Who Buys Photography Part 1 – Reflection

For this week’s reflection I will look back on the following items:

  • Selling my work
  • Estimate – Challenge
  • ParisPhoto and Offprint visit
  • Paris photo – creating work in an unfamiliar environment

Earlier in this module I exhibited my work at the London Photo Show for the Series “Last person to leave turn off the tap” for the exhibition I selected 8 images from last modules work in progress for the exhibition. Given the industrial nature of the prints I decided to print them on 16-inch square aluminium panels. The show allowed exhibitors to sell work directly to visitors therefore I had to make some decisions about price and if the work should be structured using editions. During a talk in Krakow Gerry Badger had covered this topic of applying editions to work as a way of buyers having comfort that a photograph can have a similar level of rarity to other art works such as paintings and sculptures.

After much reflection, I decided that this initial body of work would be for sale as a single size with an edition of 5 plus two artist’s proofs. The manufacturing process is higher than printing on archival quality paper and framing the images but I overall like the effect. When considering pricing I decided that I would apply a consistent price across the edition and not increase the price as the edition starts to sell. My view on this approach was to build trust in the brand and not appear to be cashing in on popularity. I priced the work at 2 times production cost when I compared this to other works the price compared favourably with other work for sale at the show. If I was selling via a gallery that price would need to be higher to cover gallery commission which I understand is typically 50% of sale price. Therefore, to retain the same margin as a direct sale the work would then need to be priced at 4 times production cost.

The challenge work this week was all about estimating for a commercial job. It was ironic that the commercial job was in an area of London that I know very well which provided me with a potential local knowledge advantage. I constructed an initial estimate based on my usual shooting approach which is to work on my own thought based on feedback from the tutors I produced a revised quote including an assistant which only increased the overall quote by a few percent. I decided to separate usage costs in the quote to help establish a baseline for image usage with the client, so if they wanted to extend the usage period for a longer term or expand the distribution channels for the image we had an established reference point. My view is that if the usage costs were embedded in the production costs both parties do not have a common starting point. It was interesting to see that post student’s quotes were in a range between £5,000 and £10,000 with one noticeable outlier who decided to quote over £40,000 which means most us were underpricing our work or he was deliberately highballing to avoid his quote being picked as the quote was submitted after other students had published their quotes.

I visited ParisPhoto for the second-year galleries and many photographs on display were familiar to last year or other photo shows such as Photo London or Unseen in Amsterdam. Compared to Unseen galleries are displaying higher value pieces that is reflective of the exhibition space. I went to the show on the Saturday which I feel is more of a day for the public rather than the buying of art by collectors as many of the gallerists were huddled over their laptops and did not appear to be engaging with visitors. The story was very different around the book stands where queues formed to get books signed by well known photographers which I think supports my assessment that we are not just buying work we are buying into the brand of the person who created the work. Prior to this module, I have taken a low key position with my work but I now realise if I want to have a sustainable practice I need to promote myself and my brand via multiple channels.

The final reflection point for this week is my photo shoot in Paris. The weather on the Sunday was not ideal in the past I would have kept the camera in the bag and done something else. In this case I decided to go out and shoot. Overall I did not consider the shoot a success but it did remind me that when undertaking work in locations where you do not have local knowledge it is important incorporate scouting time into the schedule and allow time for unexpected circumstances such as adverse weather. It is cheaper to add an extra couple of days of hotel time when on location rather than leave empty handed and must absorb the travel costs involved in returning to the location later.

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