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Sunday, 30 December 2018


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I am glad that there is someone who can still make a living making and selling prints.

When my wife and I married, over 35 years ago, we had little overlap in certain areas: one cookbook, and one Donovan album. But, she brought to our union the Ansel Adams NYGS set, vols 1-5, of which I read every one, enticing me to buy an old Speed Graphic and a case of film holders and accessories with which to "be like" Ansel Adams. (Lesson learned: It's not the camera!)

Thanks for explaining all that without using "edition" as a verb (I roll my eyes when somebody does that).

Mike said: "...In case anyone out there is dreaming of making a living on print sales. You'd have a better chance with that dream of making a living on the PGA Tour."

Land of Fantasy was a dance club fave in the 1990s. Today it could be the theme song of digital photography. There is no such thing as a Magic Bullet Camera, that includes talent—although a modicum is provided in some new camera-phones. If your dream is to sell photos, you need to stop studying spec-sheets. Instead study art—you know, things like composition, perspective and chiaroscuro. Maybe you'll become the William Wegman of cats.

I am an admirer of John Sexton's work but I can't afford even his 'nice prices'. I settle for his books. I read somewhere a few years ago that (at the time) there was a grand total of 6 photographers in the US who managed to make a living just from print sales. The article did not list them but I suspect John was one. Until his later years, even Ansel couldn't do that. Like most landscape photographers, I don't even break even, so I play the lottery. I already know the odds against making a living from my photography.

Lottery = a tax on optimists. ;)

I have several books by Sexton ("Quiet Light" is my favorite) but you know what? I can't "read" this print. It might be that it's too small both on TOP and on the sale page. It almost hurts my eyes -- I can't tell what's in front of what. And what's that rope-like thing coming in from the right side? I think this print would greatly benefit from being much larger on the screen.

You surprised me just a little with your rather small estimate regarding how many photographers make a living off print sales. Then I thought about how I had similar dreams after going on a few workshops with Alain Briot in the southwest and seeing how he operates. It didn't take long to realize the often tedious, incessant work, work, work necessary to even have a chance, wasn't in me. And after all the hard efforts developing a good business practice, people have to like what you're offering!

I imagine maybe offering workshops in addition to print sales, increases one's chance at making a living.

Perhaps you can work with John for a print sale in 2019, here's hoping anyway!

As a photographer, I find it strange that some people pay so much money for prints from "names". I am quite convinced that they are not buying the pictures, they are buying the value of said name as perceived status symbol. Imagine the chagrin when your dinner guests have never heard of your hero, especially if you'd dropped a hint about what you paid for the print. How long does it take for a blush to die down?

Photography has real value when it is commissioned, and provides a service to a client. Apart from that, it's just an amusement, a little something for the weekend, as it were. Making a print the size of your wall reveals more about the state of your mind (or wall) than it says about the value of the picture.

Tomorrow's the start of the new year: if you have been able to give up smoking already, then perhaps GAS is the new vice to vow to conquer?

Anyway, a sincere Happy New Year to all of you here.

Years ago, I saw John Sexton give a talk on his book, “Places of Power.” He showed one image, of an ancestral Pueblan ruin I think. He remarked he got a lot of comments on the lighting on an overhang and said, “I’m known for using available light. I looked in my bag and saw two Vivitar 283s and they were available so…”

“Seriously, you could probably count such guys on your fingers and toes.”

I think you’d have to be one hell of a case of polydactylism because I’m quite certain there are far more photographic artists earning at least the majority of their incomes from print sales than you might realize.

Like many, maybe most, of his peers in the “Crafts” segment of the “fine art” photo business John wisely appears to use synergistic educational events (“workshops”) and books to bolster his income as well as promote his main product, his prints. It looks as though he sells his own works directly so that enables him to keep his prices relatively low and control his own margins.

In the “Art” segment of the fine art photo world there are quite a few folks living primarily, or nearly primarily, off their print sales. Nearly all these folks who come to my mind rely on galleries to represent them. They also mostly produce books (not profitable at all) and most have some type of teaching gig. Their prints tend to be much pricier (5-figure) than the Crafts segment, probably owing to galleries taking 50% of the gross.

Only one photographer genuinely making his entire living from sales of his photographic prints comes to my mind: (swallow) Peter Lik. And by all indications and reports he makes a very good living, indeed. He may hardly represent the epitome of either art or craft but this guy knows how to make money with his photography. (He just opened a showroom half a mile from my home, on Chicago’s North Michigan Avenue, where rents are some of the highest in the nation.)

Ed Burtynsky also comes to mind, although he and his wife also have a substantial printing business which has helped finance some of his projects.

Andreas Gursky? Cindy Sherman? ....

Strange coincidence: I just watched a vlog where the vlogger/photographer visits the same location depicted in Sexton's shot (although in winter) and decides to take no pictures. The location is at about the 4:30 mark in this video for anyone curious, but the beginning of the video is worth watching for context.


Although I'm not a huge fan of landscape photography, I've recently developed the weird habit of watching a lot of landscape photography vlogs. The vlogger in the above video is my current favorite. His name is Adam Gibbs, and he photographs mostly in British Columbia and other parts of western Canada. A lot of vloggers affect an I'm-young-and-hip-and-my-life-is-a-nonstop-fabulous-adventure kid of vibe, but Gibbs is not so young, blessedly calm, and a little wry, a vibe I much prefer.

His vlogs, especially the more recent ones, are usually gorgeous. He's helped immensely, of course, by the place where he lives, but it's pretty amazing what a one-man-band can do these days in terms of visual production. He packs a small video/audio setup, a drone, a couple of tripods, and a Nikon D850 into a backpack and makes beautiful 10-15 minute travelogs/photo lessons, all on his own.

As I said, I watch a possibly alarming number of these vlogs, not just his. There's a sub-genre of guys who traipse around taking pictures with their dogs, and I can't resist those either, for obvious reasons. What it says about my life that I'm spending so many hours in my cramped Manhattan apartment dreaming about far away and empty places is a question I should probably examine.

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