Important Announcement: Philip Hyde Authorized Archival Prints, Largest Sizes Converted To Limited Editions
(See the photograph large: “Misty Morning, Indian Creek, Northern Sierra Nevada, California.”)
After much research and deliberation, I have decided to take the advice of many photographers, photography gallery owners, collectors, museum curators, archive collection managers, appraisers, connoisseurs, critics and nearly every other established expert in the art of photography that I have spoken with: to change the largest Philip Hyde authorized archival lightjet or digital prints to limited editions of 50.
That’s right, you read correctly, from now on the two largest sizes, 24X30 and 32X40 Philip Hyde archival lightjet or digital prints will be offered in limited editions of only 50 prints from either size of each image. Not 50 24X30’s plus 50 32X40’s, but 50 prints total in either size. The remaining Philip Hyde archival print sizes: 8X10, 11X14, 16X20 and 20X24 will still be offered in an open numbered edition called the Philip Hyde authorized “Special Edition.”
In my research I found that only photographers were against limited editions and only a minority of photographers at that. One talented and prominent photographer and writer, who I agree with on many other subjects, Guy Tal, has even gone so far as to suggest that limited edition prints are unethical because he believes they manipulate the market, creating a false scarcity and an “inflated value.” His reasoning is that “manufacturing scarcity” through limiting editions goes against the goals of artists “to inspire, to share, to make accessible, to celebrate and other noble causes often associated with photography of natural things.” He proposes that “artificial scarcity” is not the same as “real scarcity.” If you read his blog post, “The Ethics of Limited Editions,” you may understand why he looks at it this way. The comments on his blog post are many and diverse. In my observation, some photographers who dislike limited editions look at it mainly from their own perspective and not that of the collector or even casual print buyer. For primarily this reason, these photographers overlook the real benefits of limited editions.
Who Brought Limited Editions To Landscape Photography?
Is it not ironic then, that it was Ansel Adams and later Galen Rowell, who did the most to popularize both landscape photography and limited editions in the genre? Some landscape photographers who do not like limited editions claim that Ansel Adams did not produce limited edition. This may be true of the prints he made himself, but his Special Edition prints made in his darkroom by an assistant and other editions were limited. Some early well-known landscape photographers also invented the now ethically questionable practice of size specific limited editions. They would offer 16X20 prints of a certain image as a limited edition of say 200. Once the edition of 200 sold out, they would then offer a limited edition of 15X18 prints of the same image. Fear and mistrust of these types of limited editions are what caused collectors to be wary of limited editions of digital prints when they were first introduced. When digital prints originally began to appear, Photography galleries and collectors believed that it was easier to make digital prints than traditional color or black and white prints. They feared that photographers would break their own self-imposed edition limits, or work around the limits by issuing different sizes or implementing some other ploy.
Certainly limited editions of 250, 500 or more than 1,000 are mirages. Print runs of this size only create the perception and carry the name of “limited editions.” They are not truly limited because few nature or landscape photographers will ever sell that many of one image out of their many prints offered.
What Photography Gallery Owners And Collectors Like
I remember a conversation I had with Terry Etherton, an esteemed photography dealer and owner of the Etherton Gallery in Tucson, Arizona. I asked his opinion whether I ought to offer my father’s photographer authorized archival digital prints in limited editions or not. I explained that the current numbered Special Edition was not a limited edition, but would be limited by its pricing structure. That is, each time 10 prints sell in each image, that image goes up $100 in all sizes. For example, we have already sold more than 10 prints of “Virginia Creeper, Northern Sierra.” It is priced at $275 for an 8X10, $425 for 11X14, $575 for 16X20 and so on rather than the regular pricing of the rest of Dad’s photographs of $175 for 8X10, $325 for 11X14, $475 for 16X20, etc. After “Virginia Creeper” has sold 100 prints, the 8X10s will sell for $1175, the 11X14s will sell for $1325, the 16X20s will be $1475 and so on. Terry Etherton said that was OK, but limited editions would be simpler. I said that if I did switch to limited editions, I would probably limit them to perhaps 75, 100 or even as much as 200. He said, “I was thinking maybe 25 or 50. Collectors want something rare.” Most of the other photography galleries whose owners I talked to concurred with Mr. Etherton.
Collectors not only like, but purposely seek out vintage prints and even modern photographs that are printed in limited editions or are rare for some other reason. Photography galleries, museum curators and archivists like limited editions too. Why? Very simply, because whenever there is less of anything valuable, the less of it there is, the more valuable it becomes. This is not “manufactured” or “artificial” and even if it were, whenever there is less quantity, regardless of the reason or the cause, there is more value. Collectors want to have the satisfaction of knowing that what they have is something unique or nearly unique. They want to pay more to obtain art that they know will not be mass-produced. It is no more complicated or psychologically involved than that.
Black And White Magazine On Digital Print Values
Lorraine Anne Davis MA, MFA, a fine art photography appraiser since 1984 and columnist for Black and White Magazine, has managed, curated or consulted with many of the world’s most significant photography collections including the Paul Strand Archive. She wrote an article in the April 2009, Issue 66 of Black and White Magazine titled, “Concerning Digital Reprints.” Her article explained that digital prints are becoming more accepted and collectible, but that “posthumous” digital reprints of an artist who mainly printed with other processes are ubiquitous, but sometimes questionable in appraisal value. Indeed, according to Davis, the intent of the artist or the print maker is what determines value. For more about her article see the Fine Art Photography Collectors Resource Blog post called, “Photography Galleries, Collectors, Appraisers And Digital Prints.”
Having learned to print from Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Minor White, my father produced his own fine art gelatin silver prints, dye transfer prints from color film and later Cibachrome color prints. He had Wally McGalliard in Los Angeles print all of his large exhibition prints using a C-print process. In 1998, master landscape photographer Carr Clifton restored two of Dad’s photographs. From then on Dad authorized Carr Clifton to print for him. Wally McGalliard retired around the same time and Carr Clifton’s new archival digital prints became the preferred printing process for Philip Hyde Photography. When Dad was making his own prints from color film, he only made 2-8 prints of each image. Thus, I no longer have many prints left of many of his most well known photographs. We expanded the line of digital prints offered mainly to Dad’s top images that have nearly or completely sold out and those that have been damaged in some way. Peter Fetterman, the number one photography dealer in Southern California, said producing any digital prints at all might confuse the market, but I imagine “the market” would rather be confused than not able to obtain any of Dad’s best photographs at all.
Are All Digital Prints Equal?
These archival lightjet or digital prints are very different from most digital prints. First of all they are made from high resolution Tango drum scans of large format 4X5, 5X7 or 8X10 color film. The resulting raw file is 800 MG to 6 Gigs in size and contains far more detail and a much wider range and depth of color than any digital camera capture today. A good analogy is why music lovers like vinyl LP records better than CDs. Analog sound is fuller, richer, more melodious and less metallic sounding because the sound curve is smooth, containing a continuous breakdown of all the sound, whereas the digital sound curve, when magnified, is a stairstep of sound with little pieces of the sound missing all along the “curve.” Tango drum Scans of large format original color film transparencies contain a much smoother color curve and much more of the colors in the continuum. Because of this, at first a drum scan comes out appearing dull in color, also due to adjusting the settings to obtain as much detail from the highlights and shadows as possible. The huge raw file must then be “developed” or “post-processed” in Photoshop by a seasoned restoration expert to most effectively match the way my father printed the image.
Carr Clifton’s expert Photoshop work is expensive and time consuming for both of us as we print a proof, change the digital file, print another proof and change the digital image again. Also, since many of Dad’s original color film transparencies and black and white film negatives are beaten up with scratches, pock marks, fading and all sorts of other damage due to age and being sent out to publishers so often, a great deal of restoration and cleanup work is necessary as each image gets printed larger and larger. The archival digital prints Carr Clifton and I have made are not considered posthumous prints because Dad authorized them eight years before his death in 2006 and two years before he lost his eyesight in 2000. Also, they are not technically even digital prints any more at all because they are now printed on a lightjet printer. The lightjet printing process does not produce the image on the paper with 11 inks the way the fine art digital printing process does, the lightjet process is actually a chromogenic or full color spectrum, photographic process whereby the paper is exposed with light much like the old darkroom printing processes. This produces a richer, even more full-spectrum color emulsion with better definition and contrast, even more like an analog vintage print. Lightjet prints are also more environmentally friendly not using toxic inks and wasting less paper and ink due to fewer printing mistakes. Some tests claim inkjet digital prints will outlast lightjet prints, but some tests claim lightjet prints will outlast digital prints. Either way, lightjet prints on Fuji Crystal Archive paper when placed side-by-side with digital prints win hands down in their aesthetic appeal, print consistency and print quality.
What A Professional Appraiser, Some Photography Dealers And A Few Museum Curators Said
I contacted Lorraine Anne Davis in December 2009 and wrote that I enjoyed her informative article in Black and White Magazine. I also explained what Carr Clifton and I were doing and how we had enjoyed compliments from top photography galleries and major museums including the Oakland Museum and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, whose head photography curators had seen the archival digital prints. I told her that I planned at some point to write about the subject and would she offer her expert opinion on what we were doing, even without seeing the prints. I explained that I wished to overcome the stigma sometimes attached to heirs making prints and be sure to bring out the archival digital prints in such a way that they would be accepted, respected, collected and go up in value.
I quote her reply in full:
I am afraid I am too busy to answer in depth. Just limit the editions and it doesn’t matter what the process is. Not any more – but collectors want to think what they have is “rare” –
You can make large editions of small prints and very limited of larger prints –
Blind stamp or holograph to protect originality –
A certificate or sticker of authenticity can be reproduced by anyone – certificates of authenticity are often issued with fakes – appraisers don’t even consider them, they are the easiest things to fake. It’s somewhat of a joke, actually – and It isn’t necessary of you keep track of the editions.
Unless your father’s work starts selling for over 100,000 per print, no one is going to make fakes –
Man Ray, Peter Beard, Hine and 19th C dags have some fakes – but Hine and Man Ray printers had the negs –and were selling very high
Sorry to be so brief
All my articles will be posted on my web site in the next weeks –
Happy Holidays – Lorraine
In my reply I of course thanked her and said, “This is quite a bit of information actually and very generous of you to advise.” Based on her guidance and much other research and conversations with people like Richard Gadd, previous Director of the Monterey Museum of Art, currently Director of the Weston Gallery in Carmel; Sandra S. Phillips, Senior Curator of Photography, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Michael and Jeanne Adams of the Ansel Adams Gallery; Hal Gould and Loretta Young-Gautier of Camera Obscura Gallery in Denver; Andrew Smith and John Boland of Santa Fe; Scott Nichols and Susan Friedwald of San Francisco; Stefan Kirkeby of Smith Andersen North in San Anselmo, California; Robert Yellowlees and Tony Casadonte of Lumiere Gallery and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta; Drew Johnson Curator of Photography and Visual Culture at the Oakland Museum and many others, I have decided to make the changes mentioned above to the two largest sizes of my father’s archival lightjet and digital prints. Dad’s 24X30 and 32X40 archival lightjet and digital prints will from now on be produced in limited editions of 50 prints per image.
The Results And Bottom Line
For the remainder of this year of 2013 or whenever one image sells more than five prints, these limited edition prints from color film originals will be PRICED THE SAME AS THEY ARE NOW! That is, prints in LIMITED EDITIONS of only 50 will remain the same price until they either sell five prints or until December 31, 2013. After that they will go up an average of $200 in each size (see the chart below for details.) This represents a 15 percent savings.
Prices Now Unmatted/Unframed Matted Matted & Framed
24X30 925 1050 1175
32X40 1175 1325 1475
Prices After Unmatted/Unframed Matted Matted & Framed
24X30 1100 1225 1350
32X40 1300 1450 1600
For more information on Philip Hyde archival lightjet and digital prints from color film see: “About Fuji Crystal Archive Chromogenic Fine Art Prints,” as well as the blog post mentioned above called, “Photography Galleries, Collectors, Appraisers And Digital Prints.”
What do you think? Are we on the right track? Would it be wise to keep the editions the same as they are now? Print a completely open edition with no numbering? Produce the entire line of prints as limited editions?