Three Things to Know About Buying Photography

Lucia Engstrom,  Baltic Sea Sol (Dusk)- Pale Pink , 2017. Edition #: 6 AP #: 2.

Lucia Engstrom, Baltic Sea Sol (Dusk)- Pale Pink, 2017. Edition #: 6 AP #: 2.

A lot of people are into photography.  It's affordable (relative to unique pieces like paintings), relatable (who hasn't taken pics?), and prolific (since it can be re-printed).  But beyond consciously or subconsciously recognizing these facts, many people's knowledge of the field is limited. And commonly, despite their declared interest in it, they don't reallllly want to pay a lot of money to buy a photograph vs a painting.  ("Because it's a photo, and I could have just taken that myself...") There's no shame in this hesitation/reasoning, and I've heard it 100 times. But here are a few fun facts to note when declaring yourself a photo fan, and particularly when buying photography: 

1. Edition Sizes

This refers to the number of identical pieces that can be made and is important to note when buying a photograph. The higher the edition size, the less unique the piece, and, with all else equal, the lower the price. "Unlimited editions" (also called "open editions"), can be printed an unlimited number of times (like a poster).  "Limited editions" can only be  printed a specified limited number of times. For example, Adam Katseff is an awesome and respected photographer who generally sells in editions of 7 or less.  As a bonus, OCCASIONALLY, there are "Artist Proofs", also called "APs". These are basically copies of the photos that the artist can keep for his or her personal record or put on the market. So, if there is an edition 1 of 7 with 2AP, and then you know that there are at most 9 of these prints in existence. 

2. Pricing

Since photographs can be re-printed and are not unique like paintings, they are, in general, priced lower than paintings (with all other factors equal, like artist education level, exposure, and size of piece).  But ---- and this is a big BUT --- they are still worth money. I credit Sasha Wolf for teaching me the following:  Professional fine art photographers have the same education as painters, sculptures, etc. -- they've all gone to competitive art schools (and photography programs are often more exclusive), and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the same high level education as other professional artists.  Photographers, however, need to invest a ton of money in equipment and travel to actually pursue their artistic practice, while painters (in general) pay for paints and canvas. Further, it takes a TON of photos (hundreds, sometimes thousands) to get THE ONE that's great and makes it to the market.  Yes, it can be re-printed, but the effort and investment is notable. This is why good photography costs money. 

3. Ethics

Yes, photographs are prints that can technically be re-printed, but any photographer who has ever wanted a CHANCE at developing a market and respect for his/her photography follows a code of ethics that involves NOT re-printing past the stated edition size. This is true for everyone in the print making world, and violations of this code would be fraudulent and hurt the entire fine art print market. For this reason, part of spending wisely when buying photography involves buying from a reputable source. Speak with the gallery, learn about the artist, and do some diligence to become comfortable with the fact that your $5,000, $15,000 or $50,000 is going to what you think it's going to (an edition of 5 or 10) NOT something that will be mass produced and essentially worthless. 

4. Frame photography properly! I'm just linking to my blog post on framing here because it makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE (and 99% of photographs have to be framed). 

Relatedly, did anyone go to AIPAD last weekend? I didn't make it and Maddie went to scope it out. INSIGHT WELCOME.