[Dec 4, 2015]

 As with so many things in the universe of Art Photography there are no clear rules or commonly agreed conventions for signing an artwork. And as with so many things in the universe of Art Photography there are many different opinions even between photography dealers, collectors or curators.   Historically there are many bodies of work that were routinely not signed. With 19th century work, a handful of artists either signed their prints or affixed facsimile signature ink-stamps...but many more did not.—in the 20th century, important figures like Eugene Atget basically never signed his prints and Alfred Stieglitz did so rather rarely. With contemporary work, it is natural for collectors to expect that all works would be signed. Again: There are no rules and it very much depends on the artist. An unsigned contemporary photograph by Ansel Adams is a problem, an unsigned Walker Evans is not unusual.

  As there are no norms in this particular instance you will find a lot of variations. Signatures on the picture itself, verso (i.e. on the back) or recto (i.e. on the front). Sometimes you may find a C.A.T. (i.e. a „Certificate of Authenticity“ stamped on the back), sometimes you wouldn‘t find anything of this...

Some kind of a C.A.T.

Such numbers are pointing out that this particularly print is part of a Limited Edition (in our case Print 1 out of an edition of 99). A limited edition is normally hand signed and numbered by the artist. Again, there are no clear definitions. In some countries (e.g. in 14 states of the USA, in Great Britain or New Zealand; in France, it is a legal requirement to edition your prints to 25 copies or less) there are laws defining a imited edition“, in others there are more or less generally agreed conventions (e.g in Australia, where limited editions rarely number more than 99 and are often less). Many Limited Editions are Portfolios, which is a group of photographs with some unifying concept published together.

In generally one can say that a Limited Edition“ is

produced directly from the artist‘s original work
directly by the artist or under direct supervision
limited to some pre-defined number of prints
signed and numbered by the artist

You may not find the artist‘s signature only but from time to time some abbreviations like A/P. Most of them derive from the printing craft

A/P (Artist‘s Proof)
Usually about 10% of the total number of prints in an edition remain the property of the artist, and are called Artist's Proofs. They are identical with the other impressions in the edition. Artists usually use them for their personal portfolio or for special exhibition.

P.P. (Printer‘s Proof), W.P. (Working Proof), B.A.T. („Bon A Trier“)
An impression of the finished work that is identical to the numbered copies.  Identifies a proof which will serve as the standard to be maintained during the printing of an edition. This originate from the times when the artist didn‘t to the printing by himself. (Henri Cartier-Bresson for example almost never did his own printing.)  

H.C. („Hors de Commerce“)
Prints that are given to someone personally by the artist or are for some reason unsuitable for sale are marked "H. C." or "H/C", meaning "hors de commerce", not for sale.

U.S. (Unique State)
A print that is one of a kind. Meaning that there is only this one, unique print.

Several years before his death, Andy Warhol signed his name on copies of the tabloid magazine Interview (of which he was the editor). Regularly costing $2, he charged buyers $50 for these signed copies and they sold pretty fast...

A (incomplete) history of photographic processes
[Dec 3, 2015]

   Browsing catalogs (may it be from an auction, exhibition or collections) you will find in the picture‘s description a lot of informations. Some of them are quite clear like the name of the photographer, the year the picture was taken, the title etc. Some are not so obvious like the description of the used photographic process...

An example from an online auction catalog (13th Westlicht Photographica Auction, Nov. 2015)

As you can see on above sample it says „Vintage Silver print“. Now this actually is an intermixture of two different definition: „Silver print“ is the photographic process involved while „Vintage print“ has nothing to do with it.

What is a „Vintage Print“?
A vintage print is made during the artist‘s lifetime, by the artist or under his/her close supervision. A vintage print is usually priced higher than other print types because it can be seen as the original. 

What is a „Modern Print“?
Usually a print made long time after the artist has made the negative and without his/her supervision. In order for them to have value, they must be printed by someone who knew the photographer personally and had a sound knowledge of how he or she wanted his photographs to look.

   So now to the photographic processes. As there where so many different processes especially in the pioneer era of photography (when almost every photographer invented his own process) I will mention here only the most important ones, those you will encounter very often.

Daguerrotype (1839)
The daguerreotype, invented by Louis-Jagues-Mandè Daguerre and introduced in 1839, was the first publicly announced photographic process, and for nearly twenty years, it was the one most commonly used. By 1860, new processes which were less expensive and produced more easily viewed images had almost completely replaced it. The whole process was quite complicated involving a silver-plated copper sheet, long exposure times and a lot of chemical treatment (eg with mercury vapor). As  there is no negative to make prints from a daguerrotype is always an unique copy (which could only be duplicated by copying it with a camera).

or amphitype, introduced in the 1850s, also known as a collodion positive,  is a positive photograph on glass. Like a print on paper, it is viewed by reflected light. Like the daguerrotype, each is a unique original that could only be duplicated by using a camera to copy it.

Calotype (1841) 
or talbotype is an early process introduced in 1841 by William Henry Fox Talbot, a Scottish scientist, inventor and photography pioneer, using paper coated with silver iodide. The calotype process produced a translucent original negative image from which multiple positives could be made by simple contact printing.

  In the final decades of the 19th century the negative process was further developed. 1851 Scott Archer invented the wet plate (or collodion) process, using glass plates as carrier for the light sensitive silver emulsion, 1879 the first dry plate factory was founded, celluloid was introduced as carrier agent, which was replaced in the 1950s with acetate. In 1881 Gorge Eastman founded Kodak („You press the button, we do the rest“), and it was the Kodak Company, which presented in 1989 the first megapixel sensor for digital cameras. But all of this is important for the negative process only.  For the final print one needed the positive process, and over the time a lot of different processes where developed. Here are the most commonly used, the one you most likely will find around auctions (and some of them are still used by contemporary artists).

Salt print
The salt print, created by Henry Fox Talbot, was the dominant paper-based photographic process for producing positive prints during the period from 1839 through approximately 1860. 

Albumen print
also called albumen silver print, was published in January 1847 and was the first commercially exploitable method of producing a photograph on a paper base from a negative It used the albumen found in egg whites in to bind the photographic chemicals to the paper and became the dominant form of photographic positives from 1855 to the turn of the 20th century, with a peak in the 1860-90 period.

Platinum print, Palladium print
Platinum prints, also called platinotypes, are photographic prints made by a  monochrome printing process that provides a large tonal rangeThe palladiotype is a less-common variant of the platinotype. The process came into greater use after World War I because the platinum used in the more-common platinotype quickly became too expensive, so photographers tried to replace the platinum with the much cheaper palladium which gave similar effects. 

Silver Print
or gelatin silver process is the photographic process used with currently  (still) available black-and-white films and printing papers. A suspension of silver salts in gelatine is coated onto a support such as  flexible plastic or film, baryta paper, or resin-coated paper. These light-sensitive materials are stable under normal keeping conditions and are able to be exposed and processed even many years after their manufacture.  Gelatin silver printing was the dominant photographic process from introduction in the 1880s until the 1960s when it was eclipsed by consumer color photography. The gelatin silver or black-and-white print is thus a primary form of visual documentation in the 20th century. Its widespread use in applications as wide-ranging as fine art, snap shots, and document reproduction led to an extraordinary variety of papers with a wide range of available surface texture and gloss, and paper thickness.

Parmelian print
An oddity in the history of print processes, which is nothing else but a silver print. The story behind: In 1927, not long after he decided to become a professional photographer, Ansel Adams published a portfolio of 18 silver gelatin photographic prints (in an edition of 100 copies, plus 10 artist's copies) named „Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras“. The term "parmelian" was a meaningless word invented by Jean Moore (the publisher), who believed that calling them "photographic prints" would not allow them to be taken seriously as art. Adams later said "I am not proud at allowing this breach of faith in my medium." 

Chromogenic color prints (Analogue C-Prints)
are full-color photographic prints made using chromogenic materials and processes. These prints may be produced from an original which is a color negative, slide or digital image. The chromogenic print process was nearly synonymous with the 20th-century color snapshot

Lambda prints (Digital C-Prints)
A system that uses lasers to expose light-sensitive material to produce a latent image that is then developed using conventional silver-based photographic chemicals. 

is a dye destruction positive-to-positive photographic process used for the reproduction of slides on photographic paper. Since it uses 13 layers of azo dyes sealed in a polyester base, the print will not fade, discolor, or deteriorate for an extended time.

Nowadays, in the age of digital printing, there is no convention anymore for the naming of the used process. You can find merely different designations like Inkjet PrintPigment PrintArchival Pigment PrintPigment Ink Print or Giclée Print. All of them are printed on inkjet printersalso giclée has become synonymous with fine art reproductions printed a high-end inkjet printer and pigmented inks.

There are much more photographic processes and i listed here only the most commen one. If you find something not listed here - I will tryto solve it for you.

[Dec 2, 2015]

 There are multiple sources of photographic art, falling into one of two general categories although there will be some cross over from time to time. You have to keep in mind that for the artist there is a very big different between this two markets: Only when his work is sold at the primary market he/she actually earns money. If the work is sold at the secondary market he/she may not even earn about it...

Primary Market _ Term for the sources of art works initially sold to collectors, usually through galleries, dealers, and at artist's shows, the 'first sale' of a work of art. 
Secondary Market Term for sources of art works that have been sold before and are available again for sale in the market place.

The Primary Market

Primary markets are by definition the point of the first acquisition of a work of art. This is also the time when the price for the artwork is established for the first time. Primary market players are galleries, private dealers (Generally an individual without a display space regularly open to the public. They work by telephone, appointment, and most often with established clients.) and at times the artist themselves. In primary markets, prices are established by the artist as a condition of representation. All galleries who work with a contemporary photographer should be selling at the same price. 

There are some distinguishing marks which define a “good“ art dealer:

  • The reputable Art Dealer is 100% behind the work he/she is selling
  • Most reputable dealers have extensive libraries -many are art historians or collectors turned dealers.
  • Most reputable dealers are happy to educate, explain, and teach. They have a passion for the art they sell, and they want to communicate it. 
  • Reputable dealers will also give full condition reports, and will document fading, foxing or other condition problems

The Secondary Market

Secondary markets are by definition involved in the acquisition and sale of work that has been owned previously. Key players in secondary markets are auction houses, private dealers, and some galleries. 

The secondary market often establishes the market value of works of art at a point in time.

Prices on the secondary market can be pretty confusing: the internet is bringing more visibility, but because there are a lot of different factors that aren’t readily captured or noted, the internet is not bringing greater clarity. The key to remember is that while not all prints are the same, there are common factors that sellers use to establish the price. Those are: general market and economic conditions, image desirability and demand, image scarcity and supply, size, condition, period of printing, provenance, and image quality. 

For the works of deceased photographers,  the secondary market is not only critical in establishing prices, but sometimes the only source of original photographs. 

Auctions are public events, can be entertaining and exciting for bidders, and present a great opportunity to view and bid on multiple works of art at the same time. It is sometimes possible to get a good deal. Sometimes prices get pretty outrageous, so you have to exercise caution when bidding. One thing that some people are not aware of in bidding is that the hammer price is not the final price. At most auction houses, there is a buyer premium for 20-25%, which means if you bid $20,000 for a photograph, you aren’t picking it up until you pay the house $25,000.

Online Auctions are a relatively new phenomenon which one has to take with a pinch of salt. Buyers are taking a chance buying original prints from an online or independent seller. If the buyer recognizes that and is willing to take that chance, then it might be worth it. There are some points to consider when you are buying at an online auction:

  • Is the seller accurately representing the item? 
  • Is the seller accurately disclosing the condition? Damage can take the value all the way down to zero, if significant enough.
  • Is there an opportunity to return the item if not as described?
  • Is there a satisfactory recourse if it becomes necessary?

The Contemporary Art Market

There are typically four different areas in the contemporary art market and most dealers will sell art from one or more of these areas. They are:

  • The Reputable Print Market which covers both "emerging artists" and established artists.
  • The Avant-Garde - otherwise known as "emerging artists". 
  • The Established artist - This term covers artists whose work is well-known by the art-going public, and represented in both private and museum collections. 
  • The Contemporary Masters - This covers artists who are generally acknowledged to be important figures in the history of contemporary art.

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