Just a couple of days ago I got to do a task that's one of the things I like best about my job—I got to select four prints by Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee for our upcoming print sale.
For a long time now I've wanted to do a print offer of large format (LF) and ultra-large-format (ULF) silver-gelatin contact prints. (For those of you who don't know what a contact print is, it's when a negative is laid directly on the photo paper, sandwiched between the paper and the glass of a contact printing frame—it creates a one-to-one sized print that's the same size as the negative.) It's not easy finding the right artists for such a thing—when offering artwork for a fraction of normal gallery prices, one of the ways artists can "protect the value" of their regularly-priced work is by offering smaller-sized prints. And, obviously, that doesn't work with contact prints! I'm very happy that Michael and Paula agreed to do this.
The two of them first went through all of their pictures and picked several dozen that were appropriate for series printing. Then they sent me a CD with all of those photographs on them. I picked a dozen I liked best, and a few days later a luan mahogany plywood box arrived from Pennsylvania containing mounted and overmatted archive prints of all the pictures I'd selected. That was a treat. From these, I picked two of Michael's 8x20-inch prints and two of Paula's 8x10-inch prints, and a few alternates. Fortunately, we're going to be able to offer my first choices in this sale.
Michael and Paula have been working fine-art photographers for a long time. They're widely collected, with prints in more than 140 museum and private collections. They have published many books—Michael has five to his credit, including the famous A Visual Journey, published in conjunction with his 25-year retrospective at the George Eastman House, and Paula has published six, including one of my own favorite photobooks, High Plains Farm, a loving look at her farmer parents (then in their eighties) and the windswept plains farm in the Texas Panhandle where she grew up.
The lowest prices they normally sell their work for is $3,000 for an 8x20 and $2,000 for an 8x10—and that's only for their newest, latest work; older work increases in price from there. For the five days of our sale, we'll be able to offer Michael's two 8x20s for $350 each and Paula's two 8x10s for $250. Plus we'll have discounts for multiple orders. Each print will be mounted and overmatted—Michael and Paula never sell unmounted prints—and signed. After our sale, five Artist's Proofs will go into their archives and then that's it—the images will be retired permanently. The TOP Print Offer images I chose last Friday will never be offered for sale again.
As usual, our print sales are only open for a five-day window; as regular readers know, when it's done it's done. (Again, if you don't know our sales model, we take orders first and allow the photographers to print to order. This is how we can make it both profitable for the photographers and a nearly matchless bargain for you. TOP gets 20% for hosting the sale, meaning most of the profits stay with the photographers but I get a swell commission. I like to call it a "win-win-win" situation, and I really think it is that.)
The sale will begin near the end of this month—I'll announce the exact date next Monday or Tuesday.
I hope you like the pictures I picked—it wasn't easy. I tried to choose examples that really bring out the distinctive beauty and extremely fine, delicate detail of contact prints. Michael and Paula are both essentially (but not exclusively) classical landscape photographers, so I tried to pick pictures that highlight their connectedness to the almost mystical beauty of the natural world.
Check in on Monday for the announcement of the start date. Or if you want up-to-the-minute alerts, subscribe to TOP's Twitter feed at @theonlinephotog.
Original contents copyright 2013 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
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Featured Comments from:
Geoff Wittig: "It would be difficult to exaggerate the esteem in which Paula and Michael are held in the photo book world. Their Lodima Press imprint has produced some truly exquisite books, from the best Edward Weston book on the planet to an eclectic range of small softcover monographs. And their own work is just beautiful; Michael's wide format book of images from Tuscany is one of the highlights of my library. So I can hardly wait to see what you folks are offering...."
Dale: "Nothing, absolutely nothing in photography is as marvelous as a well executed contact print! Now, one of an interesting composition is worth buying and these sound like they will be a steal!"