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Thursday, 09 January 2014


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I took a picture recently which made me think of your "Hands":

I loved those matrices of Ctein's when he first showed them - hopefully I can mop up the puddle of drool in time to order one.

Unless the situation has changed since last December, Kim still teaches at the Smithsonian. We've got a good group every Thursday night in the darkroom and outings for landscape classes on the weekends. I hope to have a chance at one of his prints.

Hi! Anybody cares to explain this non-native english speaker the joke behind recombobulation? Oh, and good luck with the new printing scheme.

[Hi Vinck, Just that "discombobulate" is an actual English word (it means to abash, disconcert, take aback, throw into disarray) but "recombobulate" is not. --Mike]

Whatever it is, just go ahead with it, and above all, let's see the photographs.
I have another suggestion to make. Take someone like me. I don't really have the time to fiddle with printing and posting to a hundred buyers, and currently, I don't really care to make any sensible profit from selling my photographs, assuming anybody would want to buy any.
However, let's assume I have my day in the sun, and a photo of mine strikes your fancy. I would be glad to send a full scan together with a proof A4 print to you or Ctein, and you would take care of the printing and posting, as I imagine, most buyers would be from the US anyway. I would be happy to get paid in the form of credit for buying from you prints by other photographers.
Think this scheme over.

So that means a golden future for prints - both for sellers as buyers. This looks like a good plan, and it seems that T.O.P. stays clear of the mainstream and sharpens its profile. I for myself am looking forward to these offers.


I wonder if music is similar to photography - here you are offering fine prints to photographers - people through interest have the skills to appreciate what they are seeing. Are the majority of those who really appreciate music also amateur musicians?
Are photographers really who buys most prints and most books of photographs and if not, is there a way other than galleries to avail ourselves of that market? For that matter, do non photographers interested in photography visit TOP?


All the best with the tests and onward, Mike. You know we're all pulling for you.

This quote from the recombobulation article struck me as pretty funny:

(in reference to passing through airport security)

"It's a stressful time," she noted. "You've got to throw out your soda."

I donno, I'm not too excited about this one. It may be the fact that I've downsized my lifestyle due to downsized income the last couple years but I really don't want to spend $80 on a print (even tho' it's a pretty good pic by a pretty good writist and printed by a pre^H^H^H damn good printer).

I snapped up the first set of dye prints (how long ago was that?) and the Ken Tanaka skyline but knew I couldn't get close to the Peter Turnley prints or the Caponigro. It just felt too pricy.

I've been musing all day on this (in fact the comment box has been open since this morning with a half-typed response) and I finally think I've got my thoughts nailed down.

You keep saying 'small print sale' and I keep hoping, even tho' you've spelled it out clearly, that there might be a small print.

You know how you mentioned... um, who was it? that sent the small print and said MCHNY?

_That's_ what I personally would like to see in the near future, something small but good, something from your whole plate camera or another unique photo size, perhaps a mini portfolio of five 2x3s of your driveway through the year. Maybe just give LuLu some fingerpaint and a pad of construction paper. I'd buy that :]

I ran out of wall space years ago and tho' I don't rotate as much as I should the fact stays in mind as I look at new work, not too big, I've got nowhere to put it! (I'm probably the first person you've heard complain about this)

We all know I am not your sole demographic but I do know you'd like to hear me say that I don't have the resources to spend several hundred dollars or more on _anything_, even if you don't change anything, you'd know a bit more about how a small percentage of your readership feels.

I also understand that offering much lower prices greatly increases the headache for all the elve(s) at TOP world headquarters.

I would, however, like to spend a scant few tens of dollars on a spur of the moment purchase on a small print sale (or two, or three) sometime.

Thank you for your time, your effort, your diligence, your humour, your curmudgeonry, and your writing (Look! An Oxford comma!)

This was not meant to be a scathing diatribe (I have no intent to scathe... much) just a note from a reader.

Yours (parenthetically),


I love that Ctein photograph, it is moving and unsettling. I think you should title it 'Pale Fire' after the Nabokov book which begins with the line: 'I was the shadow of the waxwing slain', the waxwing in question having died in collision with a window.

IMHO, the way I see it, I think Ctein's extraordinary bird impression picture must be printed larger than 16 x 20 inches. ...beauty.

[He will be doing that I'm sure, just not for our sale for <$200. --Mike]

The problem, of course, is that this gets you back to the age-old problem you were originally trying to solve for, namely how to keep the cost-per-print low, and give the artist certainty that every print produced will be sold.

With the structure you are proposing, the artist has to front the cost of producing the prints, and it puts a premium on properly estimating how many prints will be sold. Guess too high, and the artist will have wasted a fair amount of time and money on prints that go nowhere. And they will have to worry about getting the unsold prints back in good condition from your fulfillment partner. Guess too low, and you and the artist miss out on potential sales. Sure, there is no real reason why the artist can't continue to sell the same picture (unless you position it as a limited edition), and there is no reason why you couldn't offer a 2nd round, but in practice, I tend to doubt that you will offer the same print twice. It seems more likely that you will move on to the next artist and picture.

I tend to like the idea of the artist knowing exactly how many prints to produce ahead of time. Otherwise pricing needs to be adjusted to account for unsold inventory and everything becomes complex and confusing and based on guesses.

Best regards,

I wonder how the dye transfer picture matrix placed in a shadow box and back-lit looks. Could make an interesting work of art all on it's own. I will gladly grab a set and give that a try.

My siblings and parents came to stay with us for a few days around Christmas. They called us when they were about 15 minutes away. The weather was bad and they had been stuck in traffic for hours, so I knew they would want to get out of the car and into the house ASAP.

Our back door (the door used by friends and neighbors) has an inner door that is heavy and solid, and an outer door that is similar to a screen door, except there is no screen...it's just glass from top to bottom. Anyway, our doorbell can often be hard to hear and the inner door has a tendency to lock, so I figured I would leave the inner door open and rely on the unlocked outer door to keep out the cold until my family arrived. That way, even if I didn't hear the bell, they could walk right in.

A little while later, as I was busy decorating the tree with my daughters, my parents and siblings arrived. My dad charged out of the car, headed toward the house, saw the inviting entry hallway where I had left the light on...and walked smack into the outer glass door. He didn't realize it was there and thought he was strolling into an open doorway. He hit the glass hard and his face left an imprint that isn't unlike Ctein's bird impression.

Thankfully, with a lot of ice, he was fine and his small cut healed quickly. Even better, it gave us endless fodder for jokes over the next few days...

Dear Jamin,

If I may be permitted to butt in here, as the fellow who ran the cheapest-ever print sale on TOP:


It's really, really hard to make money selling very low-priced prints. The order fulfillment time, alone, makes it hard to make a living wage. It's pretty much impossible if you allow international orders; the additional time is prohibitive.

I should probably mention that despite the large size of the prints, that sale was optimized for low cost and efficiency. Had I been selling 8 x 10 fiber-base prints instead, my total cost and time to prepare and ship prints would not have been much less.

Now, I understand that you were talking about the print price, before shipping and handling. But there's the buyer's perception. If I sell a print for, say, $25, and I tell them it's going to cost them another $20 for shipping and handling, ummm… Let's just say that that does not go over well. Understatement.

Under $100 print sales are fine. But prices in the low tens? Very difficult.

Not so by the way, I do entirely sympathize with your pain. Most of the art I buy does not end up on my walls; I don't rotate anywhere as often as I ought to (oh, let me be honest–– hardly ever). In fact, I have been very vaguely discussing with Mike the idea that my next print sale (definitely not scheduled-- at some point in the indeterminate future) might maybe be of what he calls collector-size prints–– 11 x 14 to 13 x 17" size range. With a sub-$100 price. Because, yeah, buying big prints gets expensive for me, too, and I rarely take them out to look at them because they're harder to handle, and so on. There is the pride of possession thing, but less pleasure from the art.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Dear John,

I am afraid I fall very much into the extremely prosaic school of photograph titling (largely from lack of imagination), but I do have to say yours is brilliant! Oh, bravo.


Dear Dony,

It still looks pretty extraordinary in a 17 x 22" print, trust me. It's large enough to carry the full emotional weight.

I have had one buyer who wanted it larger––effectively life-size. We guesstimated that would be the next print size up, 24 x 32" (it's not like I had the measurements of the pigeon). Yes, it looks even more impressive, but it's not so much more so than the 17 x 22" print that I feel that that is in any way under-sized.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Just an FYI ( I thought you might want to alert readers). The price on the Ricoh GR seems to be plummeting - it can be had for 619.00 on Amazon - tough to pass up, and another blow to the Coolpix A.

I didn't know how else to let you know, except via comment.

Does this mean that you are giving up on the "open edition, but never offered again" model used mostly so far? That had advantages to both the artist, and perhaps to you if you take responsibility, for the inventory that was not required.


What Marek said +1

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