are some variables that determine the value of a photographic print:
- RARITY: A negative is created that can theoretically allow one to print and
endless number of prints. This process to make multiples is what makes
photography unique from every other medium. Having said that, not
all prints from the same negative are created equal. Some early photographic
processes were very fragile and has limited the number that have survived.
Some prints are "unique" or one-of-a-kind. Rarity in quality
and quantity can often times increase the value of an artist's work.
It is based on supply & demand.
- EDITION: When a photographer creates a numbered edition of a print, they are
in essence controlling the quantity that is available in the market,
thus, creating limited inventory, or rarity. The limited edition concept
is based on supply & demand, and provides an added bonus for the
early collector. When a collector buys a print from the 1st price
tier, say print 2/15 for $1000, they are awarded with the lower, more
desired edition number and will pay the least amount for it. The collector
who purchases later in the 2nd tier, say 7/15 for $1200 has bought
the same image with a higher number and paid more for it. The bonus
again for the early collector is that his $1000 print has just appreciated
at least $200, and maybe more if it is edition #1 or 2. The limited
edition concept came into popularity in the early 80s.
This type of print is usually created around the same time as the
negative, and is generally produced by the artist him/ herself. A
vintage print is generally valued more than one that has been printed
at a later date or after the photographer is deceased.
& IDENTIFYING MARKS:
Prior to 1980, many photographers only signed exhibition prints. Signing,
titling and dating have become more popular as photography itself
has become popular and its general value as a medium has increased.
The collector should also look for identifying marks such as studio
stamps which can be found on either side of a print. Distinguishing
marks help increase the value of a print.
This is a record of who has owned the piece. Was it a part of an important
collection or exhibition, if so, its value is enhanced.
A print that is in perfect condition is obviously more valuable that
one with tears, scratches, scuffs, buckles or creases. Conservation
can be done to repair a print and does not diminish the value of a
Many color photographs (C-prints) are inherently unstable. Processes
like Cibachrome (Ilfochrome) and dye transfer were the only color
permanent commercial processes. There is the Fresson process and 4
color pigment printing that are extremely stable for fine art printing,
in addition to newer papers and inks (computer generated) that are
relatively stable. All color photographs should be cared and stored
QUALITY: Print quality is a subjective "judgment call." Does the
print "touch" you? Does it "glow," or is it boring?
Most of all, is it in keeping with the artist vision.
A photograph by a well know artist will bear more than from one that
is not as recognized.
& DEMAND: There are trends in collecting photography as
is trends in other venues. The serious collector knows the trends
and may or may not follow them. Artists, as well as genres will wax
and wane in popularity. Many collectors always recommend buying what
touches you emotionally.
CARING FOR PHOTOGRAPHY
AVOID touching a print with bare hands, as the oils and lotions can
damage a print. Cotton gloves are recommended. Always handle a print
with both hands, otherwise it may buckle or crease. If such damages
occur, consult a professional conservator who is trained in such things.
Avoid using tape or glue. Keep prints away from direct sunlight. UV
rays are very damaging.
Photographs must be matted and stored according to the highest archival
standard (100% acid-free). There are 2 types of matting: 100% rag
board (made from cotton) or less expensive conservation board (made
from purified wood pulp). Though both are effective, 100% cotton rag
is the preferred choice among conservation professionals.
When framing, always use an overmat with the print so that it does
not touch the plexiglass. Yes, only use UV (ultra violet) protected
plexiglass. Its much lighter in weight, will not shatter when shipping,
and gives UV protection to prevent fading over time. Request non-destructive
adhesives to be used and that the matting be constructed with acid-free
corners or rice paper hinges, depending on the photograph.
- STORAGE: Storage boxes that are constructed with acid-free materials are fine.
They vary in size, shape and price. Prints that are stored in a case
should be separated with an archival glassine tissue. Loose prints
should be kept in an archival plastic bag made of polyethylene. Metal
flat files are preferred over wood. The chemicals that are used it
the production of lumber is harmful to photographic prints in the
long term. Acid-free materials & products can be purchased by
Light Impressions, Rochester, New York. (www.lightimpressionsdirect.com
- SHIPPING: When shipping, you want to keep the work dry and flat. Wrap the prints
in snug-fitting polyethylene plastic bags and sandwich between 2 layers
of heavy cardboard or 1/8" masonite board. The panels should
be 2" larger than the prints. Tape the sandwiched prints tightly
with packing tape and then wrap with bubble wrap. Always use a courier
that tracks their packages like UPS, DHL or FedEx. Never use regular
US mail, and always properly insure the prints.
paper expands and contracts with changes in temperature and humidity
and therefore may not always be flat. Some waviness in the surface
is to be expected. This is a special characteristic of art-on-paper
that should be accepted and enjoyed.