The debate is all over the internet and one can simply do a search to bring-up about a billion returns on the subject of whether or not a fine-art photographer should have limited edition prints or not. This is a question that kept me up night after night when I first began making my prints and one that I feel I have come to terms with regardless of whether the others want to debate it until the cows come home.
Ansel Adams once said (and I paraphrase)... "to set a limit on the number of prints from a photographic negative is to set a limit on the art form itself." I must have said this over and over to myself more times than I care to remember. This is absolutely true and cannot be argued. Photography is a medium that is in its very nature... repeatable! When an image is captured and processed (today) in the digital environment, so long as the file is never deleted or corrupted, an infinite number of prints can be made that are EXACTLY the same as each other. So, why place a limit on this possibility? Well, to be honest, in fairness to ourselves as photographers, we shouldn't. I would love to think that one of my images would sell so many that the only thing that would limit it would be the fact that I would no longer be around to make the print anymore. But, I also have to be realistic in the fact that this is likely a pipe-dream at best. Besides, I want to continue to spend my time making more and more images which in turn makes the single-image theory of producing only one print and retiring more and more difficult to land upon. If I am constantly producing new images that may or may not be better than my earlier work, how would I expect for one of my earlier works to sell billions, or better yet... why would l want it to? I want my early work to remain desirable, but I also want there to be interest in my new work. If there was no interest in my new work then there would be no reason to continue to do what I do. True, I produce new work because it makes me happy; however, I also have the underlying goal of selling each and every one of what becomes the end result: the prints, the fine-art prints. That is, after all, what keeps me going... the happiness I get when something I have produced in my own vision is also something that makes someone else happy when they look at it on their wall in their own home or office. So, then the question becomes what makes art collectors happy... the answer to that is broad, but for starters it is the knowledge that what they are buying is rare. I'll say that again... what they are buying is RARE! And by rare I mean that it is not going to be limited at 1000 or even 500; for me, rare means less than 100, but I'll get to that in a second.
Let me just state for the record that my relationships with the collectors of my artwork is extremely important to me. Sure, as I stated above, I produce art because it makes me happy. However, what makes me even more happy is when someone wants to have it hung in their home or office. Providing my artwork in limited editions is in my control to its fullest; if having a limited edition print makes it rare, and making it rare makes collectors happy, and making collectors happy makes me happy.... then it's a win-win deal and I'm all for it!
In my minds eye a fine-art print is "rare" when it is set at a number that is below 100. That's only my personal take on the matter, however. There are plenty of fine-art photographers out there that set their limited numbers much higher and that works well for them. I set my numbers at either 25, 37 or 50 and am not currently offering any "open" (unlimited) edition prints at this time. I might in the future, but for now the majority of my prints are limited at 37. Why 37... well, maybe I'll let you in on that in another blog post, so stay tuned.
The bottom line is that I choose to limit my fine-art prints not because some art gallery wants me to or because it's standard practice for all works of art to be limited, or any other social protocol for that matter. I limit my art because I want to offer something that is truly rare. If you have a limited edition print from me, you can rest assured that what you have is truly a rare piece of fine-art that not many others will have. Each of my limited edition prints have taken hours upon hours of care and craftsmanship to produce so that you may enjoy it for a lifetime and then pass it down for others to enjoy for their lifetimes as well.
– Kevin Holliday