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Philosophy of Photography Taking pics is one thing, but understanding why we take them, what they mean, what they are best used for, how they effect our reality -- all of these and more are important issues of the Philosophy of Photography. One of the best authors on the subject is Susan Sontag in her book "On Photography."

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Are Wet Prints Printed Personally by the Photog Worth More? I think so.
Old 12-18-2008   #1
CameraQuest
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Are Wet Prints Printed Personally by the Photog Worth More? I think so.

As more and more photogs surrender to the wonders of digital, I think they are creating a niche art market for archival signed silver prints. I personally believe there is a craftsmanship and artistic value in wet prints personally printed by the photographer that just does not exist in a digital print.

OK, so you can turn out a wonderful print on your printer and get X for it. Great. IF you made the same wet silver print YOURSELF (really, yourself, NOT a lab or some flunkie) I would place that signed, dated, and archival processed silver print's value at least TEN times or MORE the value of your digital print.

My Point? Photogs should MAKE MONEY OFF THE SNOBBERY OF "ART" COLLECTORS!

I personally have nothing but loathing and contempt for the ultra rich who compete with each other to outdo the other's "art collection." Yet I would have NO problem taking their money and profiting from their shallowness. To me, much of that which passes for art is just trash sold to the gullible rich. So be it. Painters take advantage of it. Photogs should too. Photogs, take the the rich art collector's money and laugh all the way to the bank!

How?

1) Shoot film so you can easily make wet prints personally, or scan it and print digitally.

2) Offer your work at two price levels: lower priced digital prints, or much more expensive silver archival prints personally printed by yourself.

3) IF YOU ARE GOOD: Your low priced digital prints will help sell your high priced silver prints while your high priced silver prints will help sell your low priced digital prints.

4) Be sure to have an attitude against digital. It will help sell your work as an artist. IF someone recognizes you with your digital Point and Shoot, tell them you are just testing a friend's camera, and you DON'T like it!

Stephen
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Old 12-18-2008   #2
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If you see a silver print and a digitally printed print next to each other (the same image), you know which one you will pick. But the watering down of quality today will not help the silver printer.
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Old 12-18-2008   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charjohncarter View Post
If you see a silver print and a digitally printed print next to each other (the same image), you know which one you will pick. But the watering down of quality today will not help the silver printer.
What do you mean by watering down?

I personally think 10X the price of a digital print is the minimum. Digital prints have ZERO value to me as far as ART is concerned and it will always be so. Always.
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Old 12-18-2008   #4
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Watering down: less quality, but more widely accepted. Just like when I came home after many years in South America; I wanted to taste a real American hambuger. Sorry, it wasn't like when I left. Or when you listen to a vinyl record by Fats Domino and then listen to a CD version of it, it just isn't the same.
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Old 12-18-2008   #5
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I tell people that digital prints are really posters. Every digital print is exactly the same as every other. When I'm making say ten silver prints involving any burning and dodging (they ALL have at least some) I might have to print twelve or fifteen, or more at times, because they're not all the same. I discard the rejects, keep and sign the ones I like. No different than an artist inking and wiping an etched plate before printing an etching. Every print is unique unto itself, and a certain amount will be rejected.

You can pay through the nose and buy vinyl records and quality turntables again. A lot of my younger friends are jealous of my vinyl collection, from Dylan to the Doors, the Grateful Dead to Pink Floyd, and some rerecordings of some blues from as far back as the 1920's. Vinyl is Kodachrome for the ears.
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Old 12-18-2008   #6
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As far as quality...One medium is not inherently better than the other. It's not the tools and materials so much as what one does with them, right? I believe those who claim digital prints are inferior have just not seen really good digital prints.

As far as value in the marketplace...I don't really know. Vintage prints, made by the artist have always been priced higher than later prints or those made by others. I don't know of any photographers offering 2 "Grades" of prints.

There is a pretty interesting podcast (warning: kind of long) of printing guru and former Yale art school dean, Richard Benson discussing his digital prints with Jay Maisel
and George Jardine. You can find it here...

http://photoshopnews.com/2006/12/05/...ode-23-posted/

Worth a listen.

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Old 12-18-2008   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charjohncarter View Post
Watering down: less quality, but more widely accepted. Just like when I came home after many years in South America; I wanted to taste a real American hambuger. Sorry, it wasn't like when I left. Or when you listen to a vinyl record by Fats Domino and then listen to a CD version of it, it just isn't the same.
Thanks!

I don't see how this watering down won't help the silver printer. If anything, it shall be the opposite. No? For making Fine Art, that is!
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Old 12-18-2008   #8
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For books, in B & W, I think quality ink-jet prints are better than the lithographs used in commercial printing. Of course nothing compares to a good silver print(except a platinum print). As far as the prints being personally printed by the photog, I'd be happy with a Bellocq printed by Friedlander.

Last edited by Melvin : 12-18-2008 at 21:09. Reason: clar.
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Old 12-18-2008   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Goldorak View Post
Thanks!

I don't see how this watering down won't help the silver printer. If anything, it shall be the opposite. No? For making Fine Art, that is!

Very much so, there will always be someone that wants the best. And if they can't afford the best there will always be someone that wants to look at the best. And by that I mean they will go to museums, art galleries, and maybe even seek out prints at craft fairs. But for the widening proletariat masses they will be happy with whatever.
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Old 12-18-2008   #10
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when I last hung my b&w prints in a gallery, the other photographer got into this same discussion with me... pointed at one of my prints and said, "see, you could never do that with digital." I waited a moment before telling him that he was pointing at an inkjet print. On my statement of archivability I listed them as "b&w photographs" which they are... honestly no one knew they came from an HP inkjet. I think the HP dye-based b&w system matches traditional silver prints until you view them under a loupe.

I worked in a traditional darkroom making my own prints for 20+ years so it isn't that I've never seen good traditional prints... and had I not developed a severe sensitivity to photochems I probably never would have gone to digital printing, but it is certainly better than most commercial lab work. Some of my fiber based prints have yellowed over the years so I don't even buy the archival argument when Wilhelm gives some of the inkjet prints 200+ years... time will of course tell how good a prediction that is... just like RC papers... no one really knows.

If I was buying a print, I agree that I would also put some kind of premium on a darkroom print made by the photographer using traditional means just out of nostalgia... but that premium would certainly not be more than +50%. 10X is insane and well done inkjet prints are not "posters."

If you aren't dodging and burning your traditional prints, every single print in a addition is also identical... so the idea that they are all lovingly "handcrafted" is meaningless. Etchings and stone lithography is far different than a b&w photograph because the hand of the artist really does "make" the image, with photographs is it light striking sensitized chemicals... the artist really just making choices in the processing... this fundamental difference is why photography always has to fight just to be considered a "fine art." I have been both a print making major and a photography major at different times in my life... there is a big difference between the two... I take photography for what it is.

Anyone who claims that digitally printed photos have "zero value" clearly are not looking at photos in the first place... if all the value is in the process and not the outcome... the image... photography is about images to me... what they say, what they make me think and how they make me feel... a boring traditional print is just an old photograph... and most photographs have zero value no matter how they were printed.
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Old 12-18-2008   #11
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I'll chime in with: nonsense. Prints by a good photographer who is highly skilled in their media of choice are worth more. Fine art photographers often choose to do limited print runs whether they work with a traditional or digital darkroom; when push comes to shove, many buyers won't really care. If someone has a strong personal vision to express via the camera and print, and the experience to create a rich realization of that vision, that will stand out more than any particulars of process.
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Old 12-18-2008   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mh2000 View Post
when I last hung my b&w prints in a gallery, the other photographer got into this same discussion with me... pointed at one of my prints and said, "see, you could never do that with digital." I waited a moment before telling him that he was pointing at an inkjet print. On my statement of archivability I listed them as "b&w photographs" which they are... honestly no one knew they came from an HP inkjet. I think the HP dye-based b&w system matches traditional silver prints until you view them under a loupe.

I worked in a traditional darkroom making my own prints for 20+ years so it isn't that I've never seen good traditional prints... and had I not developed a severe sensitivity to photochems I probably never would have gone to digital printing, but it is certainly better than most commercial lab work. Some of my fiber based prints have yellowed over the years so I don't even buy the archival argument when Wilhelm gives some of the inkjet prints 200+ years... time will of course tell how good a prediction that is... just like RC papers... no one really knows.

If I was buying a print, I agree that I would also put some kind of premium on a darkroom print made by the photographer using traditional means just out of nostalgia... but that premium would certainly not be more than +50%. 10X is insane and well done inkjet prints are not "posters."

If you aren't dodging and burning your traditional prints, every single print in a addition is also identical... so the idea that they are all lovingly "handcrafted" is meaningless. Etchings and stone lithography is far different than a b&w photograph because the hand of the artist really does "make" the image, with photographs is it light striking sensitized chemicals... the artist really just making choices in the processing... this fundamental difference is why photography always has to fight just to be considered a "fine art." I have been both a print making major and a photography major at different times in my life... there is a big difference between the two... I take photography for what it is.

Anyone who claims that digitally printed photos have "zero value" clearly are not looking at photos in the first place... if all the value is in the process and not the outcome... the image... photography is about images to me... what they say, what they make me think and how they make me feel... a boring traditional print is just an old photograph... and most photographs have zero value no matter how they were printed.
Wet printing is a craft, which takes talent and long tedious studies or practice behind it all. Therefore there is a high price attached to this.

Clicking a "print" button and choosing paper settings while in pyjamas and scratching balls while yawning and burping the beer hardly commands a premium, no matter how goos the image may be. The price of such a print has to be limited by the cost or the paper + inks. There is no deep knowledge and sweat behind a digital print. A few hours on any internet forum and Voila anyone can become an"expert" digital printer by knowing how to assing a profile to a specific paper. When I think of it I can't help but think of it as a pathetic practice. As pathetically easy as driving a bike. Anyone can do it.

I value real Gold and I despise plated Gold, no matter if you wouldn't be able to tell the real from the fake. The real is still worth 10X more. I personally will never accept to wear a fake gold chain, not even if experts couldn't tell it apart. would you?
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Old 12-18-2008   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mh2000 View Post
when I last hung my b&w prints in a gallery, the other photographer got into this same discussion with me... pointed at one of my prints and said, "see, you could never do that with digital." I waited a moment before telling him that he was pointing at an inkjet print. On my statement of archivability I listed them as "b&w photographs" which they are... honestly no one knew they came from an HP inkjet. I think the HP dye-based b&w system matches traditional silver prints until you view them under a loupe.

I worked in a traditional darkroom making my own prints for 20+ years so it isn't that I've never seen good traditional prints... and had I not developed a severe sensitivity to photochems I probably never would have gone to digital printing, but it is certainly better than most commercial lab work. Some of my fiber based prints have yellowed over the years so I don't even buy the archival argument when Wilhelm gives some of the inkjet prints 200+ years... time will of course tell how good a prediction that is... just like RC papers... no one really knows.

If I was buying a print, I agree that I would also put some kind of premium on a darkroom print made by the photographer using traditional means just out of nostalgia... but that premium would certainly not be more than +50%. 10X is insane and well done inkjet prints are not "posters."

If you aren't dodging and burning your traditional prints, every single print in a addition is also identical... so the idea that they are all lovingly "handcrafted" is meaningless. Etchings and stone lithography is far different than a b&w photograph because the hand of the artist really does "make" the image, with photographs is it light striking sensitized chemicals... the artist really just making choices in the processing... this fundamental difference is why photography always has to fight just to be considered a "fine art." I have been both a print making major and a photography major at different times in my life... there is a big difference between the two... I take photography for what it is.

Anyone who claims that digitally printed photos have "zero value" clearly are not looking at photos in the first place... if all the value is in the process and not the outcome... the image... photography is about images to me... what they say, what they make me think and how they make me feel... a boring traditional print is just an old photograph... and most photographs have zero value no matter how they were printed.
I stopped printing in the darkroom for the same reason as you did: chemical allergies. My newer work isn't crap just because I got sick from chemicals. I hear blowhards in galleries (I have a print in a gallery exhibit right now) say digital prints are crap too while telling me what a great printer i am. Then I tell them that it is an Epson print from a scanned negative. They usually stammer out a response about how they had never seen a digital print that good before.

I think part of the anti-digital attitudes are simple snobbery, but part of it does have some basis in truth: I see a LOT of large prints made from digital cameras that simply do not have the resolution to support the big prints people are trying to make from them. The exhibit I am in now is filled with such prints and you can spot them a mile away because they lack fine details in things like grass, trees, and weathered wood that should show them. A 11x14 from a 6mp camera looks crappy to me. From a 14mp camera it looks magnificent. I know, I own a 6mp D70 and used to have a 14mp Kodak 14n. I now shoot all film, mostly medium format, for my fine art work. My scanned negs print nicely at large sizes without the lack of fine resolution that i see in too many digital prints from digital cameras. Digital cameras, as my 14n showed, are not inferior to film IF you have enough pixels for the print size, but few of the people making 16x20s from their 8mp cameras can afford a 22mp camera. I can't either, which is why I am back to 120 rollfilm. I had the camera and the film is cheap.
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Old 12-18-2008   #14
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It's a changing world, with changing times. It's only going to become more so that digital prints continue to improve and are able to produce digital prints.

Now I say this as someone who loves working in the darkroom and loves silver prints and yes each print is ever so slightly unique -- BUT -- the artist has the right to use whichever medium they prefer or can work with.

I paint watercolours, not oils, I'm useless with oils and have the talent of a drunk seal flapping around with a paintbrush when it comes to oils -- but that doesn't make me any less of a painter (and for the record, I'm not that good!)

The way I see it is there is the artist and the consumer. The artist will use whatever tools they have chosen and/or have at their disposal to communicate their ultimate vision in that piece. Some will scan + tweak in Photoshop + print digitally, some will use a fully analogue/silver based path. That is fine and so long as the artist is happy with the result and the tools, then they will see their idea and concept has come through properly.

So, the consumer then sees something they like. If what it is is of value and worth paying for them, or indeed even just to look at it and consider it for any period of time beyond a short glance -- then the process works as far as that's concerned because the buyer/consumer feels that whatever was used to make that print and how it looks is worth paying the price. The bottom line is they either will or they won't.

I personally love my silver prints, and I can't be doing with Photoshopping my photos seriously as I use the application every day virtually and have done for 14 years and I'm quite sick of it But, I personally like my results in the wet print, but that shouldn't devalue or take away from other methods that are used.

That said, I love working in the darkroom and whilst I'll never say never, I can't see myself ever wanting to print digitally. But that's a personal choice, and I can't see anything better than someone who loved to work in the darkroom but due to an allergy or other ailments that stop people working effectively in the dark, digital in general offers a great way for people to stay in a field or art form that they love.
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Old 12-18-2008   #15
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ITs a little like the difference between a painting, and a print of a painting. both have the same image, but one has the hand of the artist in it.

This is why wet photographic prints mean more, it has the hand of the artist revealed in it. It is both an aesthetic thing and a plastic thing at the same time. This is my opinion, and why for my exhibition prints I am still doing wet darkroom work.

(unlike others I have seen around who are getting digital photo's printed onto stretched canvas, I suspect in an effort to defeat this very concept by the weave of the canvas evoking the association)
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Old 12-18-2008   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Goldorak View Post
Wet printing is a craft, which takes talent and long tedious studies or practice behind it all. Therefore there is a high price attached to this.

Clicking a "print" button and choosing paper settings while in pyjamas and scratching balls while yawning and burping the beer hardly commands a premium, no matter how goos the image may be. The price of such a print has to be limited by the cost or the paper + inks. There is no deep knowledge and sweat behind a digital print. A few hours on any internet forum and Voila anyone can become an"expert" digital printer by knowing how to assing a profile to a specific paper. When I think of it I can't help but think of it as a pathetic practice. As pathetically easy as driving a bike. Anyone can do it.
Stop the presses!

My dress code and personal habits while slaving over a hot Mac at home are, of course, my business. But reducing digital printing to a mouse-click and a yawn is a Schedule-1 myth. I'm not interested in going mano y mano with my inkjets against someone's silver prints because each has a unique quality about them that doesn't negate or deny the other's validity..

One thing to remember is that consistently good wet prints come from solid wet darkrooms. Yes, we can talk about how so-and-so made crackerjack prints from a rickety enlarger propped uo on the commode of his bathroom and such, but that's generally NOT the way the prints you and I ogle in a gallery or museum were printed. In fact, you're lucky if the prints you're looking at on the wall were even printed by the photographer her/himself. For every Weston (Ed or Brett), there are at least five HCBs who rarely saw the inside of a darkroom, save to discuss details with their personal printer.

I can second mh2000's musings about b/w digital printing's virtues (for the record, we use the same printer). When I finally hit the "good" formula for really good b/w inkjet prints (and great color as well, from the same printer, which is still relatively rare at prices under $1k), it was full speed ahead. Yes, I see way too many lousy inkjet prints, but I see my share of ho-hum silver prints as well. Method means little if you can't make a damn good print, and it's not necessarily "easier" via inkjet than in the wet darkroom (just less messy ). I try not to be dogmatic about method: I primarily shoot film because I like working with film, like the results I get from film, and prefer the workflow with film-based cameras. Digital cameras are generally way too fussy and convoluted for my sensibilities, but that doesn't mean I can't get decent results from one, but I won't go that way unless absolute speed trumps all other considerations. Once the film is developed and cut, I scan, work on the file, make test prints, sit on the tests for a few days, then either go for a final or work the file again and mull over things a few days more. It ain't just click 'n grin, whether it's for a small portfolio or a gallery exhibit.

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I value real Gold and I despise plated Gold, no matter if you wouldn't be able to tell the real from the fake. The real is still worth 10X more. I personally will never accept to wear a fake gold chain, not even if experts couldn't tell it apart. would you?
I prefer my watches–the only thing on my person approaching jewelry–with hand-wound movements, and wouldn't be caught dead wearing one with much gold (silver and stainless-steel only for my wrist), for what that's worth. That didn't stop me from getting a nice Citizen Eco-Drive a year ago. But these things are mere reflections of my personality, not the embodiment.

Are not ink and carbon, in their own realm, as artistically noble as silver?


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Old 12-18-2008   #17
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This whole subject seems to evoke as much emotion as the whole digital verses film argument we constantly seem to be having around here. If I really like something on an artistic level I don't give a damn what the source may have been ... I'm purely interested in how it affects me visually and emotionally.

One of the gallery openings I was fortunate enough to photograph a while ago was predominantly video art ... either on large monitors or projected on to screens. I was initially sceptical about it's real aristic value but came away at the end of it highly impressed with some of the extremely original stuff I saw.

My answer to the OP's question is no ... IMHO!
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Old 12-18-2008   #18
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Suggesting wet prints are somehow more valuable than inkjet prints is myopic. Like the poor one dimensional inhabitants of Flatland, it's easy to get trapped in the box.

Digital cameras and Photoshop (Lightroom, Aperture, et. al.) have freed the photographic artist from the constraints of wet printing. I've spent 40 years wet printing in a darkroom, but haven't stepped into one in 10 years. I actually spend more time working on a print on the computer than I did in the darkroom, because I have so much more control with the computer than I ever had with an enlarger. I usually spend days (or weeks) on a single print for exhibition.

It really doesn't matter what media you work with. Producing art is still hard work. And anyone who gets up and does it every day has my accolades, regardless in what medium he/she works!
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Old 12-19-2008   #19
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Quote:
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Digital cameras and Photoshop (Lightroom, Aperture, et. al.) have freed the photographic artist from the constraints of wet printing. I've spent 40 years wet printing in a darkroom, but haven't stepped into one in 10 years. I actually spend more time working on a print on the computer than I did in the darkroom, because I have so much more control with the computer than I ever had with an enlarger. I usually spend days (or weeks) on a single print for exhibition.
This is your preference of work, but not general statement.

If we talk about multiple copies of the same photography, every master wetprint copy is more like original, while digital print copies are more like clones. For me it does not makes sense to number digital prints for this reason. But at the same time I don't discredit the huge value of work to make good digital prints.

But back to topic, I think there were (are) very few generally acclaimed photographers who made prints themselves.
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Old 12-19-2008   #20
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Are those Shermans pigment or chromogenic prints?

This stuff about the hand of the artist and each print being unique is kind of silly, isn't it? Is anyone looking at those 8 versions of Sherman's picture and saying, "I like this one best. I'll take this one". And, I doubt she even made the prints.

Photography has been around for a century and a half, and we are still having the "Hand of the Artist" debate? Ok then.

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Old 12-19-2008   #21
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Photography has been around for a century and a half, and we are still having the "Hand of the Artist" debate? Ok then.
Yes. It's a reasonable debate because it transcends both time and media.

This discussion, however, is tainted by harsh attitude toward those who are our (1) skillfull/lucky enough to have money in the bank, and (2) (if one really wants to sell art prints) are our potential CUSTOMERS. A smart merchant never lets his customers know if he has distain for them! I sincerely hope that was all tongue-in-cheek.

Other than that, the conclusion and suggestions are rather reasonable.
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Old 12-19-2008   #22
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Stephen's point seems to be more that 'ricjh art collectors' are willing to pay more for a silver print than an inkjet print, and for reasons that have nothing or little to do with the reality of the images portrayed. That has little to do with the intrinsic value of either medium really.

In fact there are a (not insignificant ) number of photographers ()photographic artists?) who sell inkjet prints at high prices - Pete Myers current catcalogue lists framed 12 by 8 inkjets at $1900 and Michael Reichmann at LL sells inkjets at several hunder dollars each. Now there are people selling silver prints for much more, but really at this stage your into the art worlds own valuation process which has far more to do with how you're viewed than your media.

So, I think Stephen was talking about a marketing approach rather than the intrinsic value of the print - which is presumably comprised a realtively small material value and a relatively high artistic value for the image.
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Old 12-19-2008   #23
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hmm.

perhaps I was not clear.

I don't care if photographers sell their images with digital prints, wet prints, or etch-a-sketch. I would just like to see them make a good living off their work. I am not against digital prints.

I just strongly believe wet prints personally printed by the photographer have the potential for being sold for MUCH MORE than the same image printed digitally.

I don't see photographers taking that marketing approach, and I believe it is costing them financially.

Example. Price a signed digital Annie Liebowitz print. Now imagine the price of that same image if personally printed by her in the darkroom. Of course she probably does little if any wet printing herself. But a huge increase in wet print prices might make it worth even Annie Liebowitz's time.

Photographers often forget to market the craftsmanship and artistic value of their images. I think they can do that much more effectively with personally printed wet prints than digitally printed images. Their is nothing wrong with selling digital images. But what is wrong with selling personally produced wet images for a lot more than digital prints?

Stephen
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Old 12-19-2008   #24
shadowfox
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I think Polaroid "arts" will worth more in ten-years since you won't be able to make them anymore.
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Old 12-19-2008   #25
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As it was discussed here a few times already, a good printer does not need to be good photographer and vice versa. A good printer sometimes is really necessary. And i mean the person, not the machine
I would go for the answer: no, a properly printed image by a good printer and signed by the photographer should sell for more than a sloppy print of a great photographer made by himself.
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