I was talking to my dentist the other day, and he was saying that he was shocked about how much he had to pay for a frame for a picture he has purchased. He did not have a problem with the cost of the photo, just the framing costs. That got me thinking. Just how much is a picture worth and how much is too much?
These days, most people experience good photography via their smartphone. While I get that this is convenient and just a sign of the times, it does leave me a little disappointed that they are not getting to experience, what I would call, real photography.
You see, to my mind, a photograph is not really a photograph until it is printed. I am not sure what you would call it, maybe a photo in the making, a fetus of a photo, a potential photo. I don’t know, but it just is not the full deal. Photography is a mixture of science and art. A combination of the psyche and the visceral. The minds-eye and the senses. This all gets jumbled up and spat out as our pleasure or displeasure of the image.
Let's say a photographer has an extraordinary good image and he or she decides to share it online. For the sake of argument, lets say it is shared on Instagram. They have 13000 subscribers and again for the sake of argument let's say they all see it (they won’t, but go with it). All these devoted fans love the image and give it a like. There are lots of comments and very positive feedback. Clearly this is a very popular image and should be worth something, right?
What if all these people, who clearly love the image, were asked if they wanted to reach into their pockets and spend some cold hard cash for the image? How many of these people would do so? I suspect very few.
Now, we take that same image and print in on beautiful fine art paper. A paper that is designed to compliment the image. It is thick and heavy. It has a texture. It has a indefinable gravitas. It looks completely different somehow to the image shown on Instagram, even though it is from the same file. It is then mounted and framed. Hung on a wall, and large enough for everyone to notice. How much is that worth?
The images are the same, but they are not the same. On the one hand we have the Instagram image, which while nice, flicks past our eye in a fraction of a second and then it is gone. It means nothing to us. One of many thousands of images we see every day, if not every hour. The printed image on the other hand makes us stop and look. The way the image is printed, the texture of the paper and the frame it sits in, all add to the overall impression. The image makes us think. We have time to let the image tell its story. What’s more, others can have the same experience. They can enjoy the work too.
Viewing an image on Instagram costs you nothing, You enjoy it, otherwise you would not be on the platform, but the enjoyment tends to come from the perceived connection to other people and their shared experiences, rather than their photography as a form of art. As a result their individual imagery has little value to you. Do you agree?
My point being, is that the value of an image is dependent on the way you see it. Getting back to my dentist. I tried to point out, that while framing is expensive, it is so worth it. A great frame can really make an image. Of course you can go over the top with framing, but a good frame will allow the image to shine, while not drawing attention to itself. The frame enhances the image and allows you to enjoy it more.
So in answer to the question how much is picture worth? It is worth the value of the experience you derive from it. If it makes you stop and think, if it makes you laugh or cry. If it makes you wonder, what the fuck is that, then it has some value. Does it have as much value as family bucket from KFC or a visit to the dentist? Only you can answer that.