Limited Editions – Current Reality

I continue to contemplate the use of Limited Editions for my photographs after my lengthly discussion with Hal Gould while in Denver last week. There really is a lengthly list of pros and cons on this issue, but I guess it does come down to individual philosphy and creative intent.

In reality, there is no limit to the amount of photographic prints that can be made from a negative or electronic file, especially if you allow others to make your prints for you. If you complete your own printing, it is limited to your own life span, eh?

So there is a limit after all. Practically, how boring to keep making the same print, not much adventure there. No personal growth, just sitting on your laurals, eh?

Granted, I am not going to print a ton of prints. Way too expensive and as I said, boring. Very boring. To me the interesting stuff is looking, seeing, discovering, understanding our society, who we are, what we do and all of the photographic series and project implications that arise from these investigations and inquiries.

Secondarily, I enjoy the process of creating a final image from the raw materials, the original photographic capture. It is much like problem solving. To understand what my point of view is, to get the head and heart connection, and the best way to express that point, using the phtographic medium.

The first question then, am I concerned about the print collector and what value my prints have in the market place? Do I want to make a living from my interest? In a sense, yes, because I want to get enough funds to support my photographic habit. Which means buying or replacing equipment, supplies, books, producing prints, framing for exhibits, etc. At some point, I will not have a day job and I’ll be trying to live on a fixed income (dread).

As Hal was quick to point out, in the photographic market place right now, there is an expectation by collectors that the photographs will be produced in limited quantities, otherwise they, the collector, do not have any immediate incentive to purchase a print. Which provides limits on when and what the gallery will sell and when the photographer will receive some cash.

So like it or not, if you want to start or continue selling in most galleries, you will have to move to the Limited Edition standard. You may be selling now in a gallery without limiting your editions, but I believe the opportunities are going to be dwindling as time passes.

Thus, if I am not going to make unlimited prints, then I need to decide how many to make, eh? Thus could be a win-win. But what are the “rules” for Limited Edition photographs?? I just tried to see if there was anything at AIPAD (Association of International Photograhic Art Dealers) who ought to be the best voice for the collector and I would suspect, their own best interest. But the best I could find is their code of ethics which means that all they have to provide is:

All descriptions shall include the following: (1) Artist, (2) Title/ Subject, (3) Process, (4) Date of negative, (5) Date of print, (6) Price.

So what do we mean by a Limited Edition?? Per Hal Gould, a Limited Edition is limiting the amount of times you print any given image, with no limits over the time of the printing, and the method of printing. You just have to say, I will print this image only X times, and that is it, and keep track of when and how you printed to provide to the buyer.

But I am guessing that there are ways to expand on this number, as there are also artist proofs (A/P) which are not included in the Limited Edition. And those need to be declared. And it seems that the rules for an artist proof vary as well. As a photographer, we usually do make a number of test prints, varying the contrast, color, etc, so what do you do with those you keep and don’t round file??

Then you have the “publicity” images, when the photograph prints had to be prepared and sent to galleries, newspapers, magazines, submissions, etc or pubished as a poster. These usually represent the image but are not printed archivally and are not meant to be collected. And usually have a minimal amount of documentation, and not signed.

So if you know of any established guidelines on Limited Edition photographs, could you please provide a link?


Best regards, Doug

Update: I have been trying to reconcile the writing I do for this blog versus The Photo Exchange, were I am the current Managing Editor, so for this subject and similar topics regarding the business of (Fine Art) photography, I will be posting those on The Photo Exchange. Thus, this journal will be more about my development of my photographic projects, series, singular images, photographs and the like. Unless I have some technical glitch or want to extrol the benefits of some equipment, I defer to the ton of other blogs who think that this is more important than I do.

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