“Limited Editions” by Jonathan Bourla (www.jonathanbourla.com)
Early on in my fine art photography journey, I wanted to address the issue of limited editions for my work. I knew that some of the photographers whose work I was inspired by had editions of one hundred. Locally I had also seen editions of just two or three.
The concept of limited editions came from printing techniques such as screen printing, where the materials used in the printing would degrade after each use, and so only a certain number of prints was possible before quality suffered.
Having limited editions for photography is a way of saying that the photograph isn’t mass produced. But I see photographers with editions of three hundred and fifty, or even five hundred. This clearly really is mass production, and to my mind calling them limited editions is just plain stupid.
In fact, when I discovered that my favourite photographers had editions of one hundred I had the same feeling. But at the other extreme the editions of just two or three are really limiting for a reproducible artform. Photographers’ printing styles change over time – often one can tell a print of a subject from late in the photographer’s career from one produced earlier on. This is true of traditional processes such as silver gelatin photographs, where what I call the Interpretation stage takes places as part of the printing process. With today’s Pigment Ink prints, known widely as Archival Pigment prints, although the Interpretation has taken place before the actual printing process, it is still quite likely over time that the photographer will want to adjust the look of the photograph as his/her techniques and skills mature, and materials change.
The opposite of a Limited Edition is called an Open Edition, where there is no limit to the number of photographs produced. An Open edition has no maximum. Despite no stated maximum, some photographers number each photograph produced. I was quite surprised to discover that one of the great Ansel Adams’ photographs, in an Open Edition, resulted in over a thousand prints – making it far from the exclusive photograph I had thought it was.
I settled on an edition size of twenty five for my limited edition photographs.