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Ethical Validity of the Concept of “Edition”

Arun Gaur

New member
Monday, July 19, 2010
Ethical Validity of the Concept of “Edition”

A few questions about “Edition” that confuse me:

1. What is the meaning of "edition"? If we print 50 prints at one time (simultaneously) of a particular size—say 12”X18” on a particular paper, through a specific process, I think it is technically and legally called an edition.

2. If we keep all other parameters the same and print one piece at a time as the order comes, will it still be called an edition?

3. In this case would all the prints be identical through color management though printed on different dates? And if the color changes in a particular print, will it still be called a part of edition?

4. Suppose, later we change one of the parameters-e.g. type of paper—let us say we now print 50 prints with the same size and process but on a different paper (say metallic), will this set of 50 photos be called a new edition?

5. If this set of new prints on just a different paper can be called a new edition, it would imply we can generate numerous editions of the same file by changing just one parameter. Is it right?

6. If the point 5 is right then I don’t think that we are justified in calling any such collection of 50 photographs an edition at least for the purpose of luring customers for sale or for maintaining high prices. I think it will be ethically wrong to make the buyers believe that there would be only 50 prints of the image, while technically and legally we can generate numerous other editions if need arises in future.

7. If the point 6 is valid, then I don’t think that the concept of limited edition or any edition holds water. And thus it should be always an "open edition".

Kindly clarify and correct if and wherever I am wrong.

Regards,
Arun Gaur
http://http://tripolia-indianlandscapeimages.com
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Monday, July 19, 2010
Ethical Validity of the Concept of “Edition”

A few questions about “Edition” that confuse me:

1. What is the meaning of "edition"? If we print 50 prints at one time (simultaneously) of a particular size—say 12”X18” on a particular paper, through a specific process, I think it is technically and legally called an edition.

2. If we keep all other parameters the same and print one piece at a time as the order comes, will it still be called an edition?

3. In this case would all the prints be identical through color management though printed on different dates? And if the color changes in a particular print, will it still be called a part of edition?

4. Suppose, later we change one of the parameters-e.g. type of paper—let us say we now print 50 prints with the same size and process but on a different paper (say metallic), will this set of 50 photos be called a new edition?

5. If this set of new prints on just a different paper can be called a new edition, it would imply we can generate numerous editions of the same file by changing just one parameter. Is it right?

6. If the point 5 is right then I don’t think that we are justified in calling any such collection of 50 photographs an edition at least for the purpose of luring customers for sale or for maintaining high prices. I think it will be ethically wrong to make the buyers believe that there would be only 50 prints of the image, while technically and legally we can generate numerous other editions if need arises in future.

7. If the point 6 is valid, then I don’t think that the concept of limited edition or any edition holds water. And thus it should be always an "open edition".

Kindly clarify and correct if and wherever I am wrong.

Regards,
Arun Gaur
http://http://tripolia-indianlandscapeimages.com

An edition really relates to a printing press and original books. The same presses then make editions of lithographs or silk screens. Not all are identical. There's always variation. Only the modern ink printers approach identity of a print made years apart as long as there's a BAT signed print the printer will do it again for you.

So called "fine art photographers" may decide to have a limited edition which consists of a certain small number of large prints and perhaps also a larger number of smaller prints. There seems to be a custom of raising the price as the prints are sold so folk know their purchased print has increased in value. Now if that's what is projected as the meaning of a limited edition, then it's dishonest to make more prints!

I don't like the word ethics here. It is simply dishonest! Ethics are used in business to give a sense of professionalism to folk like real estate salesmen. Their ethics just protect the firm from getting sued for doing something illegal and giving that firm a bad name. It's really not about protecting the buyer or the seller. For photography, ethics should relate to being honest, not stealing other folks pictures or taking unfair advantage of folk.

As far s the prints are concerned, it's a business decision. AFAIK, Alain Briot, who's quite well kept with his work, has open editions. Anyway, 5 years time one might get a new insight, better processing and print engine, finer inks and reprint the picture in a new way. Ansel Adams did that with his B&W negatives! The point here is to do what will put bread on the table but just be open and honest about it!

If you think your photography might be worth $5,000 or more, then it's expected that you would have a limited edition, perhaps 8 05 even 15 or 20. If it sold for $30,000 maybe there would be 4 prints. There are only rules based on the demand for you work. I can assure you that it's very hard to get into those ranges of prices. For all intents and purpose, prices above $2000 do not exist for most folk. chances are you can get $25/square foot. A 24X36" print then might fetch $150 or even 3-4 times that if you get a following. Generally start of a 2-3 X the cost of printing by a professional house.

However, if it's for a portrait, then it could be $55 to $2000 depending on your rank in the world!

Editions? Ethics? Don't worry yourself about that, just sell as many pictures as you can!

Asher
 

Andrew Stannard

pro member
I've often pondered the validity of this concept in the digital age - and have never reached a clear consensus.

In the end I think about the circumstances in which I'd feel cheated if I'd bought a limited edition print. I'd feel somewhat cheated if a new edition was brought out that was just on different paper, or had a slight tweak to the colours before printing. But if I'd bought a limited edition print at, say, 20x30 then I wouldn't have a problem with new prints at 12x8 suddenly appearing.

Like Asher says though - each to their own, and if it works as a business model then fair enough.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
I've often pondered the validity of this concept in the digital age - and have never reached a clear consensus.

In the end I think about the circumstances in which I'd feel cheated if I'd bought a limited edition print. I'd feel somewhat cheated if a new edition was brought out that was just on different paper, or had a slight tweak to the colours before printing. But if I'd bought a limited edition print at, say, 20x30 then I wouldn't have a problem with new prints at 12x8 suddenly appearing.

Like Asher says though - each to their own, and if it works as a business model then fair enough.
Andrew,

Read about Hunderwasser! He produced prints, about 16x20" and each was made with about 6 to ten colors and sometimes metal foil printed in the most prestigious ateliers. He varied the color distribution on the plates and made families of species of different branches so that there were potentially thousands of unique series. One could buy a print for just $150 to 250 when they came out. check the prices now.

So it's not unfair for the artist to make as many varieties as will sell and be treasured by those who love the work! He was certainly honest and if you could understand the code, you could even see the genealogy in the code on the bottom of each print.

Frankly, it's a great idea as the artist can get rich and a lot of people can have something original at a fair bargain price!

Asher
 

Alain Briot

pro member
Arun,

You're overthinking this. It is clear that today an edition is mostly a marketing decision. However, limiting the number of prints is also a career and artistic decision. By limiting you imply that you will continue photographing and creating new work instead of printing the same images "ad infinitum."

This being said in art there are no hard and fast rules. An edition can be whatever you want it to be, as long as you don't change the terms half way through the edition and as long as your decisions are based on integrity and not greed. You can do this any which way you want. In fact, creativity is your best asset in art as in marketing.

Alain
 
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