Decoupling the Intrinsic Value of a Photograph from its Economics

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reddesert

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The article's perfectly reasonable. The premise is that many photographers used to make or augment their living from reproduction rights to their photos - royalties gained from use by stock agencies, whether for newsworthy photos or just illustrations, like if some magazine needed a picture of Paris to illustrate an article. For a lot of people, that income probably dwarfed the amount from selling prints. The rise of digital stock, ease of distribution by digital stock agencies, and probably also the decrease in budgets of customers (magazines etc that paid for stock photography), undercut that way of living. In some ways it's similar to the problem that affects writers - they can't make a living writing magazine articles anymore due to the large number of people writing blog-like articles for near-free and the fact that hardly any magazines that still exist have the budget to pay good money for articles.

Anyway, the author's point seems to be that even though a photograph may have near-zero value in this traditional commercial sense, it still may have value in the sense that people want to look at it. So he and his colleague get more eyes on their work by giving it for free than by traditional avenues of selling it.

Walter Benjamin's essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" discusses at length the issues that reproduction causes for intrinsic value of an artwork vs use value, although he wrote long before the digital age and was referring to eg photography and sound recordings. It's worth reading if you care about these things, but a bit heavy going without some background in philosophy or literary criticism.
 

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I read the bio of a long-ago famous violinist ... can't remember the name. He said that as a child in the weeds of Austria, or someplace, there was no recorded music, no radio. All they had was a community in which most folks made some kind of music. Some of them (only the elite?) got together weekly to make music. They probably drank and smoked and got into trouble, but they all played instruments and undoubtedly sang (how could someone play an instrument and not sing?). I suspect they were mostly pretty good musicians. Do/did camera clubs ever work like that?
 

MattKing

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Do/did camera clubs ever work like that?

Some do - our darkroom group is finally meeting again in person, and we have a demonstration scheduled today of how one of the members is making his platinum/palladium prints. We can see how he made his most recent contributions to our last group show.
 

VinceInMT

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Do/did camera clubs ever work like that?

I think that the difference is that the musicians collaborate to create a piece of music. Camera clubs might have technical demonstrations but members then create their own individual pieces. If the musicians operated like a camera club, the get together would be just people playing solos.
 

Sirius Glass

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Do/did camera clubs ever work like that?

Some camera clubs work well and can help someone learn about composition and darkroom work, in the past. The club that I am referring to would take the time to constructively criticize each slide or print. I have not been to camera clubs in many years and I think that there are so good ones around.
 

VinceInMT

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….

Walter Benjamin's essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" discusses at length the issues that reproduction causes for intrinsic value of an artwork vs use value, although he wrote long before the digital age and was referring to eg photography and sound recordings. It's worth reading if you care about these things, but a bit heavy going without some background in philosophy or literary criticism.

I agree that is a necessary read to establish a background on the topic. Here’s a link to the text:

https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/benjamin.htm
 

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One of the biggest insults I have received against my work was back in 1995. Someone broke into my truck and stole my 5x7, Rollei and all the assorted gear while I was on my way to photograph in Yosemite. The insult was that they did not steal my framed photograph that I also had with the gear. Asshats. No sense of value!

I have given away many many photographs to charity art auctions, only to have the framed photograph go for less than what I had in the piece in materials. But they are out there somewhere in the world, hopefully being enjoyed...and perhaps the world is a slightly better place for it. They have some value.
 
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One of the biggest insults I have received against my work was back in 1995. Someone broke into my truck and stole my 5x7, Rollei and all the assorted gear while I was on my way to photograph in Yosemite. The insult was that they did not steal my framed photograph that I also had with the gear. Asshats. No sense of value!

I have given away many many photographs to charity art auctions, only to have the framed photograph go for less than what I had in the piece in materials. But they are out there somewhere in the world, hopefully being enjoyed...and perhaps the world is a slightly better place for it. They have some value.

That's why I always suggest we give our prints framed nicely to family and friends. They will always be appreciated, thank you, plus it may be on display long after we're gone. Plus, when you visit your relatives, you get to see how they're doing. :wink:
 

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That's why I always suggest we give our prints framed nicely to family and friends. They will always be appreciated, thank you, plus it may be on display long after we're gone. Plus, when you visit your relatives, you get to see how they're doing. :wink:

Gifts from family often sit in closets, only to be brought out when you visit.
 
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Gifts from family often sit in closets, only to be brought out when you visit.

When I moved I had about 30-16"x20" framed photos sitting around. I was not going to re-hang the in the new house other than about three. So when people stopped by, I asked them which one they liked and would they want to keep it or them. So I got rid of a bunch that way. Hopefully they're enjoying them because they would only have been thrown out if not taken.
 
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So you don't really value your work? At least you could have removed the prints, stored them and recycled, donated or sold the frames.

I still have the work., They're 6x7 negatives. The prints were somewhat faded; they were twenty years old, maybe more, same with the frames. I gave away what I could. The rest had to go after storing in the garage for a year or two. Check with my wife if you're not happy. :wink:

You can see many of them here. https://www.flickr.com/photos/alanklein2000/albums/72157625476289859
 

jtk

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I think that the difference is that the musicians collaborate to create a piece of music. Camera clubs might have technical demonstrations but members then create their own individual pieces. If the musicians operated like a camera club, the get together would be just people playing solos.

Interesting insights. Locally we have a big, very long-lived camera club and/but it seems authoritarian at heart. I think many bands survive partially because they're not authoritarian, whether or not they're "good" or even "creative." .
 

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I think that the difference is that the musicians collaborate to create a piece of music. Camera clubs might have technical demonstrations but members then create their own individual pieces. If the musicians operated like a camera club, the get together would be just people playing solos.
Music is difficult to compare to photography. Photography needs a subject and light, not much more.With the exception of portraits, it is usually a solitary creative experience--the collaboration might come from the viewer interacting with the photo, or if the photographer employs an independent printer to make the final print, the printer's contibution to that.

Most composers work by themselves to compose the music. If they are composing for a particular soloist or an opera or on commission, there can be collaboration during the creative process. Collaboration may come with a conductor and orchestra, but it still is the composer and conductor who really shape the performance. Bands don't always collaborate in the creation, either. Most of the more successful bands are driven by one or two members. Obviously, there has to be some sort of collaboration for the performance, but not all the individuals are necessarily bringing much more than a high level of skill to the table. Hence, the proliferation of studio musicians and pick-up bands.
 
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