What Makes your Work so Special ?
An Open Answer
Essay by Alain Briot
in response to an email by John Smith
Other essays in this series
The following is a response to a REAL email I received on July 28th, 2007.
In this box is the first email I received. Below is the second email I received and my second answer.
I am looking for large prints of the Southwest, and I saw that you had really nice work. However, I am wondering why your prints are so expensive ? I have seen some images quite similar to yours (not those I am interested in) offered by other photographers for a fraction of the price.
What makes your prints so special ?
What makes my prints “so special" is everything that makes creating these images possible: inspiration, passion, knowledge, imagination, training, high standards, curiosity, integrity, craftsmanship, lifelong dedication, print quality, Natalie, artistic abilities, skill, genetics, my audience, uniqueness, enhancements, personal style, mastery, upbringing, writings, warranty, this website, reflection, my parents, talent, care, courage, beauty, lifestyle, education, service, fame, my students, determination, attention to detail, love, my teachers, experience, creativity, facture and more.
Thank you for your quick reply. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but the fact is that there are a lot of excellent landscape photographers who price their work much lower than you do, and I am sure you are aware of that without me giving specific names, including some noted people.
Price is not the determining factor for me, however, when I see art that (maybe only superficially) looks quite similar, before committing to a purchase, I am interested in understanding the reasons for the price difference
You write that your work is unique, and you reiterate that in your public posting (that basically says in great length that you are unique). This is true, but every other photographer is also unique for their own reasons. What are the high standards you are refering to ? Do you use a 8x10 camera ? Are your prints done by hand, or are you using an inkjet printer ? I don't really understand the necessity for a one year warranty. We are talking about prints there, not cars. I am perfectly able to evaluate upon receipt of the print whereas I like it or not. Other photographers also offer a return period.
The size I am looking at is several prints all in 24x30, however I am a bit confused by your price list because it doesn't mention the print size. I am looking mostly at your Grand Canyon and Canyon de Chelly images, including your recent Spider Rock image.
1 - "Do you use a 8x10 camera ?"
I don't use an 8x10 camera. I use a Linhof 4x5 Master Technica, a Fuji 617, several Hasselblad and Fuji medium format cameras and a Canon 1DsMk2 digital camera.
My belief is that the camera is a tool designed to serve the vision of the photographer. In this regards, who cares what camera I use? But anyway, you now have the list. I sincerely hope it is of great help to you. If an 8x10 camera is required to ask the prices that I ask, then you may want to stop reading right now because I have never used one and do not have any intent on starting anytime soon.
2 - "Are your prints done by hand, or are you using an inkjet printer?"
They are done by hand using an inkjet printer. In pre-digital paradigm shift days photographers made prints by hand using an enlarger. Technology changes but abiding to high standards and developing mastery of craftmanship remain the prerogative of each artist regardles of which technology is used. Assigning a craftmanship aspect to one technology while denying it to another is ignorant, shortsighted and discriminative.
3 - "What are the high standards you are refering to?"
Inkjet printing, digital processing and mastery of technique and craftmanship, which I mention above, are some of these high standards. Currently, they allow me to create the finest print quality in the world. The other high standards are mentioned in my previous answer.
If this is not sufficient, I recommend that you read my curriculum vitae, my biography and my essay titled Who is Alain Briot. Finally, I recommend you read the many essays I write about photography. These cover technique, philosophy, approach, reflections and much more. These writings are published on this website as well as on numerous other websites worldwide. They have also been translated in 8 diferent foreign languages as of today with new languages being added regularly.
In regards to my essays, it is worth mentioning that your questions point to the fact that you have not read any of them, not even superficially. Otherwise you would have been able to answer these questions yourself. I need to point out that access to these essays is easy, that many are available for free and that the links to the most recent ones are prominently displayed on the home page of my website. Finally, the links to all the others are in my Essays section, with a button provided on each page of my site..
If you had read these essays (something that just about everyone who contacts me does by the way) you would have learned the exact techniques that I use since I write at length about everything that I do and keep nothing "secret." I must therefore express my surprise at this fact. What is really going on here? I have not yet met someone yet who has so many questions about work but makes no attempt to read what I have to say about it! It seems that the only thing you read is my price list.
4 - "I am a bit confused by your price list because it doesn't mention the print size."
I do not mention the print size in my price list because the exact print size varies from image to image. I determine the best size for each image. Being the creator of the work I am the one who can best make the call regarding the print size for a given image. I do not sell my work by the square inch. I sell my work on the basis of the vision that I have for each image. In other words, I sell art and not wallpaper.
Usually, the print size is one size lower than the frame size (i.e. 16x20 in a 20x30 mat & frame). However, on some occasions an image demands a larger border in order to come to life. Such images need room to breathe, to exist and to be displayed. In such instances, I will use a much larger mat & frame, for example displaying an 8x10 print in a 16x20 mat or larger. Again, this is an artistic call that I reserve the freedom to make at any time. And again, I do not sell by the square inch. If you are concerned with this I recommend you ask the print size for specific images before placing your order.
5 - There are a lot of excellent landscape photographers who price their work much lower than you do."
I totally agree. However, there are other excellent photographers who price their work far higher than I do. It all depends which direction you look at: higher priced or lower priced. Clearly, you are only looking at those who are lower priced.
You also need to know this: I have been in business 10 years. When I started my prices were quite low. However, I have been raising my prices 10 to 30% every year. Multiply this by 10, and you have my current prices. So no, I do not price myself in relationship to other artists or other photographers. I price my work according to the approach I just described. Take my current prices, add 10 to 30%, and you will have my prices for next year.
Finally, pricing art is a personal decision. Keep in mind that art is not a commodity and that artwork is therefore not priced in the same manner than commodities. In art, the artist himself is a very important factor when determining the price of a piece. This is a well-accepted practice. The artist is free to set his prices where he feels they should be. The buyer has the right to agree or disagree in regards to the level of reputation, mastery, fame, value, etc. that a particular artist commands. This is an inelienable right that both you and I have. Eventually, you have to make the decision regarding whether you find my prices to be worth it to you or not. You also have to make the decision regarding how much you want to spend and what you want to spend your money on. We all have to do that for that matter, regardless of what we intend on buying.
Finally, I also want to mention that I offer my work in a separate collection called the Print of the Month. I started this collection about 3 years ago to make it possible to collect my work at a more affordable price. Photographs in the Print of the Month collection are made to the same exacting standards as all my other prints. The only limitation is that this collection is limited to the prints that are part of it --40 different images as of July 2006-- and that prints are offered in only one size: 16x20 mat & frame size.
6 - "I don't really understand the necessity for a one year warranty. We are talking about prints there, not cars."
I offer a 1 year warranty as a benefit to my clientele. My customers very much appreciate it, even though they are fully aware that they are buying prints and not cars. However, if you can decide within a few days that you like the prints, then "good for you." You do have the option of asking that your right to return your print purchase for up to a full year is waived. I have no problem with this. Do note however that I have never had anyone ask me this before and that you will have the honor of being first.
Also note, before you waive this right, that having the option to return your purchase for a full year won't hurt you one bit. There is no catch here! I therefore wonder if you are not a little "disingenuous" by complaining about something which clearly puts the advantage on your side. What is there to complain about, really?
Finally, in order for you to make this purchase, and in order to grant you the privilege of being the first to waive your rights to my 1 year warranty should you request it, I will ask that you pay me in Gold French Roosters, to prevent a chargeback to your credit card, a bounced check, a fake money order or an otherwise cancelled order. And no, no other form of payment will do. Only French Roosters. French artist prerogative! You have the right to ask for answers to your questions, and I have the right to ask for Roosters. A photo of an actual Rooster in my collection is provided below so there is no misunderstanding whatsoever about what these look like:
Twenty Francs "Rooster" . France,1913.
Accepted as legal tender by Beaux Arts Photography
When you are ready to order --if you are ready to order which I strongly doubt-- simply FedEx the Roosters with the list of prints you want using the order form on this site. Make sure to add enough Roosters to cover shipping, and we are all set. You can then expect your prints within 2 weeks.
Essay and photographs Copyright © Alain Briot 2006
All rights reserved worldwide