I’m in the Pacific Northwest this week to attend a workshop with Art Wolfe. It was through researching potential workshops with Art that I came across Jay’s work and have been following his blog for a couple of years now. His outdoor work, covers a wide spread of nature, landscape and adventure photography but he also builds on his architecture training to make some stunning photographs of buildings. Goes to show that the more you know your subject the better the photographs will be.
It’s hard to know the person behind photographs when your interaction has been purely electronic stalking but Jay’s about page reinforces the notion that I had of a pretty mellow, if not passionate and intense guy. Do all those fit together I think so. Get a sense for yourself in the interview with Jie from an episode of ‘Framed‘ last year.
Jerry Uelsmann is well known for his masterful photo-composites that are achieved in the traditional darkroom. While it is true that this kind of composite can now readily be created with the help of Photoshop, for me, few are able to create the kind of surreal masterpieces that Jerry has been able to produce over the years.
I plan to visit the exhibition of Jerry’s work ‘The Mind’s Eye: 50 Years of Photography by Jerry Uelsmann’ at the Peabody Essex Museum in the coming weeks. Check it out on-line here and read the Boston Globe review here.
Listen to Jerry talk about his photographic process in the video below:
As I gear up for the exhibition at the RMSP gallery, whether to limit the edition size of the prints displayed and how to appropriately price them has been something I’ve been giving some thought to.
Let’s start with limited editions. I struggle to understand the physical reason to limit editions of photographs. When prints were made from an object, such as a metal plate or a wood block or a potato then that object would wear and as such the quality of the print would degrade. In that case limiting the number of prints to the number of good prints that could be made makes sense. For a photograph and particularly a digital photograph this argument doesn’t hold water and so the reason to limit an edition is to help control the price. Buy now before they’re gone for ever! Buy one of the first 10 before the price steps up. That kind of thing. I have little experience with this kind of motivation to buy from a sellers perspective, as a buyer it doesn’t interest me. If what I’m buying is reasonably priced then I’ll buy it, otherwise I won’t. Limiting the edition doesn’t impact that choice for me. Brooks Jensen has an excellent piece on what size an edition should be. You can find the pdf of that here.
It seems common practice even amongst early career fine art photographers to both edition work and also to charge what one could argue are significant prices for their work. I’m not against making a living from photography, far from it but I do wonder whether the price prohibits any work getting sold at all. For instance are you more likely to sell 10 prints priced at $25 or one at $250? Perhaps when you have an established customer base that you know will support your pricing it makes sense but until then what to do? I’m not much of a salesman and as such what is important to me is not wringing every last dollar out of the transaction but making people feel like they got something that was worth at least the dollar amount that the paid.
The actual price should be dictated in part by your fixed costs – this will be different for everyone, but if you’re having someone do the printing for you then you ought to at least cover that cost, if you’re printing yourself then the base price will be fixed by the materials, paper, ink etc., your time and any other overhead – the cost of keeping the lights on and the printer running. How much beyond these costs you want to go is largely dictated by how much do you want to make and how much do you think the market will pay. I think that the answer is that there’s not one answer but to have something that will work for people with a variety of budgets from $20 to $1000 and more.
The scheme that I’m circling around has, I hope, something for everything. Paper sizes from 8×10 to 24×36 with options for print only, ready to frame and framed. The pricing scheme that I have in mind at the moment would give me a range of ~$20 to ~$1500. As I said above I don’t see a reason to limit editions and so for now I don’t plan to limit my prints.
So what do you think – reasonable or crazy? I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.
I find that I can learn as much from looking at books from other visual artists as I do from photographers. One such example is ‘Landscape Meditations’ by Elizabeth Mowry, that I found recently while browsing in a local bookstore. From the introduction I knew this was a book I would gain something from when I read:
‘when one uses an idea already expressed by others, it becomes unequivocally necessary to take the idea deeper, further or in a different direction to avoid finding oneself on an inevitably dead-ended plateau with unfulfilling work that echoes refrains from someone else’s songs.’
This and other ideas in the book are very much in line with my thoughts for what I’m trying to do with my photography, to have my personality come through in my work. How to get there is a struggle that involves working hard and intentionally. I feel as though Landscape Meditations provides some framework for the exploration for those things that catch our attention, the themes that run deep in our work.
The book begins with a brief historical survey of those artists that have worked in series before launching into the 10 chapters that form the bulk of the book. The general format for each chapter is an introduction, the work and finally a section titled ‘Thoughts: artist to artist’. I found myself reading the ‘Thoughts’ sections for all the chapters first and then going back and reading the chapter through.
Thoroughly enjoyed the book and is one that I’ll keep coming back to.
I think everyone must experience the same thing. When you go to a place for the first time there are the obvious photographs that you have to take. With time however, either in the span of a single shoot or several shoots digging deeper to find the images that are truly a unique expression of our voice is surely what we should be striving for.
I have photographed intensively at the same location for at least a year now. I keep surprising myself in that I can generate new images when I give myself the chance. Returning to the same place in different weather, different times of day, different times of year more or less guarantees that you’ll have photographs that are different from one another even if they contain the same recognizable elements.
What I’m finding is that returning to the same place time and time again, I have to get out of the way to make new photographs. I have to drop the preconceived notions of what I’m going to find and of what I’m going to shoot. When I let these all go and be open to what’s there and what catches my interest then I’m able to make something different to the time before and the time before that.
For me being open and receptive can be touch to attain some days others I’m there almost immediately. It means slowing down. It means take time to wander around and look to get a sense of the place before getting out the camera. And then spending time with the camera off the tripod exploring options before locking into any one thing.
I suspect that the process will be different for everyone but the goal should be to slow down sufficiently so that you really see the options available. I’d be interested in hearing how you go beyond the obvious.
Increasing I find that while I’m happy to get up for the sunrise, I’m often less than pleased with the results. The vibrant colors that come with the early morning sunrise are increasing dissatisfying. While I can’t quite put my finger on why, purple bugs me the most. While I deal with my issues with purple, the most ‘European’ of colors, I’m trying out many of my images in black and white to see whether they can stand up on there own. I’m not totally sold on this solution but I’d be interested in your opinion of the black and white image above with the color ‘before’ image below.
Occasionally I will find the same snippet of information pop up across a variety of different webpages, magazines, etc. that I turn to on a daily basis to find out what’s going on. That’s how it was with John Coffer.
John was recently featured in the Atlantic Magazine. John lives off the grid on a 50 acre farm in upstate NY that he uses as his base for “Camp Tintype”, ‘the best known and longest running learning center for wet-plate collodion photography in the world’. In addition to the video below, there are more videos on John’s website that are well worth a look. While you’re at John’s website you should also check out some of his tintypes.
There have been so many times when I wished I had a camera with me and regardless of how small the ‘pocket’ camera is I never have a pocket big enough. My iPhone goes everywhere with me.
2. I’m ‘playing’ more than I do with a DSLR.
Along with having the camera with me all the time I’m trying things that I would never have tried with a DLSR such as shooting from unusual angles and trying out different types of processing.
I’d never heard of the Lomo LC-A camera before I started using the Lomo preset in PhotoToaster. Now I’m half seriously thinking about getting one. Until then I’ll keep trying out the Lomo preset on all of my color images.
… and a few things that I don’t
1. Small file size and consequently small prints.
Some of the iPhone photos I’ve taken in the last year I love but I also know that I will struggle to make big prints from them.
2. Apps that dump data and make small files even smaller.
When I first came across Joni Sternbach‘s photographs over on Chris Orwig’s site I was amazed that the photographs were ‘modern’ because they look like they were from a century ago. While I listened to the interview that Joni did with Chris Orwig it didn’t really resonate with me how much effort goes into making these images. The tintype photographs that Joni is producing really were the ‘instant photographs’ of the day back in 1850. These images are developed on site in a portable darkroom. It really is quite remarkable when you consider the hostile environment that Joni is working in. Check out the video for more.