With screens becoming increasingly ubiquitous—they can be found on phones, computers, walls, on top of taxis, etc.—it’s not surprising that they’re also being used by fine-art photographers. We’ve interviewed several photographers who work outside the conventionally sized framed print and are choosing to incorporate installation, video, web-based technology and unusual print formats in their practice. PDN has also spoken to artists and gallery directors about how they price, edition, market and install these innovative works. You can read excerpts here and PDN subscribers can read the full articles by clicking the links below.
Fine-art photographer Richard Barnes incorporated several videos into his project “State of Exception,” which takes viewers through the journeys that undocumented migrants make as they approach the U.S. border.
Working with a video editor, Shared Patel, Barnes produced a three-channel video piece that is projected onto the floor and gives the viewer the sensation of walking through the field of debris found along the border. He also produced a two-channel piece that shows two views of a vehicle driving along the border. The right frame looks at the fence, while the left looks out the front window of the vehicle as it travels along the border in the pouring rain. “It’s disorienting when you’re in there, as it would be for someone who’s been walking for five days,” Barnes says of the project. Learn more about “State of Exception” and about the unique display of the work in the full online article.
For her series “Littoral Drift,” a collection of cyanotypes she made by exposing photo paper to waves, weather and other elements, artist Meghann Riepenhoff chose to display the work in several ways. In a gallery, she hung two-sided pieces from the ceiling, bringing attention to some of the salt and sand of the beach. The large-scale nature of these pieces references the “disorientation of being in a sublime landscape and this experience of being totally consumed by what’s happening visually around you,” she says.
Riepenhoff also rephotographs some of the work to emphasize how the cyanotypes evolve over time. She displays these as polyptychs in conjunction with the large-scale cyanotypes in order to help the viewer understand the beauty of the work’s evolving nature. And once they do comprehend that aspect, they’re eager to engage. According to Riepenhoff, some people have been excited to hang a piece in a well-lit area that will accelerate the changes—and will text her to update her on the progress—while others have framed pieces behind Optium coated glass and keep them out of the sun. Learn more about Riepenhoff’s unique gallery displays and artistic process by reading the full article online.
Documentary photographer Lisa Barnard’s new project, “The Canary & The Hammer,” explores the way that gold—as a metal, chemical element and symbol of wealth and power—permeates human life. Using photographs and video, and archival footage and music, Barnard created a web-based presentation of the project, which debuted in a group exhibition at Format17 photography festival in March 2017, and which is free for anyone to explore at www.thegolddepository.com.
Barnard does plan to publish a book of the work, but says publishing the project to the web expands the audience and allows her to explore a different way of presenting fine-art documentary photography. “It seems to me that the photographic art world is not particularly engaging in online resources, so I’m interested to put this work out there to see how it stands up” against all of the other information and entertainment online, she explains. Supported by a Getty Images grant, she worked with a nonprofit studio to create the website, which offers a nonlinear combination of video, audio and text. The result feels “almost like you were walking around a gallery and had choices” about what you could look at, read and listen to, she says. Check out the full article to learn more about the project and how Barnard developed the unique website display.
How would you price and/or edition video work? According to Catherine Edelman of Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago, who represents both photographers and video artists, it’s not unlike pricing photography. She asks herself: “What would I spend on it? What’s its value in relationship to the other works that they’re doing?” She says videos are offered in editions, and as in photography, the larger the edition, the lower the price for each video in the edition.
Other gallery owners PDN spoke to use tiered pricing for video editions. Theo Downes-Le Guin of Upfor Gallery in Portland, Oregon, says that as the edition sells out, the remaining work becomes more expensive, so the artist earns more as interest in their work grows. This, he says, provides “an entry point for enthusiastic video collectors who are vigilant enough to track who they’re interested in and get in at the beginning of an edition.”
And what about presenting video work? Do you sell the video and the screen? According to Downes-Le Guin, when artists “go to great ends to make [a work] really object-like and technologically turnkey, many collectors like that a lot.”
Others, however, deliver video on crafted USB drives or simply send the files. While there may not be a definitive solution to selling fine-art video work, you can learn more about how gallerists handle the pricing, editioning, packaging, display, conservation and presentation of video work by reading the full article online.
With filmmaking technology becoming more affordable and more accessible, and display screens becoming less obtrusive and more seamless in modern homes, a growing number of artists are using the medium for their craft. As a result, gallerists and artists that PDN spoke to say that there’s also increasing demand for this art form.
Photographer Charlotte Dumas, for example, captured photos and video of horses as they fell asleep at Arlington National Cemetery. She created a rough sketch of a video piece that combined footage of a few of the horses, and then showed that sketch during an exhibition of her stills at a vintage photo archive in Holland. Representatives of a large corporate collection happened to be at the archive during the exhibition, and wanted to buy the video. That experience has encouraged her to produce more videos, which she has sold to both collectors and institutions. To read more successful case studies of video artists finding a market for their work, check out the full article online.
To create the experimental documentary project Empire, Eline Jongsma and Kel O’Neill spent three years traveling the globe to research and capture the impact of the world’s first multinational corporations: The Dutch East and West India Companies. The result was a documentary in four chapters, shown on split screens to display connected but independent stories.
The duo displayed the first version of Empire at film festivals and art shows, but to reach a bigger audience, they had to step out of what O’Neill calls “the art/film echo chamber,” so they created a Web-based presentation. When they attended a PBS POV Hackathon, mentors and participants challenged them to rethink the presentation. They came up with the winning idea of using two screens to simultaneously tell two different stories, but with a single soundtrack tying the two together. Since then, additional online versions of Empire build off of this theme but add more interactive features for the viewer. “It’s like you’re building the story not just horizontally but also vertically,” Jongsma says. To learn more about Empire and other immersive projects from Jongsma and O’Neill, read the full article online.
Milwaukee-based artist Sonja Thomsen’s installations may be inspired by the key elements of photography, light and time, but the final artworks she produces are far from a two-dimensional picture. For instance, one recent exhibit, “In Orbit,” includes Polaroids and large, multifaceted reflective sculptures constructed of steel, polycarbonate and vinyl that refracts the natural light that streams into the gallery space. As photographers, “we think about how to control light and time for proper exposure,” Thomsen says. “In Orbit” uses light and time “as materials themselves. I’m now thinking ‘How can I manipulate and play with them in a space to construct an experience?’” Thomsen’s work is inspired by her background in science (she studied biology and photography at Kenyon College in Ohio) and by fellow artists like Robert Heinecken and Roni Horn, whose shows alter the traditional interplay between the artwork and the gallery. According to Thomsen, she’s “embraced the idea of a studio as a laboratory,” and she’s continually using one gallery show as the inspiration (and sometimes the physical base) for her next. Subscribers can learn more about Tomsen’s process and the inspiration for her work by reading the full article online.
To create his series “Site A/Plot M,” Jeremy Bolen buried film for two weeks near the world’s first nuclear reactor, then developed it, made prints and coated the prints in the dirt in which the film was buried. The resulting objects, each one unique, deal with “the tension that’s forged between the actual and the invisible, between materiality and representations of invisible phenomenon,” Bolen says. Bolen, who is represented by Andrew Rafacz Gallery in Chicago, has sold work and has had “great conversations with collectors,” but he also says there’s a fear about the work because of the dirt and other materials that caused the reaction in the film are stuck to images or gather at the bottom of frames in which they are mounted. “It’s hard for me to tell what’s going to happen [to the work] in the long term, which is extremely exciting for me, but I can see as a collector that maybe it wouldn’t be at times,” he says. Subscribers can learn more about Bolen’s work at pdnonline.com/features/fine-art-photography/beyond-the-2d-print-jeremy-bolens-site-specific-documents/
In its two years, London-based Sedition, which sells “digital limited edition” high-resolution files to collectors, has signed up some 60,000 collectors as members. These members can buy access to the PNG and MP4 files of real artworks. Members can display the images, but not print them. According to Sedition, as flat screens become more affordable, they foresee collectors exhibiting their art on multiple screens displayed like a sculpture and paintings in their homes. “It really is most helpful to just think of it as another form of art,” says Sedition Director Rory Blain. “Anything you can use art for, you can use this for.” Prices for the art work Sedition represents can range from $5 to $1,600 for Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset’s video of a day in the life of their “Prada Marfa” installation in Marfa, Texas, made from hundreds of still photographs of the faux Prada boutique in the high desert. PDN subscribers can learn more about Sedition and it’s digital limited editions in the full article available at www.pdnonline.com/features/fine-art-photography/photo-innovation-sedition-selling-fine-art-photos-for-the-screen/