A simple mental exercise

July 24, 2018  •  2 Comments


My post about the Brooks Jensen essay generated some thoughts by my friend and fellow photographer Alex Kunz.  His final comment woke me from my nap and put me in another introspective spin. 

Mental exercise: if you could see your own photographs being just as good as the ones you saw in that gallery in La Jolla, would you buy it if the price was similar to what you ask for on FAA? Or would you rather say "well for that price I'd rather hang one of my own" then? :-)

I see. 

There was a single image that I felt I would buy if the price were right; but within seconds I thought, no I wouldn't.  I said to myself, "That's fairly similar to what I have in my catalogue and I feel my work is just as good (eye-of-the-beholder stuff), so I'll just print my own."  The reasoning here, now that I've been challenged, is that the author of the gallery work is completely unknown to me.  Even now I can't recall his/her name.  But, if it had been a Michael Kenna, or Keith Carter and it was priced in the same range I charge for my works I'd snatch it up in an instant and ask for more.  But, I doubt it would have hung on those walls at that price long enough for me to finally discover the gallery and decide to visit.  

A point Alex made earlier in our discussion was that gallery works are not priced for general public (i.e. photographers) but for investors. A solid point and one I overlooked.  Someone with La Jolla money will buy this because he/she knows of the photographer and expects that artist to be a future Kenna or Carter.  It's like holding on to a Tony Gwynn rookie card hoping the kid will make good (btw, he did).  


Cedric Canard(non-registered)
If we're talking about investors then it makes a lot more sense. Art investors are a speculative bunch. I've often wondered how many of them actually appreciate the art. I've read of people who look for talented but unknown painters or photographers, buy a pile of their work for cheap and then, through their knowhow and extensive networks, create a convincing façade rendering the artist as some up-and-coming master, long enough for them to unload their acquired works at highly inflated prices, and then moving on to the next score. Pretty crafty, but not too arty ;)

In my case, I would not consider buying photographs as single prints in any size. A painting, yes, just not photographs. Not sure why that is. My preferred way to buy a photographer's work is in the format of a book or high quality magazine. This way I get the pleasure given by individual photographs, as well as the potential of discovering the photographer's artistic essence or muse. It's true that you can get that in an exhibition dedicated to a single artist but for me, a deeper appreciation requires more time and more quiet than is usually afforded in a public gallery.

One last point. If the idea is to connect to other photographers then I would consider social media as a superior method to high-price exhibitions. Instagram, for example, has proven a real boon for photographers. And once a large enough following has been acquired, it may present the only way a photographer will get financial support from other photographers even if it is indirectly, i.e. through advertising and product placements. I prefer blogs to connect to photographers as I do not use Instagram but I am not sure that blogs offer the same potential for financial reward.

Apology for another long comment but you did post a rather interesting topic.
Alexander S. Kunz(non-registered)
A very nice follow-up, Joe. Thanks for keeping the conversation going! :-)
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