Photographic Editions - Destroy the negative? Where's the value?
Thoughts and e-mail exchanges on the subject by Jean Ferro
between Jean Ferro, (intro and questions) (response) Stephen Perloff,
Publisher of The Photo Review / The Photograph Collector and Elizabeth
Ferrer, Specialist Mexican Art, along with an excerpt from Alex Novak,
iPhoto Central on Vintage
Lithographs were among the most affordable and popular collectible. First, you had the artist signed lithos and then, followed a supply of unsigned lithos. The artist would create a limited 2nd generation edition from his original art work and then destroy the plates that created the lithograph. Hence, one was left with a limited supply of a 2nd generation image, the original and perhaps a couple of artists proofs.
for multiple copies of a photographic image, because of it's popularity,
encouraged photographers to print according to demand or in some cases,
create completed numbered limited photographic editions. My recollection
is that many of the photographers during the early to mid-late 70's printed
the full edition, usually no larger than 25...and then "supposedly"
retired the negative...for LIFE..!
There are varying techniques that photographers use to control the identity of their work. Ansel Adams, according to his personal gallery, signed his prints when he was the printer and initialed them when his assistant did the printing. He didn't actually create limited editions, but rather created a special image to be included in a specific limited edition of a book. A friend of mine, (who met Ansel at the time in Ohio) has TWO of the very impressive books that contained actual photographic prints. The listing reads: (On back of photo:) Fern Spring, Dusk Yosemite Valley, California, CA 1961 by Ansel Adams An Original Photographic Print To Accompany the De Luxe Edition of ANSEL ADAMS: IMAGES, 1923-1974 Published by the NEW YORK GRAPHIC SOCIETY, LTD. Boston, 1974. This is Print Number CCXI (211) (the one book has been opened to reveal the print inside and the other is CCX (210), never opened, both are encased in their own beautiful black cloth case, with the engraved letters AA. The print size, including mat is 13.5 X 16.5. It's impressive and feels so important. You know you are holding something valuable in your hands, it's special, not duplicable and signed by Ansel.
Ansel also created a collection of prints that were from a selected group of images, which became a set of limited edition portfolios. Some of the images included in the portfolios would also be for sale -- independent of the grouping in the book. The images chosen for the portfolio would not be produced again as a "specific" group of images. Interesting to note that Ansel's image "Moonrise, Hernandez " may have a circulation approx. 900 upwards to 1200 prints according to his gallery. So, I'm assuming from my e-mail from Stephen Perloff, publisher of "The Photographic Collector" Newsletter, that earliest of the Moonrise series would be the most valuable.
the collectors looking for? Is it the image? The quality of the image?
A time period? Limited edition? A presentation similar to Ansel Adams?
I understand, a few years ago, a special collection of Cindy Sherman's
self-portrait portfolios sold at a $1,000,000 each to museums and collectors.
I don't know how many images were contained in the portfolios, nor the
size or print types, or even if the price quoted is correct...but it sounds
good and I'm happy to hear that a contemporary photographer can command
high prices for their work.
Should we as artists register the image with the copyright office as a way of signing our signature to an original representation of our work? I wrote to the Photo History group and received a couple of very interesting responses. Of course I had a flood of questions to ask, and Stephen Perloff of The Photographic Collector wrote back with some surprising responses. Several PRO photographers I asked personally had a different take on the subject, all different and very variable... Perhaps, in the end...it's the "image itself" that can spin the golden thread of success in the eyes of the beholder and the world.
Photographic Editions - Destroy the negative?
1st Response to Posting: STEPHEN PERLOFF, In a message dated 6/24/03 3:31:12 PM, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
Hello, Is there someone on the list who knows the facts about:
STEPHEN PERLOFF: No - and this is problematic. Photographers often print five at a time (say) to order and other than the most famous photographers who sell out an edition, many editions are never completed. In fact, I contend that MORE photographs are printed because of limited editions, since most photographers print a few and then would prefer to move on.
JEAN FERRO: 2) Is there a specific time frame to print the edition? (i.e., so that all the ink, chemicals, paper, tonal values are the same.)
STEPHEN. PERLOFF: No, though perhaps there should be, but in fact most photographers match the print very well. Despite all the changes in papers, etc., these changes usually take place very slowly.
JEAN. FERRO: 3) Is there a difference between the term "edition" and "limited edition"?
STEPHEN PERLOFF: It's semantics. Is an edition of 500 limited?
JEAN FERRO: 4) For instance, could someone print their one image "edition of 300" over time, and just number them as they go.? (printing from 1 year upwards to 5 - 10 years to print the complete edition?
STEPHEN PERLOFF: Certainly, though large editions are rare. I would prefer to see photographers number their prints consecutively and date each with the negative and print date. Of course, they'd have to keep good records. This would make earlier prints more valuable. Instead the price of some editions rises as the edition goes on (say each 5 prints cost more than the previous five).
5) Must the edition be printed on exactly the same paper, using the same
method of printing, not mixing various papers and changing to digital
prints to complete the 300 edition ?
JEAN FERRO: Are there specific terms for a breakdown of this type? i.e., "Trees," 1990, 11" x 14" 2/25 of three variable editions?
STEPHEN PERLOFF: I haven't seen any consensus on this. It's usually an edition of 8 at 19"x19" and an edition of 4 at 44"x44". The listing (say in an auction catalogue) would just be for that sized edition, e.g. 2/10.
7) How is a negative or transparency retired (without the photographer
dropping dead or destroying the original.) to guarantee it will no longer
be printed by the creator to protect the investment of the collector?
JEAN FERRO: 8) How many artists proofs are considered appropriate per image?
STEPHEN PERLOFF: I haven't seen any consensus here either, but it would be frowned upon if an edition of 10 had 10 AP (artist proofs).
FERRO: 9) RE: Digital Editions, where do things stand in terms of digital
files? It changes yearly, if not monthly, regarding the range, brilliance
and archival property of inks and paper. So far the only "small" printer
is the Epson 2000P w/pigmented ink and archival paper, produces the most
longevity of over 100 years and maybe upwards to 200 years and it's largest
print size is 13"x19". The 2000P has a metamerism problem, which personally,
I believe is an asset because it's helps to identify the print longevity
and stability. (which is becoming harder to recognize with the vast amount
of paper types now available).
2000P metamerism (color shift/hue cast in different lighting situations)
seems to only encourage more viewing to see the uniqueness of the color
shift. Sounds like a kinetic photograph! For anyone interested in "how
archival is it?"....FYI: Henry Wilhelm is the longevity print expert.
and works closely w/Nash Editions. Saw this recent article: (Wilhelm Imaging
Research paper titled: "Light-Induced and Thermally-Induced Yellowish
Stain Formation in Inkjet Prints and Traditional Chromogenic Color Photographs"
presented at the "Japan Hardcopy 2003" conference in Tokyo on June 12,
2003. The conference was sponsored by The Imaging Society of Japan. It's
always been my understanding that an edition was printed "all at once,"
i.e., Lithographs (plates destroyed after printing) and that an archival
print was generally b/w produced on fiber paper (silver gelatin). Now
with digital printing associated to archival inks, and archival paper,
color will last as long as b/w fiber prints, maybe longer.
Finally... 10) VINTAGE: What is the time span for something to be considered
vintage? Is it a print produced within 3 years after it was documented
onto film...or is this also another flexible area...and can it range from
3 years up to 10 years?
STEPHEN PERLOFF: It's not like a car. It's immediately vintage, though the term is not really used for contemporary art.
JEAN FERRO: 11a) Is Polaroid considered vintage?
STEPHEN PERLOFF: By definition.
JEAN FERRO: Again, it's been my understanding that for an image to be considered vintage, the original image would be produced using a choice of known film types, which would then be produced on paper within a relatively short period of time to guarantee the photographer's vision. The photographer was guesstimating that the photographed image would be produced on the available materials (either old and available or new at the time) they were familiar with, which in turn stimulated them to create the original photographic project with the knowledge of the outcome and final print. If they chose to deviate from the standard (manipulate in the darkroom in some fashion), they were still working with the current materials that were available at the time of the photographic project and close to the time frame of image inception.
STEPHEN PERLOFF: Well, sometimes the photographer just chose what was at hand rather than planning it all out.
JEAN FERRO: 12) OK...I know this is long, and even a suggestion of where to find the info would be greatly appreciated.
STEPHEN PERLOFF: Read The Photograph Collector! (Oops, a commercial message.)
As a photo artist I feel it's really valuable to be equipped with the
knowledge of the collectable marketplace.
Adams: Fern Spring, Dusk Yosemite Valley, California, CA 1961, De Luxe
Edition of ANSEL ADAMS: IMAGES, 1923-1974 Published by the NEW YORK GRAPHIC
SOCIETY, LTD. Boston, 1974.
S-P Collection: Death of the American Baby, Paris 1974
complete Jean Ferro exhibition, printed by Paris Photo Lab w/Exhibition
poster, "Bomarzo" was shown w/sponsorship of Paris Photo Lab
and Propaganda Films in Hollywood, summer, 1989. Two sets of prints were
made from work dated 1975-1987, most were transparencies and b/w negatives
that had never been printed before. One set remains (some images sold).
Elizabeth Ferrer, specialist in Mexican Photography reply:
In a message
dated 6/25/03 2:21:25 PM, email@example.com
Mazahuas, collection from the Phoenix Art Museum at
Alex Novak, Vintage Works, Ltd. i Photo Central, http://www.iphotocentral.com/ an e-Zine for the collectors, images for sale, special events, collecting issues & resources, eZine newsletter (Permission granted to use Information gleaned from
(E-Photo Newsletter : issue #57, A QUESTION OF VINTAGE AND DATING IN PRINTS AFTER 1955)
Newsletter issue 59 7/3/2003 Ê REVISITING: A QUESTION OF VINTAGE AND
DATING IN PRINTS AFTER 1955