Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Thoughts on the Photo Book Market from 5B4

There is an extremely well reasoned analysis of the challenges facing the photo book world at 5B4 today. Among many topics, it describes very accurately the price herding that goes on at Abebooks and elsewhere, highlights the impact "check off" collectors (those that are trying to get every book from Roth or Parr/Badger) have had on the market, and exposes the book signing racket. The link is here. Well worth your time.

2 comments:

QT Luong said...

Why are book signing "racket" ? Or did you mean "signed books" ? Now, I am sincerely curious, as a collector of photography, do you value artist signatures on prints, or are you indifferent to them ?

dlkcollection said...

I guess the distinction I was making when using the word "racket" was the difference between an admirer or fellow photographer wanting to get a signature for personal reasons and one who is simply getting the signature to increase the value of the book (the flipping on eBay scenario). I completely understand why inscribed volumes are worth more; it's the process of getting that signature that seems flawed.

Signatures in general likely deserve a post of their own, but overall, I would say that in terms of photographic prints, the value of a signature varies quite widely, because artists use their signatures in so many different ways. Some sign everything, some only sign "finished" prints, some sign prints as they go out the door, some sign almost nothing and use stamps or other watermarks. As you go back in time, there are less and less signatures. There are even differences in signatures (think Edward Weston full signature versus initials). For us as collectors, a signature is just one piece of the entire puzzle that determines value (condition, size, print date, process, who printed the image etc.). We are quite often very happy to get a vintage print without a signature. And we always mat out the signature anyway when we frame an item, so viewers are forced to judge the image on its own merits, not just hunting for who made it. So to answer your question directly, the signature is generally not our focus; its relevance comes long after we have determined our own opinion of the image itself.