Sunday, October 14, 2007

Will It Look Good Over the Couch?

One of the issues that comes up in a day of wandering through photo galleries is scale.

Presentation sizes for gallery / museum photographs have increased dramatically, obviously. At one point 8" by 10" photographs were common in gallery presentation, and now few contemporary photographers are selling works smaller than 30 inches wide. 60 inch prints are very common.

There are, of course, photographs that "work" at 15" wide but not at 10" wide. So, go bigger, sure.

But have no doubt that part of the, ahem, overcompensation that is happening is based on sale prices. I don't really have a problem with that -- if you can sell your 5-foot-wide photograph for a lot of money, and a collector's loft has just the perfect spot for a 5-foot photo with a lot of red in it, great. Someone spending 5 grand on a photo wants it to hold the wall.

Still, the market-driven need for size makes for some boring work. The emphasis shifts to an ultra-detailed study of a thing, or a person in solitary. That's fine -- that's something photography does very well.

There's a de-emphasis, however, on the other, more important process that photography is suited to: showing one thing in relation to another thing. If a five-foot-wide picture of the side of a barn is fascinating, great. I'm really more interested in how this person looks at that person. Or the way this person reacts to that person. Or how these two stand together. It seems more like what I want to know about the world. A visual relationship, observed.

And I don't care what size it's printed.

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