Mar 062011

My dear friend Isidora from Spain sent me an email right after she had looked at my blog. She told me about her visit to the Madrid art show ARCO. A lot of the photography on display were huge prints of large format photographs. Large prints have been a ‘trend’ in contemporary photography for the last 20 years. A huge movement towards that direction started in my home town Duesseldorf, where students of Bernd and Hilla Becher used new technologies to display photography at an unknown scale. Suddenly the artist could show scenes of incredible detail. What was only possible in paintings, now moved into photography. Galleries started to increase prices, which were often based on the print size. The larger and more limited the print, the higher the prize. That pushed individual images into multi-million dollar ranges and photography became widely accepted as an art-form.

At the same time photography changed from being practiced by dedicated people only to a mainstream tool for everybody. More and more people have bought sophisticated cameras and practice photography at a high level, without calling it a profession. This tightened the market for photo artists. Suddenly those, who focused on working in smaller print sizes had to compete with a growing crowd of enthusiasts. Digital technology eliminated large portions of labor and replaced it with convenience. Today, anybody can do anything as long as they have ideas.

Many photography artist have moved up to large format photography. One reason is that it provides an unmatched image quality. Another reason is that galleries are more interested in larger prints and collectors pay more. An additional reason could be that is creates a craft barrier between the artist and the mainstream photographer. It allows them to display work at scales and quality that, because of the dedication that it requires, is still out of reach and interest for most enthusiasts. Large scale has become an art-form, a money maker, and a save haven for many contemporary photographers.

PS Isidora told me that the prizes of my prints are too low. She is right.

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