why I don’t sell limited editions

June 15, 2020 in Art as a professiontopics:

First of all, photography is an open edition art form. Limited editions make total sense for many traditional art forms, where the master image degrades with each printing. But one of the pleasures of photography is that you are not limited in the number of prints you can make from a negative. And this is even more true with digital photography where the master file never degrades. Nearly every photographer I admire, going back to Ansel himself, uses open editions. It’s just a natural medium for photography.

Second, my technique, skills, and artistic tools are constantly improving. Whenever I make a print, it represents the best I can do at that point in time. But every year, the tools I use get more powerful, and my ability to use those tools gets more sophisticated. Every year, I learn new techniques and get better at old ones. I am constantly learning and growing as a print maker. Whenever I revisit an old photograph to make new prints, the art gets better and closer to the vision I originally had. If I limited my editions, this avenue for artistic growth would be shut down. This would be unfair to both me and the buyers of my art.

Third, it just doesn’t make business sense. My goal is not just to make art, but to make a living from my art. Which means, making money from your art. Whenever I create a new piece of  art, I never know which will become my next “big hit” and sell really well. If I artificially limited the number of pieces I could sell, it would simply limit my opportunity for making money (and a living) from my more popular art. Which takes money away from my family, and hurts my ability to be a professional artist.

And last, limited editions confuse the market. There is no one definition of what a “limited edition” is, so the art buyer may easily be confused or misled. For some, a limited edition means that no more than 5 to 10 pieces of the art will ever be printed, in any size. Others limit their editions, but start a new edition for each size printed, or each print medium used. This lets them call an edition “limited” but lets them never sell out, since they can always just release a new “edition” at a slightly larger size, or on a different kind of paper. And for others, editions can be “limited” to ridiculously high levels — 50, 100, or even more prints — quantities that will never sell out. All of these conflicting definitions only confuse the market and in the end can mislead the art buyer. Owning a “limited edition photograph” can mean almost anything in the art world — and therefore means almost nothing.

Some argue that limited editions are more attractive to collectors, because they are better investments. But if you want collectibility, you can buy Pokemon cards. If you want an investment, you can buy stocks. However, if you want art — let’s talk. None of my collectors (I love ’em!) have ever been concerned about limited editions, edition size, print order, or anything. They tell me they buy my art to make it a part of their lives and home, not for its collectibility. I believe there’s no better way to be a patron of the arts, than by supporting an artist’s ability to earn a living from their art, unimpeded by artificial limits.

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