Show Shakes and Thoughts on the Importance of the Signature

The show preparation continues; today I signed, dated and titled all of the prints and in a few days, the frames will be finished, backed and wired for hanging. My delivery deadline to the gallery is looming. I should make it with time to spare. Of course, I damaged a print when it slipped from my hands and onto the floor, so there’s at least one that has to be re-done.

Signing the work was going along well, damaged print aside, until the framer commented “oh. You sign yours on the back? Most of the other photographers I work with sign on the front somewhere. Interesting.” I stopped and looked down at the print. Where should the photographer sign a photograph?

That’s a hotly debated question. Do a Google or Yahoo! search on the topic and you’ll see what I mean. What can be said is that every artist I know actively signs their work or somehow makes their mark on the finished piece in a way that is permanent. In fact, most art is not regarded as being complete by collectors until the artist’s mark is on it.

Many photographers will sign the mat. I will admit to doing this in the past, but in truth, I always thought this practice was a bit foolish. For one thing, I have nothing to do with the creation or production of the mat; for another, mats are often changed and discarded. It’s not something I do now. Others will sign their prints in one of the lower corners, requiring the print to “float” if matted, if the signature is to be seen. I like the look of prints matted this way, but many photographic papers will not accept pencil or ink, particularly those papers used in traditional darkroom processes. Some inks will bleed through the paper. Then, there’s the question of archival stability with many inks.

I now sign, date, and title my prints on the back of the photograph, in the upper left corner, in pencil. Why? I read somewhere that’s what Ansel Adams did. Or maybe it was Edward or Brett Weston; or Imogen Cunningham. To be honest, I don’t remember who it was, aside from being someone who’s work I admire and respect. If any of you may know, please let me know. Regardless, this is a method that works, not just for me, but for those that buy and collect my prints. Consistency is the most important thing but if a customer wants it done otherwise, I’m happy to accommodate them. Some have had me sign the back of the frame.

A few of the older framed pieces that are to be shown still have slight repairs made to them; mostly, to the frames themselves. Fortunately, none have been badly damaged. The repairs have been mostly to the dust jackets and frame corners, with one or two of the prints requiring a slight reposition.

The largest task that remains to be done is pricing, and that’s the most difficult part for me. I don’t kid myself into believing my work is worth gazillions of dollars, but I know its worth more than free. In past shows, I’ve used a pricing formula used by the restaurant service industry (I know!) that has given me what I feel are fair numbers. Once I calculate the price of a piece, I determine in my own mind if I would buy it for said price. That’s most often the most reliable determining factor. I suppose I should be grateful that I have expensive tastes.

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The image that accompanies this post is one shot during the fall of ’08 in the foyer of a friend’s house. The model is Anna S. and no, the image is not part of my November exhibition. It’s one I think is beautiful; one that I like.

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Whether this is a matter of import to anyone other than me, I don’t know, but I’ve managed to re-link the images from the preceding post that weren’t opening. They open now, in a new window, but they don’t expand. At least something instead of nothing is happening. Blogger has provided an updated editor, which is supposed to improve image handling, so I’m trying it with this post.

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