Saturday, October 29, 2005

Market trends: Vintage, Shmintage

Frank Van Riper writing in the Washington Post and discussing digital influences in todays's photography market with Washington DC dealer George Hemphill.

Quoting from Hemphill and Van Riper's article:

"Computer-generated Iris and Epson prints, even in signed limited editions such as we (Hemphill) produce, may always be viewed in the higher echelons of the fine art photography market as just that: computer-generated, as opposed to hand-made. I remember, for example, respected New York photography dealer John Stevenson conceding to me that, while beautifully done black and white Iris prints of our Venice work surely can approach -- or even rival at times -- one-of-a-kind platinum/palladium prints, "my clients won't touch them." Why? Largely because Iris prints are produced with the push of a button, and not by a master printer working alone in the dark."

George Hemphill notes that the emergence of large scale photographic work co-exists with the growing influence of design in the artistic preferences of the consumer. "It is surface design that rules the world," he declared, whether it be the curve of a toilet brush bought at Target or the high-tech sheen of a state-of the-art cell phone.

Bottom line: issues of usefulness being equal, "people will pay more money for more pleasing design."

"You want to know how hot photography is? Photography's so hot that people who call themselves photographers, who have minimum skills and crappy equipment and nothing in common [with real photographers], can get shows in Chelsea in one gallery after another."

Well aside from having any shows in Chelsea, I resemble that last remark. Give me something other than photographer to call myself and I'd be happy to do so.


Anonymous Ian said...

I thought this was an interesting article but it still doesn't begin to understand what is involved with digital imagery.

And on the digital front I have to confess my own prejudice that, marvelous though something like Photoshop may be for making digital prints, its multiple menus -- and those available from other sources -- seem at times like a midnight smorgasboard on a cruise ship: simply too much, and of too little actual value. In addition, the troglodyte in me values the idea that it is the artist who initially decides what he or she wants to produce, then goes about producing it (silver print, C-print, platinum print, solarized print, etc.) within the confines of that decision, and not at the whim of a pulldown menu of printing options.

This for example is just plain nonsense. Yopu know as much as I do, that the process of making a digital image involves just as many decisions as any darkroom print. The fact that the computer stores those decisions for you so that they can be repeated ad infinitumdoesn't change that.

I suppose an original Anselm Adams print, prepared and made by Adams himself has some value over one produced by a technician. But many so called 'original' photographic prints are actually made by internegatives anyway - which is just another way of storing those darkroom decisions.

I can't help feeling that there is a tinge of Luddism behind this view.

7:48 AM  
Anonymous Ian said...

This is something I have been thinking about for a while and have posted at more length on it here

8:16 AM  
Anonymous dubmill said...

Very interesting blog, Ron. Bookmarked.

'at the touch of a button' - always a handy dismissive phrase. I hate those kind of people and what to me is an outmoded notion of craft photography. OK, fine, let it survive for those that like to use it but stop trying to argue that it's superior. It's very similar to the acoustic/electronic divide in (popular) music, which I know a lot more about, it has to be said. Having said that, there ARE nuances in acoustic music that are absent with electronic techniques. I guess there are analogies there*.

It's funny though that the art world seems much more resistant to change. I suppose that's where the 'popular' in popular music comes in. It's not hidebound by high art rigidities and orthodoxies and just evolves a lot more organically in relation to the mass market.

* Regarding the traditional types of photographic prints - what exactly is it that is regarded as superior - something in the finish of the object (to the eye and the hand), or just the knowledge that it was created in a particular way (and is thus a 'one off')?

9:43 AM  
Anonymous Ronni Bennett said...

Hey zine...welcome to the blogosphere. I found you via Ian at Panchromatica. I'm so glad you've joined us.

6:45 PM  
Blogger Anonymous 1 said...

I very much admire your artwork...
thank you,

5:04 AM  
Blogger J. said...

What the hell qualifies someone as a "real" photographer? Am I a 'false' or 'imitation' photogrpaher becaues I have a crappy camera? Or even less of a photographer because I use Photoshop? The digital camera, computer and software are no different than a light sensitive gelatin plate, pinhole in a box, and a circle of paper on a stick for dodging... they are all tools for creating and manipulating an image.

Photography is all about 'the push of a button'. While yeah, it would be cool to have a print actually handled and processed by a favorite photographer - the value being the provenence of the print itself, not the image on it - but once the proof of who made the print is lost or forgotten, the only important thing is the image, isn't it?

As for manipulating an image with software, it's like playing a piano. Some are plunking out a bad rendition of Chopsticks with their images while others handle the software with the expertise of a virtuoso. The end result is all that counts.

Art (and photography) is subjective. Why does everyone seem to forget this? If YOU like it, then it's art. If you like it and you BUY it then more power to you and the artist that made it. These middlemen (and women) who deal art and try and dictate what is and isn't art are just pimps.

By the by, can I get a list of these Chelsea galleries? I have some images I'd like to foist upon an uneducated market so I can pay my rent and buy myself a better camera so I can be a REAL photographer.

I guess now I'm just a Velveteen Photographer.

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Todd W. said...

"Photography is all about 'the push of a button'."

What an apt statement. Historically, the search for a viable photographic process was specifically driven by the desire to be able to draw skillfully without actually having to learn to draw. Heck, Fox-Talbot's first book was called The Pencil of Nature. Hence, the craft of photography will always be dogged by the shadow of simplicity, naivety, and laziness.

5:00 PM  

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