therefore they command higher prices. Like any other artist I am tempted by anything that will allow me to get more for my work. One does not easily make a living as a fine artist (I don't) and even though I think that it is artificial and downright silly for people to pay more for limited editions it has some appeal. Maybe I should make it into my gimmick (gimmicks sell art too) by using a "limited edition protest numbering system". Something like "#155 of 12". Before I do that I have to decide whether to number them all the same or randomly. For now I'll just produce the best prints I can and hope that I can attract buyers to whom quality work is the primary criteria.
Addendum Dec. 21, 1997Since adding the above to my web site I have had some e-mail objections to the thoughts I expressed. My intentions in writing it were to crystallize my own thoughts and feelings on the subject which had been simmering for several years and had the heat turned up by David Vestal's column ("Rare or Well Done", Jan/Feb 1997 issue of PHOTO Techniques). I have revisited his article and reviewed the objections which can be categorized as follows:
- I shouldn't object to something that is done for the benefit of the gallery and the artist. Limited editions increase both prices and sales.
- Galleries promotion of limited editions help educate the public to art thereby expanding the market. A lot of people get into buying art through investing in limited editions.
- Most editions are actually only in the range of 25 to 50 and it's an exceptional photo that sells more than 10-15. Most artists only print a few then print the rest of the edition as needed to satisfy sales so there is usually greater rarity than the edition numbers indicate.
What bothers me is that increasing the price and volume of work sold by convincing the public they are getting greater rarity than they would get buying an unlimited print is a form of fraud. Those participating are actually doing so in order to INCREASE the number of prints they will make and sell and even covering their bets by setting an edition size 2-3 times what they actually expect to sell. Basically it's the old "tell them what they want to hear and they'll buy the product" pitch. I find it very disingenuous to characterize this as a way to 'educate' the public to appreciate art. I think the art buying public deserves better.
As for the last I still feel it isn't honest to label a print "1 of 30" when I've really only printed 5 and may or may not ever print the other 25 'virtual' prints. While there is an increase in rarity over what is stated in the edition limit, rarity in and of itself is no guarantee of future value and it remains a false statement. I don't like doing business on falsehoods and certainly not art.
After mulling all this over I have decided that in future the prints I make for sale will be ordinally numbered and dated (for the benefit of those who care how many there really are) but without reference an edition size. The ordinal numbering will be on the back of the print (also the mount label if I sell it mounted). I can live with that.