E-Photo
Issue #26  3/1/2001
 
Web-Based Ink Jet Publishers May Confuse Photography Collectors

Ex-NYC gallery owner James Danziger's new company Artland is an example of the type of operation that could have the potential to create confusion in the contemporary photography market, and even in the vintage marketplace as well. Danziger is apparently publishing very large editions (well into the thousands) of some top contemporary art photographs, as well as of key vintage images. His direct deals with photographers and money-needy museums/institutions has given him access to the same images hawked by galleries at prices often 10-100 times higher.

Whether the appeal of his company's products is to a lower-level designer interest or to budding collectors remains to be seen, but he has advertised extensively in "Photography in New York" magazine, apparently to reach photo collectors, and the magazine has given him nice editorial coverage at the same time.

Though not likely to be worth much if anything on the resale market, these images could mislead collectors with their "editions," which apparently are well into the thousands on each image, most of which come in two sizes. These large "edition" sizes have more to do with the print runs of posters and books, rather than fine art. The images are attractive, reasonably priced and the printing apparently good, so they are nice wall decorations without being a rip-off. It is the "edition" marketing being used that bothers me, although at least Danziger's company makes the edition size very clear. I can just see some enterprising people putting up some of Danziger's editioned prints on eBay now. After all, we've seen uneditioned Cindy Sherman prints being sold on eBay at prices as much as three to four times what her dealer sells them for.

One other thing: Artland has somehow convinced leading magazine critics to "curate" particular prints, for instance Barbara Pollack, critic for ARTNews, lends her credentials to Artland's web site for a Warhol print. If this does not confuse a collector into thinking these mass printed images are to be considered works of art, I don't know what will.

Danziger to his credit makes it clear that the prints are digitally made, but that is becoming more and more the situation with contemporary photography in any case.

I also wonder if this confusion will impact the way collectors look at the photographers involved. Will it lead to a more democratic view of them? Will you still buy a $4000+ print by Tom Baril when you can buy one for $195 that is editioned (admittedly in two editions of 2500) and printed in a process used by many of today's photographers? Maybe the difference might even make a really limited edition more striking. Perhaps. Will it mean overexposure for the photographer and a lack of exclusivity that some buyers seek? Probably.

Then there is the question of who actually owns the copyright on these images (always a confusing affair). I am sure that I am wrong, but I thought many of the copyrights for the images on the site were owned by other institutions (for example, Strand, Adams, Gilpin and Stieglitz) than the owners of the images cited. I am certain that Danziger did all his legal homework on this, but this could be a minefield for potential imitators.

Danziger's move also adds fuel to the debate among artists, dealers and collectors as to limitations on edition size and editions themselves, coming as it does on top of the abuse of such things by many (but certainly not all) contemporary photographers. When you publish five different editions of just 50 each (in different sizes and media) plus 20 artist's proofs, that amounts to 350 prints in circulation and a distinct lack of rarity. And I have yet to see a gallery (photography or otherwise) detail ALL the different editions of a single print, although they are required to by law in several states. Frankly, most galleries probably don't know the full information on editions.

Then you have the late printed, mass produced uneditioned prints made by third-party photography printers for some of the 20th century's great names.

Maybe Danziger's operation will be a healthy thing for the market if it helps to air an overdue discussion on these issues.