A Tale of Two Prints

Digital Photography Sucks

Draw Your Own Conclusions

Enlarger Alignment Laser Module

Fine Art Photography

Knowing What You Want

Miss America and Ansel Adams

Painting versus Photography

Popularity is Overrated

Rare and There

The Art of Printing or Not

The Banality of Ink Jet Prints

Useless Idiot


Rare and There – January 8, 2008

I realize I’m a bit late in commenting on this post by Jorge Gasteazoro at the Silver Vista Gallery. But as they say better late than never.

First, let me say that I have no problem whatsoever with what Jorge is doing. If he thinks it’s better to make only one print from a negative and that will make his photographs more valuable, more power to him. I just happen to disagree.

Again, Jorge somehow seems set on following the model used by other art forms such as painting. I still don’t understand this, because photography is not painting, and like it or not photography already has established traditions, just like painting and all other mature art forms do. I do admire the thought of trying to break new ground and take things in a different direction. Still, I just don’t get it.

Somehow Jorge thinks that photography in general is undervalued because photographers make multiple prints from the same negative. Fair enough. Of course if there is only one of something, that one thing is inherently more valuable than if there are ten. And I’m sure that does make a difference in the price of the rarest and oldest photographs that are sold. So maybe when Jorge is dead and long gone and he’s achieved fame and success beyond his wildest dreams, his single prints will be extremely valuable. But we’re not talking about prints at a Sotheby’s auction a 100 years from now, we’re talking about selling prints on eBay today. That’s a huge difference.

I think photographic prints in general are undervalued (assuming that is even true) not because they are abundant, but because of the perception that anybody can do it. Jorge even touches on this in his post. While all photographers know this is the furthest thing from the truth, the general public’s perception is that all they need is a bitchin’ camera and they too can be like Ansel Adams. After all, like Jorge says most people think all they have to do is press a button and somehow a great photograph appears.

As long as that perception about photography exists, photographic prints will be undervalued. Whether you make one print one print or ten prints from a negative doesn’t matter. And I don’t see how making only one print from a negative does anything to change the perception that photography is nothing more than pressing a button.

In his post, even Jorge devalues photography (inadvertently I think) when he says “why not use the model artists use to promote photography as art?” This just stood out to me like a sore thumb. What? Photographers are not artists? We can’t use the model established already by photographic artists? We have to follow a model established by “real” artists? I know this isn’t what Jorge is saying, but it’s the way I think most people would read it, especially with the bias against photography that I think exists.

I think effort would better be spent promoting photography as its own unique and vital art form and not mimicking the traditions established by painters. Painting has been around for thousands of years and everyone knows it’s difficult to do well and that it takes unique talent and vision, not to mention incredible craft. The same is true of photography. It’s just that the average person doesn’t understand or appreciate that so they’re not willing to pay for it. Why would they when they think they can do it themselves by pressing a button.

It’s true that everyone can take a picture, but it’s not true that everyone can do it well. That’s what we should be screaming from the top of our lungs. But I do agree with Jorge on one point, and that is digital photography has devalued photography. So with Photoshop and digital cameras and huge disk drives all around us, we’ll have to scream even louder. I’m certainly up for it. But for now at least, I won’t be cutting up any of my negatives, at least not until I’m done screaming.