Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Favorite Place On Earth ... Venezia

It's been a while since my last post ... life has a way of getting in the way! I believe in quality rather than quantity, so here I am again. 

I am excited. I just returned from Venice, you know, that place in Italy with the canals, the gondolas, the mystery and the fog. I have been photographing in Venice since 1992. I'm addicted! I am not alone in my addiction. I have met numerous individuals who profess their adoration for La Serenissima...just like myself! 

I have been blessed to have accumulated a substantial body of images over almost 20 years. My Venetian images have been collected by both museums and private collectors ... consequently, I have to do something with them other than have them on the walls in my studio/gallery or hidden away in my flat files. The time has come to seriously consider a book ... an eBook! What better way is there to reach my fellow Venetaphiles and photographers. I hope to have something designed and on-line by the end of 2012 ... Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Corcoran Museum of Photography?

Just this morning, Jacqueline Trescott of The Washington Post penned an article titled, "The Corcoran Re-Imagined."  The article mentions that The Corcoran Gallery has hired a strategy firm, Lord Cultural Resources of Toronto, Canada to "attempt to chart its destiny."

Over the years, the Corcoran has had its share of challenges ... mostly budgetary, but also as Ms. Trescott states, "a lack of permanent leadership." Many of their problems go back to 2005 when David Levy, the Corcoran's long time director canceled the Corcoran's building expansion project. He was unable to raise the $200 million needed for the project and later resigned.

In addition to budgetary concerns, visitation has been on the decline. This is no surprise since they are one of the few museums that charges an admission fee ($10.00). The art collection of the Corcoran is comprised of 19th and 20th century American and European art as well as substantial holdings of photography and decorative arts. With the exception of photography and media arts, the overall collection is pretty middle of the road ... just my personal opinion.

On a positive note, The Corcoran College of Art and Design is doing quite well. According to The Washington Post article, "In the past three years, enrollment grew by 30%." Their photography department, headed by Andy Grundberg, noted photography critic for the New York Times, has a world class photography curriculum and teaching staff.

I am in no way an expert on the marketing of museums, but it is pretty clear that the Corcoran competes with the likes of the National Gallery of Art, The Museum of American Art and maybe even The Phillips Collection. There really does not seem to be anything that makes the Corcoran stand out with the exception of one area ... photography.

The Corcoran Gallery was one of the first museums to accept several of my prints for their permanent collection, so I may be a bit prejudiced, but one area in my opinion that shines brilliantly at the Corcoran is its photography department. The department is headed by writer, editor, filmmaker and photographer, Phillip Brookman. His official title is Director of Curatorial Affairs. Mr. Brookman's area of interest is the history of 20th-century photography, specifically documentary photography and film. The Corcoran has always been a spring board for great photography exhibits ... from Sally Mann to Robert Frank and Richard Avedon. Mr. Brookman's longtime assistant curator and in the past few years, the Corcoran's Curator of Photography, Paul Roth, is now the Director of The Richard Avedon Foundation in New York City. Paul Roth is an example of the academic and curatorial talent we have in the photography community as a result of The Corcoran Gallery.  

Rochester, New York has the George Eastman House, New York City has the International Center for Photography (ICP) and Tucson, Arizona has The Center for Creative Photography ... all internationally recognized institutions. Why not The Corcoran Museum of Photography? In my opinion, it makes perfect sense. What better place than The Nation's Capital to have such a museum? Doing so would not only provide a facility large enough to maintain a major photographic archive, but it would add to Washington's reputation as being a major international museum destination.  

I am not alone in my thinking. Several years ago, Lenny Campello from the Daily Campello Art News wrote an extensive article on turning the Corcoran into a photography only museum.   

Could you just imagine a building the size of the Corcoran Gallery filled with nothing but photography? With EVERYONE today being a photographer, I think the lines would be out the door!


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Limited Edition Prints

I thought I would start off the New Year with an interesting topic among the fine art photography community ... the editioning or numbering of digital prints.

Having spent my entire photography career in the wet darkroom, the practice of editioning prints was never an issue. Yes, there were photographers who limited the amount of prints made from a single negative, but for the most part, the vast majority of photographers did not edition their prints ... Ansel Adams included. Reason being ... each and every print pulled by hand in the wet darkroom was unique. The process of burning and dodging as well as variations of temperature and strength of developer as the printing session progressed, made it virtually impossible to make two prints that were identical.

In 2000 I began printing my work digitally. I felt that if I wanted my work taken seriously by collectors and garner similar selling prices as my gelatin silver prints, printing in editions was absolutely necessary. Digital prints were produced via a photo mechanical process and not by hand.  Once an image file was saved, an unlimited number of exact reproductions were possible. Sort of like printing hundreds if not thousands of posters on an offset printing press. I could not imagine the public, private or corporate collector wanting to invest in work that was mass produced.

On the other hand, there are photographers who have rationalized against limited edition prints and feel that due to the nature of digital printing, their prints are just as unique as prints pulled in the traditional darkroom. Their rationale being that very few photographers that utilize digital output make more than a few prints at any one time unless they are working in extremely small editions. Typically, prints are made "on demand," or as they are sold. While the image file may have been saved in let's say June, that file may not be reprinted again until maybe September. In the time period from June until September, inks have most likely been replaced, a new batch of paper purchased and the image file may have undergone several iterations of creative refinement. Consequently, there could be slight differences from print #1 to print #8 ... this seems logical. That said however, the higher end fine art photography world still views digital output as a mechanical, not a "by hand" process, and not worthy of upper level art-market pricing. A little elitist some might say, but non the less, a reality.

Several months ago I had a conversation with gallerist, Susan Spititus of Susan Spirtitus Gallery in Newport Beach, California. Her gallery is one of the leading photography galleries in the U.S. that represents the works of leading contemporary and emerging photographers as well as vintage works by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Andre Kertesz and Ruth Bernard to name a few. Ms. Spiritus had quite a strong opinion with respect to editions. She is well aware of the impact digital printing has had on the fine art photography community and is comfortable with the fact that many of her contemporary photographers have embraced digital output. While digital prints have become the norm, she strictly adheres to a standard that an edition should not exceed 20-25 pieces cumulatively.  In other words, if an image is printed in 2-3 different sizes, the total number of pieces should not exceed 20-25 pieces, and in some cases 15 pieces or less. This is non negotiable with respect to whom she represents. Ms. Spititus is not alone in her opinions ... most galleries that represent contemporary photographers have similar requirements on limited edition prints.   

As collectors have become more savvy with respect to how photographs are imaged digitally, the process of editioning prints has become the norm. Again, if one wants to be either represented by a main stream gallery or have his or her work taken seriously, printing in editions is a must.

Many thanks to Susan Spititus for taking time to chat with me.