Signing photographs - from March 2010 (an old Photography Matters post)
I just wrote this to email to the exhibitors in the group exhibition VII, scheduled for Photospace Gallery, 26th March. However it’s useful information so thought to post it here. Comments and suggestions welcome.
Exhibiting photographers usually want their prints to be treated as artworks, but often they don’t even think about signing them. This is very annoying when trying to sell the work in the gallery environment, and has sometimes led to having to open a sealed frame up to check whether there is a signature. Painters and most printmakers always sign their work but photographers are shockers for forgetting or neglecting to.
The following is useful information and helps to establish the provenance of a photographic print. Consider that the print will often be separated from its frame, and it will most likely last longer than its author. In the gallery I quite often handle secondary sales of vintage photographs and it’s surprising how often there is no info on the print. It is not good practise to sell a print with only an assurance it’s by a certain photographer. The subject, date and location of the photo is then anyone’s guess.
Example of necessary information, for open (non-limited) edition:
“Solitude, 2009” [signature] Print #1, printed March 2010
Alternatively, if limited edition print:
“Solitude, 2009” [signature] Print #1/5, printed March 2010
You may also want to print your name, especially if your signature is not that legible or recognisable.
The print should be signed on the back, in the border area. Use a soft pencil, or a tried and tested pen that will not bleed or fade.
Don’t use anything hard that will press through the print and show up on the front. This is a good reason for signing in the border area rather than behind the printed area.
If you have a really swish looking signature, you may want to sign the front of the print over the photo, a la George Chance, but generally this is not recommended.
As I have said at every given opportunity when speaking to the Wellington Photographic Society or other similar group, try to avoid titles that are supposedly witty or lend too much interpretation to the work. The danger is that you impose too pointed a reading of the image, whereas it is better – in the gallery environment at least – to allow the viewer to bring his or her own interpretation to the work. Background or contextual info can be given in the artist statement.
An example of an informative title might be, “Jessie & Kelly Smith, Home for the Bewildered, Levin, 4/6/2010”
The late Arthur Mowles used to add Imp, short for Impressa, meaning he printed it himself. Arthur was a master darkroom printer, but this could also be appropriate with pigment prints the photographer has made personally, but inappropriate if a commercial lab was used.
by James Gilberd | 9 March, 2010
Photography Matters II