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[filmscanners] Re: [filmscanners_Digest] digital fiber

Hi Tom,

Obviously you have spent a great deal of time, thought, and cash,
wrestling with the matter of the merit of different fine art media, and
how the marketplace has responded.

I agree to a great extent with your evaluation.  The pendulum swings
wide and movement direction also can alter "on a dime".  The balance
necessary in creating a fair art market for different media is not ever
in stasis.  Not only do art trends or fads come and go, or artists fall
into and out of vogue, but media also gain and lose value.

Photography was one of the first mediums that presented this dilemma.
It went for being rare and exotic, to trying to copy the style of
paintings, to getting into the hands of everyone, to developing into a
collectable art form (not necessarily in that order or evolution, these
things were going on simultaneously).

I know of living art buyers (yes today!) who consider watercolor
paintings "not art".  Photographs, serigraphs, lithos, etchings, etc,
all involve mechanical or chemical processes that somewhat remove them
from the "artist's hands", either due to the nature of the beast, or
sometimes the fact that the artist literally has the work contracted out.

We have a relatively famous and prolific Canadian wildlife artist
locally who was producing "limited edition" prints (produced by offset
press with non-archival papers and inks) in the number of as many as
64,000 units, supposedly each hand signed and numbered, and they sold
out, retailing for upwards of $500 each.

My limited edition print runs are usually 125, and signing and numbering
them takes me days... so you do the math ;-)

Needless to say, the "limited edition" print market has collapsed from
its peak here, and I personally believe these 64,000 print runs had
something to do with it (at least mine are printed on acid free paper
with archival pigments, and I attend the printing process...).

Anyway, this artist is now producing only triple digit runs, or smaller,
in most cases and they are now giclee prints.

We have a local photo and digital print lab which uses large scale
inkjet printers for some very large prints.  They apparently are using
archival inks and papers, and the work can be truly rich and beautiful.

Personally, if the work is technically wonderful, it is as permanent or
more so than other traditional processes, the numbers are documented and
limited, I see little difference between that and a paper printed large
format image, a dye transfer print, a standard photograph, or another
print format.

I do recognize that the 18 plate hand etched color print I have in my
bedroom is indeed a major "WORK" of art, from a technical aspect, if
nothing more. I respect the artist's commitment, especially when using
copper plates which very much limit the number produced.  I would
therefore expect to pay a lot more for that than say, a "giclee" copy of
the same piece.

But art is both about process and product.  At the end, if the work is
visually important to a buyer, the process, although meaningful, is
probably not going to influence the value of the work as art.  It
becomes a matter of supply and demand.  How many are there and how many
people want it?

Is a later Jackson Pollack more of less valuable because he took years
of tormented life to come upon his paint "splatter" technique, or that
he died tragically, or should it be devalued because it didn't take a
lot of time to actually produce?  Should a Van Gogh be worth less
because he used inferior paints and painted up a storm, but much of his
works were lost and no longer exist?

Should someone who meticulously and methodically spends 3 years of
painstaking work under a magnifying glass straining his eyes to complete
a pen and ink be more compensated due to the time it took for the work
to be completed?

If one produces a "Giclee" on a five figure Iris printer, is it worth
more than is it is a four or three figure Epson?

The truth is, there is no logic to the value of art, because it is not
valued based upon any standards of material or labor that we use for
most goods.  It is truly a matter of what the market will offer.  So, to
return to your comments, if you believe that art buyers will  pay you
more for a paper neg generated photo than a "Giclee" and you like the
process of making paper negs and contact prints, then sure, that sounds
like fun.  But trying to second guess where the art buyer's fancy will
turn next is about as sure as putting venture capital into a new dot.com.

All you have to do is watch a few "Antique Roads Show" episodes to
realize its a crap shoot. ;-)

PS: there are some original Atari game cartridges selling for several
hundreds dollars each now, when 5 years ago the same things were in the
local Goodwill for 4/$1.  ;-)


HPA wrote:

> I apologize to Mr. Solomon for my incorrect gender presumption.
>>>by "digital fiber", I mean any way that a silver-gelatin print can be made
>>>from a digital original (or scan, or whatever).
>>At present this would exclude direct inkjet printing as a positive final
>>print; it might include making inkjet paper negatives which could then be
>>printed via traditional photographic processes, which would be indirect.
> Yes, and paper negatives are an outstanding example.  However, I cannot use
> this technique without a specific instruction from the photographer because
> it is too interpretive (it destroys optical sharpness).  Because I am a
> commercial lab (although I offer only fine-art or archival printing), I have
> to make the most conventional and respectable forms of prints, so I will be
> using film output recorders to make 20x24" film negatives, and contact print
> these onto fiber paper in the darkroom.
> The economic point of making paper negatives, fiber prints, etc., is to be
> able to keep print prices for fine-art digital photography from collapsing
> because of excess supply and competition.  In certain cities, inkjets are
> being killed by vendor competition, and this has had a spin effect on local
> photographers because bin loads of of cheap inkjets at flea markets, art
> bazzars, etc., tend to cheaper the perception of the medium, and can lead to
> reduced sales of high priced ones. Art buyers who have three or four figures
> to spend on framed works of art probably own desktop Epsons or something
> like them, and understand that inkjet prints are machine made replications.
> Works of art on paper imply a high level of craftspersonship at the minimum,
> and preferably are hand made by the artist (or photographer) themselves.
> Many photographers feel they need to distinguish their work from the pack,
> and do everything possible to enhance it's market ability.  I have received
> at least twice as many orders this year than last for gold chloride POP
> prints.  Platinum & palladium, all sorts of odd stuff, all of it is coming
> back.
> The paper negative crowd is part of the so-called "alternative process"
> community, and it is these people who are likely to take digital processes
> through some of their most unpredictable but ultimate capabilities as far as
> fine-art photography goes, because they are using their printers as tools to
> create original and non-replicatable works of art on paper.  Some are
> modifying their printers, some make their own paper, some use multi media
> techniques, etc.  Another reason that digital is playing an important role
> here is because over the last two years many specialized films have been
> discontinued.  Digital contrast masks printed on the epson can help to
> duplicate (to an acceptable point) the effect that Agfa P330p or Kodak 4125
> could do a few years ago.
> Straight inkjet prints (I use Epson archival matte paper), I would like to
> emphasize, have created many opportunities that did not exist several years
> ago.  I wholeheartedly endorse digital inkjet prints. The investment was
> well worth it for me, I am pleased with the direction that inkjet sales are
> taking, and the profitability is where it needs to be for now.
> I hope that my observations can be of some value to this list membership.  I
> have learned a lot from this list over the past year, and want to thank
> everyone for the great crash course in digital scanning.
> Tom Robinson

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