February 26, 2015, 06:06:06 PM

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Messages - Pag

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So we're still calling photographs "art", are we?


Before we go further into a very productive online argument about whether photography is art or not, I have to ask for your definition of "art". Everybody seems to have a different definition, so until this is clarified, any argument is pointless.

That turned into a great discussion of the realities of the art market after all. Thanks all for the insightful comments.

If you can convince people of the message or meaning of your work, you will attract more serious art buyers.

Finally, going back to your original point - high prices sell.

Those are the basis of my two main points. To attract high-end buyers, you have to convince them that there is a very deep meaning behind the picture. But to attract the very highest-end, it might even be better to have a picture that appears like it might have a deep meaning, but that nobody actually really understands. That way, the buyer appears superiorly smart when he shows it to visitors of his personal gallery -- essentially saying "I get it but you don't, so I understand art better than you do."

The high price further limits access to this art, further showing that the buyer is part of an elite club.

This is a cynical point of view, I'll grant you that, but one I think has some validity. I don't think it applies to most purchases of fine art photography (most people just buy pictures they enjoy looking at a moderate price), but it's the best explanation I've found for the stratospheric height of value for some pictures. I'd like to hear alternate points of view about the motivation of the buyers of these pieces (and for this discussion, I don't care about the artist's motivation or hard work, this is all about the buyer).

So I go in the business forum and start a thread about what the motivation of high value art buyers might be, and I get called a troll. Then every single reply focuses on the artists and what drove them to make their art, without a single consideration for the buyer's motivation.

It sounds as though you want to know some secret to becoming a financially successful artist.

I'm trying to understand the market, and that includes the buyer's motivation. What could possibly motivate a person to spend more on a single photo than most people make in their entire life? Why not buy a Robert Frank for $3,500 as you say? There has to be a reason.

This thread isn't a critique of art, it's about the business of art. There's a million other thread talking about how to take great photos, but very few about why people would buy those great photos.

I try to understand the market and I get insulted and dismissed without anyone even considering the question in return. You talk as if you think wanting to become a financially successful artist is a bad thing -- it's not. If nobody is willing to talk honestly about why art sells, it's no surprise that most art doesn't sell well or at all.

If the value of a work of art comes from the work of the artist, then it makes no sense for it to gain value after the artist's death when he can do no more art or any effort to be noticed. There has to be something more to it than that.

I'd love it if artists sold their art at a price that was directly related to the quality of their work, but it's obviously not the case. Many hard working, talented artists die poor, while some talentless hacks become rich. There has to be something more than artistic skill and hard work involved.

A few years back, a painting initially attributed to a German painter was attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. The painting's value multiplied by several orders of magnitude. If it turns out it's not by da Vinci after all, the value will go down. It's the same painting, so why does the value change? It's not because the painting becomes better or worse.

Like it or not, there are market forces that influence the value of your work that have nothing to do with artistry, "the discipline to present a vision of his work" or even the artist's work to be noticed. Understanding those forces can mean the difference between being poor and being rich, doing the same work. I have no interest in being a starving artist, so I'll keep trying to understand those forces.

Do you guys have any argument about why you think I'm wrong? I was hoping for some actual discussion of the business and marketing of fine art, not some vague whining. It's no wonder photographers are all broke if that's the level of business talk going on...

I was thinking about those fine art photographs that no one seems to really understand, yet sell for ridiculous sums of money. The work of Andreas Gursky comes to mind, but there are other. I was trying to figure what it is that made these pictures worth so much money, while a very similar picture taken by a nobody would sit unloved in a Flickr account.

And then it hit me.

The artists selling these pictures don't sell beautiful pictures. You can buy plenty of beautiful photos for a few bucks -- that's nothing special. What they sell is a way for the buyer to feel and (most importantly) show that they are:
  • Superiorly rich
  • Superiorly refined
  • Superiorly intelligent

Essentially, they are selling to a small niche of super-rich buyers who want to show how wealthy they are and how refined their taste in art is. It's a bit like buying a Ferrari: you don't buy it because it's a very convenient car, you buy it to impress people around you.

The fact that the image is extremely expensive and that it's very hard to understand what makes it special is precisely what gives it its value. If the photo was affordable, they owning it wouldn't showcase the buyer's wealth. If the photo was easy to appreciate, then it wouldn't showcase the buyer's superior refinement for understanding it (whether the buyer actually understands is mostly irrelevant, it's all about perception).

EOS Bodies / Re: Bingo! New Canon 5Ds has 50.6 MP new rumored specs
« on: February 01, 2015, 06:15:48 PM »
I'm surprised at the lack of wifi and GPS. Wifi is useful in the studio (for wireless tethering) and GPS is useful to landscape photographers, the two types of photographers the 5Ds seems to target. Not a deal breaker (the price, however...) but they would have been nice features.

EOS Bodies / Re: Patent: Canon 2mm f/1.4 Lens for Small Sensors
« on: October 18, 2014, 10:20:12 AM »
I wonder how wide a (very improbable) full frame 2 mm lens would be...

Canon General / Re: More Canon Lens Mentions [CR2]
« on: October 10, 2014, 11:02:03 AM »
f/4 makes sense for an UWA. You can't use depth of field to separate subjects at that focal length and you can hand-hold pretty long exposures at 11mm.

Landscape / Re: Fall colours
« on: September 30, 2014, 04:15:42 PM »
Not quite peak colors around here yet, so here's last fall:

Variations by pagarneau, on Flickr

Parc de la Jacques-Cartier by pagarneau, on Flickr

Parc de la Jacques-Cartier by pagarneau, on Flickr

A 50mm fish eye?  ???

I subscribe to Microsoft Office 365, which comes with 1TB of space on OneDrive, their Dropbox-like service. If you need Office, it's a pretty good deal imho: you get Office for up to 5 computers and more online space than you'll ever need for $10 per month.

EOS Bodies / Re: Medium Format Announcement a \
« on: August 13, 2014, 02:34:05 PM »
I've always struggled to see why talk of "their brand" introducing a medium format system gets certain users (thankfully,  not so many on this particular forum) so excited...any MF system would be more or less completely incompatible with any manufacturer's current 35mm systems,  so who cares about brand?

Yes. Often the excitement is accompanied by unrealistic expectations about pricing or features that would be offered by "their brand." There are those who believe that if "their brand" were to offer a medium format camera that the mere presence of such a camera would instantly revive a market that is dying. Some even imagine that "their brand" will be able to overcome the laws of physics by, for example, offering a larger format that would be magically compatible with existing lenses.

Interestingly, many of these same people seem to have a bit of a love-hate relationship with "their brand" always complaining that it is not living up to its potential and accusing the company of being too worried about making a profit (horrors!).

While I'm not in the market for a medium format camera, I'm interested in these rumors because they would indicate Canon is trying something new and exciting. I find the evolution of cameras has slowed to a boring pace lately -- all we see is incremental improvements to parameters that are already mostly good enough (do we really need more pixels or higher ISO?). Outside of Lytro, everything is the same old, same old. A new format would have the potential to shake things up.

Lenses / Re: Review: Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens
« on: April 26, 2014, 03:00:08 PM »
Sigma should give a cut of the profits to Zeiss. If the Otus didn't exist, people would look at the new Sigma 50mm and think "It's really nice, but a lot more expensive than the Canon 50mm f/1.4. Is the difference really worth it?". Now though, people look at this lens and think "Wow! This lens is almost as good as a $4000 lens and for just a quarter of the price. What a bargain!" Sigma is going to sell way more copies of this lens because the Otus exists  :P

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