Wednesday, 1 August 2018

To Sign, or not to Sign, That is the Question....

On a photography forum recently, someone asked what pen he might use for signing the front border of his prints that are for sale. Now I have an aversion to signing the front of my photographic prints as I consider that it completely spoils the aesthetic of the presentation of a fine print, even though I know it can, if you wish, be covered by the mat when mounted properly. However, I do recognise that for serious work and serious collectors, the authentication and subsequent traceable provenance of the work is important. It may not matter that much if you are just buying a low-cost digital inkjet print for mainly decorative purposes. You know the things I mean; ultra wide-angle, over filtered and over photo-shopped sunsets etc. These also tend to be the worst offenders for the flamboyant signature in the bottom right hand corner of the white border. 
Morvan, France, 2018

When we are dealing with 'artworks' that might, in the future, retain or hopefully gain in value and become 'collectable' within a particular market, it is important that the work and the artist are clearly identifiable and the object has impeachable provenance. Painters sign their work, most usually on completion of the work using the same paint as for the main work so in future years the signature can be identified as not only being by the artist but made at the same time as the painting. If a sculptor is making an edition of bronzes from one of their works they will almost always sign the clay model that is the basis for the subsequent moulds and plaster investments to make the finished bronzes. In that way the signature or makers mark is transferred to each cast. Printmakers who made 'editions' will sign and date each one with the edition number and quantity, 3/25, 15/250 or whatever the edition maybe. Each edition will be logged with the artist or gallery and traceable, plus many printmakers have a unique embossed stamp that can be used on a blank border of a print. 
Dijon, France, 2018

Over the years I have sold many prints and continue to do so to serious collectors of my work. Prints that I made many years ago, due to my long career of producing work have become 'collectable'. Therefore it's very important that these prints are clearly identifiable as being not just my photograph but printed by me. (Important for many collectors). At the same time I loath the scrawl across the front border which is less authentication and more 'celebrity' autograph. Just having a signature on a photographic print provides little other relevant information. Serious collectors require a number of pieces of information and I ensure that these are on each print before it goes out. 

My name and copyright symbol, vital. The title of the work, the date the photograph was taken and the date the print was made. (For some collectors a print made closer to the time that the original photograph was taken becomes more 'collectable'. This applies mainly to 'vintage' work). I also include the negative number as in future years this will be traceable within my archive and support the provenance. All this information is written within my stamp on the reverse of the print. I then also sign in a space within that stamp. So all the information to authenticate that print is provided but in a way that does not interfere with the aesthetic of the image. A fine print should never be mounted in a way that makes it permanently attached to a mount so this information should always be accessible. I also keep a record in my archive of every print sold to further support the provenance and authenticity. The flamboyant scrawl across the front of a print spoils the aesthetic of a fine print and serves no really useful purpose other than inflating the ego of the photographer.