asked questions - print version
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Once you have explored and located photographs of interest,
you will probably have some technical and practical
questions to ask. We are always happy to answer any
queries, either by telephone, email or in person at
the gallery. In the meantime, here are some questions
that we are often asked:
Is the photograph signed? In the early
days when photographers were not working within the
context of an art market, photographic prints may not
have been signed. Such instances are usually well documented
and most dealers or auction houses will provide provenance
(ownership history) to justify the attribution of the
work to the particular artist. Today, it would be extremely
unusual for a photographer not to sign his or her photographs.
They may be signed on the back (verso) or front (recto)
of the image and the signature may or may not be hidden
by the mount. Some people prefer not to see the signature,
it’s a personal preference. The signature can
be in pencil or in ink, and sometimes the prints will
also be titled and dated, but by no means always.
Is the photograph from an edition? The market
for photography only really began in the 1970’s,
and even then just a handful of galleries were exhibiting
and selling photographic prints. As a result photographers
did not tend to number their work in an edition prior
to that time, as they were more likely to be printing
for a museum show or for reproduction in a newspaper,
a magazine, or book. In fact many photo-journalists
(a profession that has been responsible for a great
many of the most acclaimed and sought-after prints)
are steadfast even today in refusing to edition their
work, believing it to be a construct of the fine art
market. You are much more likely to find younger, more
contemporary photographers editioning their work, operating
from the beginning of their careers in the gallery art
market. Edition size can vary from three to fifty (sometimes
more), and this number can depend on the level of work
involved in each print, but is more likely simply the
personal preference of each artist.
Ultimately, the value of a particular print is decided
by many factors: the stature and reputation of the artist,
whether the particular image is considered to be important
in terms of their career as a whole, whether it was
made in their lifetime and signed, and what condition
the print is in. If you are considering making a purchase,
ask questions, and any reputable dealer will be happy
to provide details.
If the photograph is not from a limited edition,
how many of them are there/will there be?
Many factors contribute to how many prints have been
made of a particular image, and these factors vary greatly
from artist to artist. It can depend on the particular
process involved, as some are much more time-consuming
than others. It can also be a question of how much time
the artist wants to spend in the dark room – many
prefer to be out in the world taking more pictures!
It’s important to remember though that each photograph
is hand-made, there is no production line generating
hundreds let alone thousands of prints. Most photographs
are made to order, based on a firm sale, and as such
you are unlikely to find a great stockpile of even the
most well-known artists’ work. In general the
private and auction markets also give us some guage
of how many prints are changing hands, and what prices
they are achieving. Any gallery representing and selling
the work of a particular artist should be able to give
you some idea of how many prints have been made, based
on personal knowledge of the artist and the market in
which the photographs are sold. However, exact numbers
are not always known.
What process was used to make this photograph?
The majority of photographs today are printed from a
negative on to gelatin silver paper. Any reference to
a 'print' generally refers to a hand-made silver print,
made using exhibition quality fibre-based paper. There
are however over 20 different techniques of printing
from a negative. If you don’t recognise or understand
the description of the medium, ask for a definition
of the process. You’ll find a short glossary of
processes and print terms by clicking here.
What is the condition of the photograph? Contemporary
photographs should be in immaculate condition. If they
are not, ask for the reason. The condition of 19th and
early 20th century photographs can vary dramatically
from perfect to faded, kinked or even torn. The condition
depends primarily on the photographer. He may have kept
his life’s work in a stack in a drawer or each
print may have been mounted and kept immaculately. To
begin with, always assume a photograph should be in
perfect condition. If it isn’t ask about the photographer.
Was this normal? Are no perfect prints available? If
perfect, would the price rise dramatically?
What is a vintage print? Within the
photography market, there is often a premium attached
to vintage prints. The definition of vintage is not
quite uniform, but in its strictest version, the photographer
should have photographed and printed from that negative
within one year. As we get further from the negative
date, the window of ‘vintage’ can often
be expanded to cover five or even ten years. The price
for a vintage photograph can be about four to six times
as much as the price for a modern or later print. In
the case however of Andre Kertesz’s Chez Mondrian,
1926, a vintage print sold in the early 1990’s
for $250,000, while you can still purchase a modern
print for about $8,000-$10,000.
are the prices set? Prices for living photographers
are set by the artist and should be the same in any
gallery around the world (subject to currency fluctuation
and local taxes). If you feel a photograph is expensive
and you want more information ask some of the following
What makes the photographer’s work important?
Has his/her work been exhibited and published?
Which public collections have purchased his/her work?
What is the general price range for his/her work and
why does one print differ in price from another?
As dealers and gallerists we are here to educate and
inform the market not only for our own artists but also
photography as a whole. Please do not hesitate ask any
questions that you might have about a specific artist,
or about collecting in general. We look forward to hearing
You can find out more by exploring the rest of our collecting
- our visual guide organised by subject and genre
HACKELBURY - who we are and how to reach us
- find an artist by name, with an image and a short
description of their work
- details of the many services we provide as a gallery,
including sourcing, framing, private and corporate advisory
all enquiries please contact: kKatestevens@hackelbury.co.uk