U of S | Mailing List Archive | alt-photo-process-l | Re: size as esthetic (was photogravure)

Re: size as esthetic (was photogravure)

I haven't read that book, though I did read Freakonomics, which was a fun read and illuminating, too-- maybe along similar lines..

In answer to your question, "So if I was a gallery owner . . .  I personally would hope that most (at least a few?) gallery owners are thinking as much about individual artists and their specific works of art-- as well as collectors of art, both established and potential collectors--  not solely buyers with deep pockets who just want a big picture that matches the couch and fills up some wall space.  I'd also like to believe that artists think more about their art than about pure profit motive, too, but I guess that's awfully naive.   There are actually some of us out here who don't actually price by the square foot.   If an artist is simply making huge prints (regardless of how much or how little it costs to simply go bigger), solely to be able to slap a higher price on their work-- well, I don't know. That may be a smart move, but  at this point, seems to me that we're talking more about marketing and profit than about art. 

I agree with your assessment,  "weak work printed large looks more interesting to some people even though it's still crap-- just more of it" sentiment, though.  Not all large work is crap, for sure-- but there's an awful lot of big digital stuff out there that makes an impact simply because of its size, and not much more.  If you run into a print that's measured in several feet, you can't help but stop and look at it.

Unfortunately economics and the profit motive are responsible for some of the big is better mindset. As is perspective - weak work printed large looks more interesting to some people even though it's still crap - just more of it.. Historically when printing something big meant overcoming significant technical challenges and required greater skill, larger sizes commanded higher prices. Today the technology has changed so that larger sizes only cost marginally more to make than smaller sizes. More ink, more sensitizer, more platinum, more silver, etc - all combined so that it costs less than $100 extra more to make a 22x30 versus a 5x7 (Time is another factor),  yet the 22x30 can be sold for significantly more - $3,000 versus $1,000 for the 5x7.

So if I was the gallery owner why wouldn't I refuse to carry and stock small sizes? I'll leave the answer to that question for another thread but I am reading a fantastic book on the subject of pricing and decision making. Really it is amazing and useful for everyone in their daily life.
"Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions" by Dan Ariely.
A phenomenal, engaging read. It really makes you think about economics in your daily life and why/how you spend money the way you do. Everyone should read it. (I have no ties to the writer or publisher).  -t

Diana Bloomfield wrote:
EBD6BC1B-12EF-4E8D-B863-E09B4104FF03@bellsouth.net" type="cite">Yes-- I agree, Judy, about "plenty of junk art" at smaller sizes.   Actually,  I don't see so much of the huge digital work that I used to see ALL the time in galleries or anywhere else, so maybe the tide is turning.  That's all I would ever see for a while there.  Of course, this is only my perspective-- from where I'm sitting (not located in the art capital of the world here).  I do remember a time, though, when galleries would absolutely refuse to show work that was small.  In fact, I have a good friend whose work was represented by the John Stevenson gallery-- probably more than 10 years ago.  He is probably one of the best platinum printers I know, but he was dropped there because his work wasn't "big enough," and that he just couldn't sell small work-- or at least that's what he was told.   He never printed bigger than 5x7.   Now when I go to galleries, or anywhere work is exhibited, I see much more of a range-- which is refreshing.

Oh, and that phrase-- "If you can't make it good . . . "  I was taught that!  I still remember it and think about it all the time. ;)

On Apr 3, 2008, at 7:36 PM, Judy Seigel wrote:

On Thu, 3 Apr 2008, Diana Bloomfield wrote:

I agree completely about these huge color prints I often see that are really no more than rather uninteresting snapshots (badly composed to boot); their size is what gives them notice (the only thing that makes them noticeable). It does get old after a while.

But for 50 years the rule in America has been "bigger is better."  (When my kitchen appliances broke down after the first 30 years, I discovered they were no longer made in the "normal" sizes of refrigerators, ovens, etc. when they were installed, but so huge I would have had to tear down the kitchen to replace them.  And tended to have all sorts of "features" that took up more space (like computers!)  I finally found some that could be squeezed in (with only a day's worth of carpentry) but they're not as well planned or functional as the originals.

"Bigger is better" got to be the rule in art, too, starting with "action painting."  We used to sneer:  "If you can't make it good, make it big, if you can't make it big make it red."

Meanwhile, the rule of thumb which almost always fits (except when you just need to cover space in a McMansion, or for effect in a corporate lobby) the best viewing distance for art is generally considered the diagonal.  For instance, if a picture is 8-1/2 by 11 inches (standard letter size) the diagonal is about 14 inches, and that's found to be the best general viewing distance.

Of course if we're really loving/interested in a work, we view it from at least 3 distances -- stepping back for the "long view", the diagonal for regular taking it in, and really close up (don't you love just getting your face right in there -- unless the museum guard spoils your joy). So in effect no matter how big the work is, we're getting our view of it at the same scale.... but dealers want them big because they sell much more readily & of course for much more. In other words these things are often determined by marketing AND the current style,... common sense has nothing to do with it.

I myself am going through a phase of wanting to work really small.. And in a museum I just love finding a work of art the size of my face-- and we see so much of it only in books, where it's probably no more than 8-1/2 by 11 anyway.

On the 3rd hand, I give Sookang the benefit of any doubt. If she's working so large, odds are they're wonderful (Keith too -- tho he seems possibly somewhat ambivalent.)

And PS. there's plenty of junk art at 8-1/2 by ll... The names are forgotten now, but wasn't the most popular painter in America in the 1950s the guy who did the big-eyed girls ... What was his name?  ("John Keane" comes to mind.)


I know someone who makes the most beautiful mezzotints-- none larger than about 4x5 and some not much larger than a postage stamp.  These are so hauntingly beautiful-- I can't tell you--  and perfect for his particular images.   Every time I think about printing big, I think about those mezzotints.

On Apr 3, 2008, at 5:27 PM, Mark Nelson wrote:

I don't think photography should be limited by size and you point out good reasons to make larger prints for different display spaces. What tires me are the huge, over-saturated color prints with no content. You see them in galleries all the time. Bigger doesn't  make these prints better.
Mark Nelson
PDNPrint Forum @ Yahoo Groups
From my iPhone
On Apr 3, 2008, at 2:28 PM, Dan Haygood <dan@haygoods.org> wrote:
Yes, I agree.  Large prints have made their way into many homes as a showcase piece of artwork.  It has put photography in a place were it is being noticed.  Look in interior design magazines and they all have large scale photographs hanging on the walls of the homes they are featuring. Small images create a more intimate feel and are displayed in settings that the viewer can get close to.  In other fine arts, one will always find a diversity of sizes of images that reflect what the artist is trying to impress upon the viewer.  Why should photography be confined to a small scale?
From: Jon Lybrook [mailto:jon@terabear.com]
Sent: Thursday, April 03, 2008 12:15 PM
To: alt-photo-process-l@usask.ca
Subject: Re: Photogravure was: Re: SPE and alt update
Mr. King,
Wee little prints are just fine for the right image, as are huge ones.  I hope and trust no one ever curses you and things you've devoted yourself to doing in an ugly and boorish manner.
Sandy King wrote:
Yes, is it not a fact about big. I am so tired at this fad with huge prints I want to vomit. I hope the people making those huge prints never sell a one of them and have to build new storage rooms to hold them until their descendants destroy the atrocities.
Now, a nice 5X7 contact print, there is something to hold close to your eyes and treasure.
At 2:05 PM -0400 4/3/08, Ender100@aol.com wrote:
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Thanks Jon,
It's an American French Tool Press by Conrad Machine Co.  I got a table top model that will handle 18" wide paper.  It may also be a great pasta machine.  Josephine Sacabo had just gotten the big brother to this machine when I worked with her last fall on polymer plate photogravure-it was great fun.  Unfortunately it takes 3-4 months to build and deliver.
I think I got "big" out of my system with inkjet printing hehehehe.
Best Wishes,
Mark Nelson
It's AlIVE! IT'S ALIVE!  THE ALT PHOTO LIST IS ALIVE!!!!  Chris must have given it an enema.
Precision Digital Negatives
PDNPrint Forum @ Yahoo Groups
Mark I. Nelson Photography
In a message dated 4/3/08 12:56:50 PM, jon@terabear.com writes:
Congrats on the press Mark!  What kind did you get?
But 'little'?  I'm doing 20x30" now and they are available at 30x40"...and even larger, so I've been told.
Larger plates present a new set of problems, but they are still alot of fun to work with (more so when the pesky contact issues have been overcome).
Planning your summer road trip? Check out AOL Travel Guides.
Jon Lybrook
Tera Bear Consulting