Black Magic

I’ve sometimes rather laughed Magnum’s ‘Square Print Sales’, with their postcard-sized signed prints being sold at $100 when you could buy well-printed books with many prints by the same photographers (and sometimes at least as well printed) for rather less. And perhaps been amused by images advertising the sale which showed those same images at 4 times the size. I’ve nothing against people collecting postcards, and I have a few myself, but most cost me 20p or less – and I’ve given hundreds if not thousands of my own work on them away.

Visiting to galleries and auction houses, I’ve often seen prints for sale for thousands of pounds that were inferior in quality to the reproductions of the same images in books. Sometimes it is worth remembering that – with a few rare exceptions – in photography we are always dealing in reproductions, and one of the joys of our medium is its essentially infinite reproducibility.

But of course photographers have to earn a living – and selling prints for thousands or millions is what keeps some art dealers in their lives of luxury.

But Magnum Distribution are now selling Matt Black‘s ‘The Geography of Poverty – Heartland‘, a set of eight 8×10″ prints in an envelope with some documentation for what seems a reasonable price of $249.00 They are in a limited edition, but 100 copies seems a fairly reasonable number, and more than I’ve sold of any unlimited edition print.

The 8 prints are digital C-type on Fuji Crystal Archive Matte paper, which would perhaps not be my choice for black and white prints, and rather more suited to colour images. But certainly you can make good black and white prints this way, though I would generally prefer good inkjet prints (which I imagine is what Magnum’s ‘museum quality’ square images are.)¬† Perhaps Black prefers the Fuji paper – the cost difference between C-types and inkjet is small – the pro lab I sometimes use charges around 30% more for inkjet.

It’s an great project by Black, who I think is one of the more promising new Magnum photographers for some years, and you can see more at MSNBC, where the presentation and text by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Trymaine Lee produce a work of outstanding quality. You can also see more of his work on his own web site and on Magnum, where he became a Magnum nominee in 2015. You can also follow him on Instagram, where he was Time’s Instagram photographer of the year in 2014. There is also a signed Geography of Poverty Newsprint issue for sale which seems to me rather poor value at $45. I have a number of such newpsrint publications now, and they usually end up in the recycling, as they hardly seem worth keeping.

I won’t be buying either that or the set of 8 images. Although I admire the work, I wouldn’t want to hang the 8 images on my wall, nor do I have the space to do so. And I have far too many prints¬† – my own and others – already hidden away in envelopes, tubes and boxes that never get looked at.

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