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Saturday, 05 November 2011


That sounds like a fantastically exciting and fun exercise! I think you have a winner of an idea there.

Fine idea
Let's proceed

Yay, sir.

I'd love to see that.

Dear Mike,

Oh, I like it! Should be big fun all around.

I've been thinking about doing much the same thing for my really-truly-final dye transfer sale in 2013. I'd love to see the concept tested before then.

pax / Ctein

Oh, Hell yeah! Count me as one of the print sellers!

this is a really interesting idea. i'd personally like to see it happen. I may even enter!

I don't know, Mike. Is art a democracy?

Even though I haven't bought your print I'd still support you having
the courage of your conviction. You gotta to put forward the work
that you truly believe in

It's up to us, your audience ( who you must know well by now) to
respond to it in our own way.

It's a trust thing

I like the idea but I wouldn't like it to drag on for many weeks. I would like to see the final three decided within a time frame of several weeks. Any longer and it would lose the excitement I think this "contest" will generate.


I think that's a cool idea... I like the idea because we'll get to see the work of people who regularly visit your blog.

I wonder if there is a particular type of photographer that you attract... I'll submit a photo.


I think this is a great idea; might allow some of us (me) who are just starting to work out how to sell their work the ability to get their work out there.

Great idea,but, how do you/we keep the voting fair ? I could vote for me 1,000 times if I had the stamina.

Well, that sounds like a pretty interesting idea. Would be a great success, I think.

O.K. Just do it.

Really. Sounds interesting.

"I like the idea but I wouldn't like it to drag on for many weeks. I would like to see the final three decided within a time frame of several weeks. Any longer and it would lose the excitement I think this 'contest' will generate."

That's just not the way it works. These sales often take a great deal of preparation. I would not be willing to do a rushed, half-assed job of it. It would have to be a good sale with top-quality prints or I'm not interested.


That beats most photo competitions where they want you to pay to enter and give them all rights to all photos entered even if they aren't winners. Or did you mention an entry fee? Wait aminute, I'd better reread that. Nope! Better watch it Mike, the folks running those other competitions will be after you. ;-)

Sounds fantastic!

Sounds like a grand idea, count me in.

is this the "contest" you said you were working on two years ago? I like the idea. Go for it.

I'm in.

Sounds awesome. And fun. And something that would be really neat to be a part of.

I fear, though, that you would be inundated with submissions.

Hey there.

Nice idea. However, I did have one of those ‘the very first thought that entered my head’ moments. I’ll quote the Urban Dictionary’s tasty example by way of explanation.

“Bla bla small text no one ever reeds ... ... ... Some other crap... ... The judges’ decision will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.”



Would be lots of fun, I'm sure... but is it photography?

To be honest, I find that your print-sale columns just keep me waiting for normal programming to resume, kind of like NPR pledge week.

If this is a democracy then I vote YES!

Not only would it likely result in a great sale it would be interesting to see the type of work your readers produce. You may even be able to use this data to target your marketing if you like.

I think this idea would be even more of a "flop" (more on that later) and move the print events even more to not-what-this-site-is. Are the print events meant to provide a unique opportunity that helps the site a little or just blatantly provide a way to support the site financially? If I want a print of a nice photograph I have many places to look where I'd wager I could end up with a very nice print for the cost of the print.

As to the current sale being a "flop" I would ask you to define a flop. At a profit of something like $250 a print or more with someone else producing the prints, if you sold 20 that could be seen as a month's salary for many (most?) readers with little extra effort on your part and a nice success.

I like it!

I like it! I have a print I would love to enter.


may I throw in a curve ball left field comment (I'm a Brit - I'm trying to use an Americanism, probably badly. Sorry!).

How about an lower tier "digital version" of the print sale? I personally don't have many framed and physical photos, as it doesn't match with the house or the antiques and oil paintings. What I do have is a widescreen iMac 27, which I regularly use to display favoured photos, either of my own, or those "harvested" from the net.

I'd pay a few tens of dollars for a single image, so long as it was in high resolution, and that the image owner was happy to distribute a digital copy.

I can immediately think of complications - once I've got a high res copy, what's to stop me from emailing it to everyone I know, and so on. But, but.... there must be some business model that would work out. As an example, I have a CD of about 30 Ansel Adams images, in high res, that I bought as a dedicated screen saver for a Windows PC. I don't remember exactly the cost, but as I am always financially challenged it would not have been big. If Ansel's foundation can bear to sell digital images for a few tens of dollars, there must be some way TOP could.

This could be complementary to a "proper print" sale, or perhaps run as an adjunct in off-months. And if it worked, hopefully some profits would go to TOPs swollen bank account at MegaCorp and buy you that luxury yacht we all know you want, or even a new Leica lens if the sale was a real success ;)

I'm sort of linking this with a comment on another post, in which one of the TOP village found $290 too much. I'm with him on that.

Great idea!! I'd like to enter.

I think something particpatory along these lines would be fun and, as well as producing a good set of prints, would hopefully generate some interesting discussions about the relative merits of various images.

Perhaps keep it simple. A period for submissions - max one per photographer - and then a shortlist of, say, 10 finalists is drawn up by yourself and a couple of other judges. TOP visitors then vote on their favourite three to be produced as prints. To make it even more 'democratic' you could expand the shortlist to give the voters more choice.

If it proves successful, make it an annual thing, or perhaps do it more than once per year?

Sounds like a boatload of work on your end, but fun for us, so I'll vote yes. : )

"but, how do you/we keep the voting fair?"

I'd just use the Vizu Poll template. Each IP address can only vote once. You could still cheat, but you'd have to do it from different IP addresses or get your friends to vote for you. I'd probably make the voting window quite narrow, too, to prevent people from organizing "lobbying campaigns."


I like the idea, as far as it goes. My concerns would be directed at the voting process. If we take the oh so democratic "one man, one vote" approach we are not factoring the likelihood that a voter would potentially be a buyer. What we are really interested in is not which print people like the most but rather which will folks buy the most. With very little additional complication, I think we can design a much more meaningful yet still more or less democratic voting process.

I remember you writing once that you'd like to curate and promote photography if you could do anything you choose. This seems very much along these lines - please proceed. And, as a side note, please do maintain your general interest in *all* things photographic, we've got plenty of sites for gear reviews around.

A wonderful idea. Please do make this happen.


Why would it be any different than any other sale? The site takes 20% of the sale proceeds. It wouldn't be any more or less for a sale that's open to all readers. I would certainly not take an "entry fee" if that's what you're assuming--the only income would come from the actual sale, same as always. And 80% would go to the photographer, same as always.


In theory it sounds like a great idea, but we might get a result of having the final pictures being those of "design by committee" i.e. we'll have several moderate pictures that appeal to the widest audience, instead of several great pictures that have different audiences of taste.

Just something to consider.


Great idea. Maybe some unknown talent will get "discovered" too.

Mike, you are going to see a lot of images to select from, think through the logistics and consider your time. Like the print sale, I suggest you keep the windows open for very short periods, with a warning to the faithful, of course.
I'm in...

I don't like it.

My initial gut reaction was "nope" and the more I think about it the more I know I won't take part.

I'm not trying to be a troll, here, so I'm going to try and explain my thoughts.
(I am somewhat of a fanboy, so I'll go ahead and say I like most of your other ideas! :p )

There will almost certainly be a large gap between "people that vote" and "people that buy" and many of the former will not become the latter if their choice isn't the final one. I've drawn a venn diagram directly on my screen for you.

It certainly wouldn't be fair to say "you can't vote if you don't intend to participate" or "you must pay $290 in advance to vote, and in the end I will ship you whichever picture wins"

This is an interesting situation where you offer one print at a time. You're not an art gallery where I can walk in and choose from several that I might like and think about it and buy the one I want, or walk next door and look at what else is offered.

Continuing with that idea I would certainly dislike walking into a gallery and looking at the 10 pictures on the wall and being told I may only purchase the piece that everybody else liked as well or that only one of these items would be discounted due to public choice. I know this analogy quickly breaks down but both situations do not appeal to me.

The concept of publicly submitted photographs also tends to pull away from your usual method of educational as well as aesthetic. I can't find a comparison of selenium vs. inkjet or a well done dye transfer anywhere else on the internet.

I _can_ find public art just about everywhere. 20x200 is the first thing that pops to mind, altho' I seldom slog through all the, er, 'offerings'

Just about every pro and amateur who wants to be pro photographer has a website with an inbuilt shopping cart that accepts call major credit cards tied to a drop-shipping print lab one one of the coasts where he can offer his art printed (or mouse-padded, or mugged, or T-shirted, or printed on a box of chocolates or...) and then shipped
to the unwashed masses at any price he wants. Myself included. It's an amazing idea. I don't even have to sell prints, I just point them in the right direction and let them choose whatever they want. (In theory, anyways) In fact, you should all go to my smugmug and buy something nice ;-)

Why should I log in every day, read the choices, wait, vote, wait, see what everybody else voted, wait, then decide if I want to order what ended up first when I can scour the 'net with relative ease and find what's missing from my wall.
(Note, this is not to be read with a tone of self-serving instant gratification) (even tho' it probably is)

I'm good, Mike, but I'm not good enough to be the focus of your print offer. I'm not sure everybody here that reads this would want to buy my art. That said I'm not sure I'd want to purchase something similar from somebody else through you. I can find them on my own.

I want to show up and find something that you have found which is unique. A method which is difficult. A medium which is obscure. A process which is difficult. A master of his craft who is also an educator.

I want to show up and see that you've tracked down a Doc Edgerton negative or that you've found somebody who is making sunprints on toasted wheat with a shoe-box camera or something AMAZING!

Well, I think democracy is a great way to run a country but a lousy way to appraise the arts. It's that "democratization" of photography on various web sites where the most "Liked" photos win that is driving me away from the web (for photography) and back to the old fashioned world of hanging prints on the wall and trying to appeal to the minority that actually "gets" your work.

That's not to imply snobbery on the "get" point. It's just that there are many different tastes and many different ways of seeing and understanding things. Appealing to a minority doesn't imply snobbishness or esoterica, it means finding your best audience--people who see your work the way you see it. And that will almost always be a minority unless you're an artist who deliberately targets the lowest common denominator.

Here's where I appear to contradict myself: That said, I do think it's a fun exercise, as long as it's never held aloft as some kind of demonstration of truth in art or whatever. I will also add that TOP seems to have a fairly discriminating readership, so I expect the voting would be driven as much by sharp eyes for beauty and talent as by the counter-balancing (and elsewhere dominating) force of "Oooo, shiny!"

So yes, I'd participate by voting, and I would begrudgingly enjoy doing so.

The reason I like this idea is I was really impressed with the submissions of Halloween night from readers. I think the results will be fantastic.....can't wait.

Love it, I'll submit an image... or 2 if you'll accept multiples?

I think this is a very interesting idea. I'd like to submit a photo for consideration, but I have a lot more confidence in my abilities as a photographer than I do as a printer. So, I'm more than a little intimidated by the prospect of producing a significant volume of high quality prints. Maybe I'm being optimistic, but I suspect that therebare lots of other people in the same boat. May I suggest that you approach a professional printer who you trust to deliver high quality results and see if they would be willing to do the printing for a cut of the proceeds. Naturally, the printer's fee would need to be disclosed and agreed to by those who submit photos for consideration. This may open the door for those of us whose passion for photography exceeds our printing skills and capacity. This would also seem like a win for the buyers, who would be assured of a high quality print.

Yes! I already know what image I'm going to submit.

But why that final cut to only three images? Why not release 3 every month over the course of (say) 3 months? I think there's room for 9 very different images, and as long as the sales are spaced out over a couple of months, they won't crowd each other out.

I'm in!

Arvind, Bangalore.

I already have three or so things in mind I'd like to enter. This will no doubt be good for my ego. (Um, that's in the "true" sense of good, not the sense of inflating it.)

I can see this being a divisive thing in some ways, and somewhat dangerous to the community. People have strong feelings about art, and about their own work. (The people who never get to the point of being voted on will take the least damage, in that view.)

Also, I don't have the capability to print the sizes I'd want to offer, or a good arrangement with a local place to do it, so I'd better get on that, can't leave it to the last second. Um, anybody know a place that runs files through an Epson K3 pigment printer in the 16" or 24" class onto good Epson paper at a good price? Costco uses non-archival paper, the places I've priced in town so far ask absurd prices. Internet ordering might work, since I can proof excellently on a smaller Epson pigment printer I own. In Minneapolis would be ideal.

Huh, nobody seems to have brought up Jen Bekman's 20x200 project yet, or even more close to this, her Hey, Hot Shot! blog. Note the prices on small prints there.

Then again, I very very rarely find anything I like in the art being offered; to the point where I don't look at it regularly much any more.

Dear Sean (and Fred),

Art may not be a democracy, but commerce sure is. Or maybe more like mob rule. The reason the Apollo-Soyuz photograph got included in my last sale was because four or five readers specifically mentioned interest in it after I used it as an illustration. Otherwise, I'd never have thought to include it. It's a photo I worked very hard to make and print, but it isn't even in my top 10% of favorites in my portfolio.

It sold more prints than the other three photos combined.

Keep in mind that the purpose of the sales is not to anoint certain photographs as High Art but to make money for the artist and for Mike. They add up to sums that are not incidental. This is not a hobby for Mike and he is not of independent means. This is his full-time job, so he is interested in sales that will do well for the artists featured, because he gets a (very reasonable) cut of the action.

Also note that there's a "Mike vets this" stage in the process. The readers get to express their opinions, but Mike's judgement ultimately determines what gets offered.

In any case, what comes out will inevitably be of interest to only a small fraction of the readership. That's the nature of art sales. About 2% of the then-readership bought work in my first dye transfer sale. That's a phenomenally high response rate. A fraction of a percent is more normal. So, if what's offered doesn't interest you, skip on to the next article, knowing that you are among "the 99%" [g].

pax / Ctein
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

I like.

I ,too, like the idea, and think the synergy generated by the interactions between the site and the readership could be beneficial to all.

The devil will be in the details. For example, the round for the first pick might draw in only constant readers, but if news of the competition becomes viral, then you may have to deal with deluge of entrants. Handling the process, and finding others willing to vet entrants, will be a key to the success.

To throw out an idea for debate, would it be helpful to establish criteria/themes for each of the rounds? Say, landscapes for round 1, portraits for round 2, UV/IR for round 3, and so on? It might help in the selection process, and limit the number of entrants per round.


I don't now how many readers you have nowadays, Mike, but I predict you will be deluged by a mountain of garbage (especially of you don't have an "entry fee"), but I imagine you will also run across a couple of gems that will make it all worth while.

Please count me in. I just pulled down an exhibition and was fascinated to find out which of my images were audience favourites, with one image outselling all the rest by a nice margin - a photo I almost didn't include in the exhibition!

Yes!! Let's go for it!

Looking forward to the eclectic mix of submissions

I like the idea Mike but I'm afraid you underestimate the work you will have organizing this. There will be a lot of gold-diggers entering for the competition once the word is out.

It will surely generate a lot of traffic for your site and take a lot of disk space on your server...

I really don't want to spoil your party but you may attract a lot of people that are only interested in the competition and not in what you write in your great columns.

Great idea Mike,this should be both fun and educational,as we would benefit from seeing others work and hopefully your critique of the finalists.
Also it would be excellent if it proves a financial support to the TOP Foundation.


When you're speaking of vetting the actual prints, would the semifinalists submit prints identical to what they would offer in the sale?

I would be interested in seeing the work of others in the TOP community and possibly submitting work - although if you plan to pick the initial dozen that will be presented for voting, I propose that those of us interested in feedback (regardless of whether one's work makes the first cut or not) be able to pay a modest fee to TOP for a short critique. You've edited publications in the past and I would suspect that the individuals you'll choose to assist you are experienced in reviewing others' work.

An email critique of one or two paragraphs would be well worth paying for in my opinion. Plenty of photographers attend Photolucida for that same feedback.

@Fred - obviously the print sales touch a nerve for you, at the same time no one is forcing you to read those posts. I always find it interesting when readers start attempting to define what someone else's blog should or should not be. Until you're personally funding Mike's time and effort writing TOP, it stands to reason he can hold as many or few print sales as he pleases.

Ain't gonna work. Democracy in action, sure, but you can't really critically judge a photo by looking at a small jpeg on a (probably uncalibrated) computer monitor. I assume you wouldn't initially pick photos that weren't technically competent, but the final winners are likely to be ones that grab people's attention because they're way over-saturated or depict some offbeat subject.
Then there is the issue of the print. Some of us are good photographers and some of us are good printers. And some of us try to do both, but we're usually better at one than the other. So even if you ultimately choose three outstanding, technically competent images, there's no guarantee that each photographer is going to be able to make great prints to fulfill his/her sales. It's a whole other skill, and you're not judging that. People might like the image and buy it, but find the print they receive is crappy and doesn't match what they saw on the screen, or is otherwise poorly executed.
Furthermore, I expect most of the participants in this will not be pros with studios and assistants. It will take a lot of time and effort to produce and ship all those prints if one of them really sells well. How will you assure that the winners have the equipment required to produce the prints in the size and quantities ordered? How will you manage fulfillment?

Seems irrelevant, uninteresting and pointless. Not how artist are made. Not the way to get prints for one's wall, either. Maybe useful for the site, but, on the other hand, this type of idea may turn off a lot of people to the site as well.

—Mitch/Chiang Mai

I also vote "yes"!

I'd also like to see some work from the people who post here. Might I suggest a small entrance fee? Thats a lot of work you're committing to, be nice if you got a good dinner in a schmancy restaurant out of it...

I recently heard a commedian say: "In democracy 9 foxes and 1 rabbit vote what they´ll have for dinner".

The main reason why I never participated in a print offer - and won´t do in this one - is due to the limitations of the medium internet. From a picture on the internet I simply can´t judge the quality of the final print. So, in the end I don't know what I pay for and therefore I´ll never spend a significant amount on a print offer on any site.

Just a question - but maybe a interesting subject for a discussion: Do photographers really collect photos of other photographers? Do painters really collect pictures of other Painters?

Couldn't it be, that even less skilled amateurs have taken at least 20 photos in their life they want to see them on different walls in the flat - and no time / not tough enough to get high quality prints and no time to frame these photos.

And if they do all this - put their best photos on their walls - do they have the place for the works of other photographers?

And why should they hang these photos on their wall? If they are asked about one of the photos maybe by their relatives or visiters "is this a photo taken by you?", what should they say? Normaly they are proud of the own photography skills.

And last, but not least: Do photographers not often think: I could have done the same or better quality, if I spent the same amount of time and with the same tools. Kind of envy, often seen among media designers and photographers (working as a text editor at a magazine).

I quite like the idea. I don't think I have a good enough picture to enter this competition myself, but it would be great to see other peoples work. Maybe the finalists can swap their prints, so even if they don't make it into the top three they win something.

I loved the apple picture btw, was immediately tempted... but remember, an apple is the very symbol of temptation that anyone brought up in a Judeo-Christian influenced culture, has been trained from infancy to recognise. So, duly alerted, I hardened my heart and price factors won - sorry.

Your printmaker's sale sounds good. I don't know how you prevent the voting from naturally favouring images that look good small on the web, rather than printed?

Also I'd love it if the formal selection criterion could be: "I don't understand why I like this so much".

best wishes, RP

Great idea Mike.

I suggest you set up a group in Flickr to collect the images.

Super idea.

I'd like to enter, but my work, sadly, isn't up to par with many of the luminaries here.

I would, however, be interested in buying a democratically chosen print (always assuming that it was the one I voted for. Wink,wink, nudge, nudge.)

Who is the "TOP audience"? I can imagine that the prospect of having your image displayed here would attract a lot of new visitors, including friends who would vote for each other. This got to be a real problem on one of the bigger photo "critique" sites a while back and things got messy.

Still, the only thing better than reading or talking about photographs is looking at them, even on a computer screen. I hope you can work out the glitches.

I think that is a very great idea.


I don't know...

...not to be the wrench in the machinery, altho I do think it would be an interesting excercise, It 'smacks' of the old JPEG magazine, where the readers voted on what went on line or in the magazine, and it got to be a 'cliquey' group of people voting their own friends in, and excluding some really socially valuable work, based on how well liked they were and how much time they spent on-line with the 'community'.

Guess I just appreciate a 'curated' sale or show...

One things for sure, if people are voting on what's going to be for sale, and I'm assuming what price point it will be available at, it's pretty much going to pre-ensure the largest amount of sales!


Please have a small entry fee. Or require them to be subscribers to your site. Why? To limit the number of images and to insure you get something out of this.

Interesting idea, I'd like to enter but not yet sure, I need to think a little about. Thanks

Yes finally a chance for fame, fortune and recognition. :)Great idea.

This sounds fun and interesting. A question: will submitters get to make a statement along with their photos? Print sales always include some kind of statement explaining who the photographer is and what he (I think it has always been "he" thus far) was up to. It would be helpful to include a statement with submissions, but it could become unwieldy.

A suggestion: in the initial voting, ask people which image they would be most willing to spend money on -- and probably even suggest about how much money you're talking about. The enthusiasms people express with no commitment are not always the ones they act on when they have to commit.

A concern: how will you work the mechanics of a fair vote? A problem is people voting multiple times for their own images. A worse problem is robovoting. I can think of ways to address these issues, starting with Captcha, but there will be some tradeoff between fairness and burdensomeness. It's something you need to think about.

Still... fun and interesting.

It will be hard to judge photos of different types (landscape, portrait, new sports ect) against each other for quality....its all "Art" so who's to judge what is a better photo....are you going to be the chief cook and bottle washer of the thousands of photos you will recieve? Tuff act to follow.

Mike, a great idea, I would participate.


Well, I guess we all know how to play to the first judge, at least: http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2011/10/naturalism.html

Bad Idea.

I'm going to quickly run out with a digital camera and shoot a couple thousand pictures. Surely one will be good enough to win this thing...

That's a great Idea. I would definitely want to participate.

I would wonder if the people who vote will actually purchased a print.

I think most internet forums offer good illustration that often the most vocal critics of a product are people who would never purchase that product anyway.

Devil's advocate: part of the value in limited editions is the educated curatorial/editorial exclusivity.. which democratization devalues, even if the selling space is somewhat privileged. You may sell more, and create more interest and lolli-gagging, but in the end this has the diminished luster of photo contests or vanity presses.

Mike, I worry that if you put the choices up to popular consensus (even though you have final say), what's going to happen is that this will invariably water down the pool by eliminating some of the more interesting images that don't survive public muster via internet. What's more, the beauty of a print is that you have to see it physically... and here we'd be putting the cart before the horse.

Having said that, your audience is probably a bit more erudite than the average, and it's one of the few I'd like to see put their collective muscle into a group project. Maybe instead of popular vote, it needs to be a panel of your main contributors.

Or maybe a print contest isn't the more interesting opportunity here... maybe there's a limited edition TOP photo book to be had from the same effort?

Great idea. Love it.

Great idea Mike and your are right we all will learn form this. I am always interested in other taste and ideas. They are often 180 degrees from mine.

I was really disappointed to see that your print sale didn't go as expected and I'll second the comments about self depreciation and modesty on the part of the artist (prior to the sale) as being a contributor. But I can't talk, I'da probably done the same thing.

So I haven't 'written in' in awhile (I'm always around though) and I am definitely interested in this novel idea! And your proposal is nothing like any contest I've ever heard of and nothing like any "critique request" I've ever heard of either. Sounds like a great opportunity to get one's work looked at and evaluated by the photographically inclined masses and maybe even earn a little recognition for it.

This is a new idea it seems and bravo Mike, for coming up with it! I'm in! What do I need to submit and by when? An actual print? What size? A digital file? What size, what file type, what format?

I'm champing at the bit!!!

Best Regards - Phil


I love the idea. I'm fascinated by what we could potentially learn from this.

To learn even more why not make the earlier stages more democratic. By which I mean use something like a Flickr group, get TOP readers to upload their entries and vote there. You could of course vet the final stages for print quality still.

This may give us more insight into the TOP reader psyche and actually reduce the initial burden on your good self.


That sounds like a great idea -- but how do you judge the competition? Would we all have to send in prints? Or would be just judged on a digital negative, and then an "expert" printer like Ctein would be brought in to work with the winner to realise the final print?

I think that might be an interesting option. Winning the competition would be more than just an opportunity to sell the print: it would be you getting your name out there, working with a master printer, and building potential future clients ...


I think it is a great idea. I can see most of the objections in the critical comments posted so far, but I sincerely hope none of them will stop you from carrying out this inspiring plan. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Hope also that (giving myself away a little...) you'll manage to allow foreign entries.


Dear DDB (and possibly others),

I daresay there is a known solution to the problem of YOU getting decent prints of YOUR photos made. Ahem.

Actually, Mike and I have discussed third-party printing, and I've concluded that I can probably do digital printing for a bulk sale at prices comparable to or less than my "duplicate print" prices. IOW, the artist would be out about 20% of their gross for printing costs. That's not too onerous.

Note to the general public: I am most definitely not making any promises or commitments. Just saying that the problem of being a good photographer but not a master printer is one which has been solved in the past and will continue to be solvable in the future.

pax / Ctein


For what its worth, I think you should proceed with this experiment, even though I'm of two minds about it. On the one hand, a bit of populism in art isn't (or shouldn't be) bad -- there's a strong argument that contemporary art has crossed a threshold into being too myopically about itself, and now features a club of people who are invited to "discourse" about it in a manner that mostly serves to merely police the border between art and not art. Given this, injecting some voting into art seems contrarian, and therefore interesting.

On the other hand, my old study of art and its history has demonstrated to my satisfaction that what makes art great, historically, is certainly not its contemporary or even subsequent historical popularity. There /is/ a valuable history of art that is only tangentially related to popularity; and I do personally value a world where (not all, but a majority) of art is curated (that is, located in a tradition constructed by specialists.)

Which makes me intrigued to see you trying to have it both ways: some voting, some vetting. I'm more interested in your vetting than the voting, but the populist in me never likes the complete removal of the subject at hand into the closed realm of the specialist.

I'm throwing out two ideas: You may want to think about having the offer feature the popular (but still vetted in an earlier stage) choice, and the Mike (or Mike braintrust) choice. Again, not a perfect solution, given that people tend to be so personally and emotionally involved with their creations and might end up pegging this falsely, as a Mike vs. the hoi polloi dichotomy. So perhaps you'd just reveal your choice after the offer ended.

And you might give people two votes -- one vote for any one IP address, and one extra for reasoning why they've voted as they have. This would need to be a reasoning about the strength of chosen image, rather than a mere hatchet job of the other entries.

I see this as an experiment with an unknown outcome, and I wish you great luck (insight) with its process and unfolding.

My immediate thought was that the pictures that people vote for won't necessarily be popular with the people that buy. So I'm with Jamin Bickel on this one.

Just a comment on the voting. If I felt like, I could easily generate 3 votes of my own -- one using the browser on my cell, one on the road using my laptop (or maybe even more -- go to multiple Starbucks stores), and one from my home computer.

Need I say more?

If you're vetting the prints - then it isn't purely democratic is it?

"If you're vetting the prints - then it isn't purely democratic is it?"

I had a history teacher in high school who, whenever students came to him with a grievance, would say, "You are laboring under the impression that this classroom is a democracy. It is not. It is a dictatorship. You are being understandably misled because I am benevolent."

Mike, Photo-Dawg Despot

I think this idea has some merit, but I would urge you to vet actual prints of these photos for quality earlier in the process than later. It would suck for a photo to "win" during the voting process at the expense of other photos only to be rejected later because it doesn't hold up on paper...

For those worried about cheating on the voting, I'd be surprised if Typepad didn't have a way to limit voting to people able to comment, and once per.

Or, worst case, votes could be actually entered as comments, which Mike would tabulate rather than approving for display (so voting wouldn't be secret from Mike, but would be from everybody else). Multiple votes from the same alleged commenter would trigger more work for Mike asking the person which one was real. (This still leaves open faking votes from someone who's not going to vote. And people forging votes will be caught either if they collide with a real vote, or if they collide with another forger choosing the same ID.)

So, at the expense potentially of significant work for Mike, it looks easy enough to run a reasonably honest election on this. Of course there are lots of ways to run it that ARE easily cheated on; Mike should not choose one of them :-).

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