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Photography for Dupes


Thierry Maindrault’s Monthly Chronicle

I am always sorry to see, before my eyes, a buyer being tricked by one of our peers without much scruple. The scene becomes totally distressing when the seller (also producer of the image) commits his misdeed in complete innocence. The worst is when the sale is made by an intermediary, also called a professional, who literally defrauds his buyers at risks shared by the author, often an unconscious producer.

Of course, you see me coming, with my big clogs, we are going to address the deep discomfort of photography wrongly called Art. I prefer the creation attribute to be less presumptuous and without anticipating the hypothetical future of the proposed works. Nothing has been more deadly for the photographic image and its distribution than the suicidal non-compliance with legal texts to defend the completeness, originality and authenticity of our works. Numerous law casas from many countries protect our work and buyers. All creative actions, from music to literature, from sculpture to dance, are respected because they scrupulously apply the limits of content and form that they have defined with legislators. It should be the same for photography with its many poles of protection.

Unfortunately, since, supposedly, we are artists (yeah right!), as some of us claim, it would be indecent to sign a certificate, to authenticate our own work or to count the number of our prints. From these irresponsible reasonings, the creative influence of photography had no trouble sinking, even before benefiting from the help in the destruction by the digital communication. The network called miraculous by a some unconscious people a few years ago, nevertheless actively participated in driving home an economic crucifixion, of photographers. The abandonment of our legal protections has thus fallen into a daily public quagmire. Anyone could settled into this vast planetary exchange where all the participants focus on the essential: “how can I fool my interlocutors? “.

With each acquisition of a photograph, doubt arises about the physical authenticity of the work, about the guarantee of a true digital limitation of the prints and the effective certification by its author in the recognized and legal sense. The origin of this failure in the transfer of a work comes largely from a very large number of photographers (the real ones as well as the fake ones, the good ones as well as the bad ones) who are completely ignorant in terms of knowledge of rights. The ephemeral royalties of a work or the status of its lasting acquisition have fallen into the oblivion of the values ​​of the spirit. It is the same (with a few rare exceptions) for equally ignorant buyers.  Among whom are both renowned collectors and public buyers, which is a shame.

If we add the obvious mathematical weakness when it comes to establishing an effective cost price, even if only for the technical costs of production. It becomes indisputable that the market and the value of a work are part of a total anarchy which generates more disappointments than satisfactions for all those involved. Erroneous monetary values ​​supplant the intellectual, spiritual, caring partnerships between the creator of an image and its purchaser.

A first anecdote from a large distributor of images who prides himself of the status of gallery owner expert in Art photography. A photograph taken by a famous and truly famous singer. The image is nothing out of the ordinary, but it is widely advertised that it was taken by our musical artist. The problem is that the author died before he was able to work and especially before having made a print. Regardless, let’s not be petty. The art photograph of our singer is signed on the front, post mortem, by his former partner, a non-photographer of course, and certified by the latter. This is the same salesman who sold a large and beautiful image, produced by a famous Franco-Tibetan monk, under the number 124 (look for the mistake). The same photograph had toured a number of photographic festivals, including the most famous. Naturally, the sale price was very expensive for what was only a simple autographed poster.

In an atypical festival that has become famous, the organizers let the exhibitors sell their works (exhibited or not) as they wish. Why not ? A young photographer set up a table in front of his exhibition space, where he hung animal photographs. He sells his prints (30 x 40 as I remember) for 50 euros each. Small bonus, like my baker’s with his breads, there was one free photograph for every three purchased. The irony is that this boy forbade, even the press, to photograph his exhibition so as not to have his rights stolen. In addition, the production of his images cost nothing since the material, paper, ink, etc. required. were provided by the photo club and his city.

Another smokescreen, A living room in which a good photographer presents beautiful, very decorative images of landscapes. Image acquisition can be done on demand for the format of your choice or in predetermined and already printed formats. Surprise, all prints benefit from double numbering, non-chronological, with two ceilings. You choose, as you wish, one or the other numbering. Don’t panic, his lawyer assured him that this was perfectly legal. However, this is not really what we find in the texts and in the law case; but hey, since he tells us that it’s perfect, especially since it increased the value of the images acquired by zero.

It has become such an anarchy that I hear from almost everywhere that all this no longer matters, the world is evolving. Amateurs would buy anything, so why deprive themselves of this remaining windfall in a moribund photographic market.

Not to mention these thousands of so-called old images (vintage is classier) taken a few decades after the death of their author and which sell at exorbitant prices.

It seems that there is not much left to do in this decadent artistic-financial malstrom.

Except, imagine that we could respect these impassioned and other enthusiastic amateurs who do us the honor of being interested in our luminous ramblings!

Thierry Maindrault, June 14, 2024


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