kitchen sink # 39 ~ the problem with photography

drain stopper (embiggenable)

If the purpose of art is to be, if not appreciated, at least seen, then photographs as art are at an extreme disadvantage.

The problem, iMo, is that making photographs is relatively easy as compared to painting, sculpture and other visual arts. Because it is easy, the world is awash in photographs, even very good photographs, and there simply aren't enough galleries in which they can be seen. That is, seen in the way a photograph must be seen to be appreciated, i.e., as prints on a wall.

A substanial part of the problem, re: not enough galleries, is the fact that, in order to survive, a gallery must make money and the only way it can do so is by the sale of prints. Unfortunately, for the serious but unknown very good picture makers, the only sales worth pursuing (for a gallery) are those prints by known picture makers whose prints are sold to serious collectors for thousands of dollars - more often than not, 5-figure thousands of dollars - in very limited editions (usually 10 or less).

The limited-edition 5-figure sales model, in a very real sense, is antithetical to one of the photography medium's unique and intrinsic characteristics - the ablility to create from a single film frame / digital file an unlimited number of original prints. However, serious art collectors are not interested in acquiring an piece of art which could be labeled as "mass-produced". Hence, limited edition prints, the smaller the edition the better.

So, given that model, the question arises, could a gallery survive by selling "reasonably" priced open-edition prints - a reasonable price being in the $200-300 range (keep in mind that a gallery typically takes 40-50% of the sale price)? The answer is, most likely not. Why? The market for reasonably priced photography prints is very limited. Why? Because photography is perceived as too easy. After all, why pay $220-300 for a print when one can make one for oneself?

I have had some sucess in prints sales. Primarily during a period when I concentrated on making pictures of a particular location in the Adirondacks which fortunately had a gallery, albeit a crafts gallery with a small dedicated photography room. That, together with substantial sales generated from a nearby up-scale resort in the same location, resulted in quite a number of sales even though my prices were at least double those of other pictures on display in the gallery.

In any event, I may have the opportunity to open a gallery - most likely an artist co-op gallery - in a very high tourist traffic location - with a very very low-cost lease. Ridiculously low, in fact. The purpose of the gallery would be to showcase photography prints (mine and those made by others) intended to be offered at reasonable open-edition prices.

In order for this venture to work there would have to be an emphasis on the display of photographs of the NE / High Peaks region of the Adirondacks - not of my kitchen sink - inasmuch as the primary market would be tourists to the area. Could it work? Maybe, maybe not. The only way to find out is for me to make the time commitment needed to give it a try.