Re: Actual photograph

From: Katharine Thayer ^lt;>
Date: 03/19/05-02:34:48 AM Z
Message-id: <>

Dick Sullivan wrote:

"I think there is some justified fear that the bad art (digital) will
out the good, but I am not so sure. There is lots of entry level digital
work being sold but the not much at the top. The mid to low level
where the prices top out at $5000.00 seem to sell some but after that
much sells. Of course the real test of value is in the auction sales. I
scan the catalogs frequently and see very little on the block."

Hi Dick,
You know much more about art markets in general than I do, so I'm not
meaning to contradict but only to add to your remarks when I say that in
the market I sell my work in, where photographic work of all kinds
generally sells for less than $1500, I don't see digital photographic
prints selling very much at all.

In the galleries I frequent, the word "giclee" is most often used to
describe the inkjet reproductions that some painters make of their
paintings to sell to people who like the painting but can't afford the
real thing. But these reproductions sell for less than $50, as befits
machine-printed reproductions. As for digital photographic prints
selling as well, for the same prices, as "actual photographs," it ain't
happenin. Even when galleries elide the true nature of the digital
prints by simply calling them "photographs" they don't seem to sell as
well. As Kate says, there's often, if not always, a sort of inert
quality to the inkjet prints that gives them away, even if they don't
give themselves away with the use of filters or unnatural colors or

One of the many factors that made me decide I needed to take a break
from exhibiting my work, three years ago, was that after I worked myself
into serious exhaustion to get a show on the walls, the next show that
went up at that gallery was a show of digital photographs, labeled
simply "photograph" and priced about the same as my handmade, completely
unique prints. I was very tired at the time so no doubt hypersensitive
to the comparison, but it really fried my gizzard. I felt, and still
feel, that the labeling was misleading, and that it's ridiculous to
price handmade prints and machine made prints in the same range.

But from a distance of three years, it's easier to have some perspective
about it. The fact is that most of my show sold, and as I recall only
one of the digital prints sold; what's more I don't think his work has
sold well at all over the intervening years. At the same time, I have
been pursued by that gallery ever since I stopped showing, and have four
prints in a juried invitational show that's opening there tonight.
What's more the photographers who were invited to submit work for this
show, to the best of my knowledge, all print their work photographically
rather than digitally. I don't think that was a conscious litmus test
for an invitation; in fact I'm sure it wasn't, but that's just how it
turned out. So the idea that digital is taking over the photographic
art market simply isn't true out here in my little neck of the woods.

The idea that people buy the image not the the object is a nice idea for
academic discussion but has little to do with how actual art buyers
think. I'm a buyer of photographs myself and I would never buy a
machine-printed photograph for the price I might pay for, (yes, I will
use the phrase) "an actual photograph." I'll buy a poster or a postcard,
but I'll pay $2 for the postcard or $20 for the poster. I'll know I'm
getting a machine print, and I'll be happy. But when I spend $200 or
$300 for a photograph, I expect the print to be made by photographic
method of one kind or another (I've bought platinum prints, Polaroid
emulsion transfer; silver gelatin prints) and not by a digital printer.
And I'd say that it's fairly evident that that I'm not alone in that
attitude as a buyer. I know that the people who buy my prints value them
for their handmade quality, and for the mystique of the process, perhaps
as much as for the image itself. My 2cents,
Katharine Thayer
Received on Sat Mar 19 10:30:32 2005

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