Part 2 is here. Following on from the first part of our beginner's guide, our friends at Crane Kalman Brighton have helped us put together our beginner's guide to collecting photography. If you haven't seen our first part, check it out here.
Welcome back to the second issue in this mini-series of The Beginners Guide to Collecting Photography. The process of buying photographic prints can be confusing if you're coming to it fresh. In the first issue, we talked about why you might collect photography, where you might start and how you can identify what you like. This issue will look at print editions, price points, print papers and how to make the most of that mailing list.
'Penguin XL' by Mark Vessey
The concept of editions is a confusing one so don't worry if you don't understand it straight away. When a photographer creates an image for sale, it'll be sold in an edition. This refers to the number of prints produced of that image in that particular size and sold for that particular price, although we'll see in the following section how this can change too as more prints are sold.
Editions can vary widely in size, from 7 to 100, and even 250, and are usually called "Limited Editions" because the number of prints in that edition is (you guessed it) limited to that number. For example, Mark Vessey's Penguin XL is a limited edition print consisting of only 15 prints. This means that once all 15 prints in the edition have been sold, no more will be available to purchase.
'Fires 10' by Ellie Davies
You may see the same image in several editions, but with different prices and in different dimensions. For example, it's possible to buy Fires 10 by Ellie Davies in two different sizes from the Art Republic website. When you're scrolling through the site you'll notice that one print of Fires 10 is priced higher than the other. The difference in price can be explained by the dimensions of the print itself: the higher price refers to a physically larger print, whereas the lower price corresponds to the smaller print. Bear in mind that with larger prints the size of the edition itself will usually be smaller.
If you come across a print that you like and see it labelled as an "Open Edition", this simply means that there is no limit to the number of prints produced. This is a more common practice for archives to follow rather than photographers or artists, who prefer to maintain exclusivity to their work. Of course, if you're looking to collect work that will increase in value you'll be looking for Limited Editions because their value may increase as the edition becomes sold out. But don't discount a print you like simply because it's from an Open Edition! In our first issue of this Beginners Guide, we emphasised the importance of collecting work that speaks to you, and this advice should really stay at the front your mind as you embark on your collecting journey.
Closely related to editioning is, of course, price. The prices of editioned prints may vary depending on several things. We've just seen, in the previous section, how you might expect to pay more for a larger print. Well, you can also expect to see incremental prices as the number of prints remaining in an edition shrinks. For example, if you were interested in Ellie Davies's prints you should expect to find that, as more people buy the prints in any of her editions, the prices for the prints remaining in that edition increase. This is not unusual, it reflects the rarity of the remaining prints and the importance of an artist's creative control.
'Grand Piano XL' by Gina Soden
One of the most common types of print is Giclée. The word comes from the French, meaning to "spray". The print is produced by a large format inkjet printer quite literally spraying the ink on to the paper so precisely and accurately that what results is the nearest thing to the original image. The paper and ink used in Giclée printing are archival, which means that the print is made to last a long time, so it won't degrade.
Another popular form of printing is C-Type, also known as Chromogenic prints. This is a digital process; light-sensitive paper is exposed to lasers or LEDs that use the original digital file of the image, and then processed in photographic developer and fixed, much like the traditional darkroom process. A C-Type will also be printed on archival paper to increase its lifespan.
'David Bowie' Photographed by Steve Rapport
Not all photographic printing papers are created equal! There is a huge range of papers available and they vary in finish and texture, which lends a lot to the final product. If you're interested in knowing the specific kind of paper used don't hesitate to ask if that information isn't immediately available. Varieties include glossy, matte, pearl, rag and textured, each of which provides a different viewing experience.
We briefly mentioned archival paper in the previous section. Archival papers are acid-free, meaning that certain chemicals which would degrade the quality of the paper through constant exposure to air aren't present. While archival quality paper might make the print more expensive, know that you're also purchasing reassurance that the print will last for years to come.
Like we said in issue one, make the most of technology and allow it to work for you; sign up straight away to the gallery's mailing list to ensure that you're kept up to date. These email updates might include new works from photographers, news of upcoming gallery shows and art fairs or information about new additions to the gallery's roster of represented artists.
The great advantage of signing up to the gallery mailing list is twofold: firstly, it provides you with useful information without having to go looking for it; and secondly, it shows the gallery that you're interested. This is the best way to keep informed and gets you in on the ground floor so you can pave the way to your future photography collection.
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