When viewers look at photographs at an exhibit they would like to see authentic work. They generally would like to know some basic information like the name of the photographer, the title of the work, the year it was taken, and a signature that assures the work belongs to the photographer. A potential buyer would like a little more information, such as when it was printed, what kind of a print it is, whether it was printed by the photographer, and perhaps the edition.
The editioning of photographs, that is indicating the maximum number of prints there may be of this work has differing views. Some argue that all exhibited art should be a limited edition, like #3/25. Such a notation will indicate that this print is number 3 and there will be a maximum of 25 such prints will be made. The idea of limited editions probably originated when some artwork was produced using a master with limited life such as making intaglio prints. After a certain number of prints, the master would physically deteriorate and no more prints could be made.
In photography, especially digital photography the deterioration of the master is not really an issue. I can make as many prints from a digital file as I want without eroding the qualities of the file itself. So, being limited is artificially imposed on the work rather than stemming from the process of creating it. Generally, I am on this side of editioning, and with the exception of a couple of my works, I number my prints but do not indicate a maximum number of prints. So far, the largest number on any of my photographs has not gone into two-digits! So, all of you who have my work on your walls should consider your print “naturally limited!” See the total edition figure in the sample picture above?
That said, there may be other apparent advantages such as the sale of artwork being exempt from sales tax in Rhode Island. However you may feel about the limited or open editions, you may consider indicating that your work is either “original work of art” or “limited edition” may offer an advantage, at least in Rhode Island. For more information, see the document at this link.
If used, the editioning of your work should be clearly visible somewhere on your work and better yet, augmented by a certificate of authenticity. Such a certificate includes the statement of authenticity, the provenance of the work, the print number, the total number in the edition, and your signature authenticating these statements.
I have been using various forms of authentication ranging from writing on the print margins the type of print, when it is made, editioning, and other relevant information. I have also used in some folios, open or editioned, a separate print serving as the certificate. Recently, I started using a separate sheet that has the relevant information and is affixed on the back of the framed print. This certificate even includes a small version of the print on the front to augment the authenticity.
Here is my practice, feel free to take any part that may suit your tastes:
- On the print itself, just below on the left edge of the image, I handwrite the title, year taken, print number, edition number if applicable
- On the same line below the image, but to align with the right edge of the image I sign the image
- For writing on the print, if it is a matte paper and can take pencil writing, I use a pencil. On other surfaces that do not take pencil writing, I use a pen that has archival ink. My choice of pen is PICMA MICRON and I generally prefer a fine nib with black ink.
- For some special prints and surfaces, such as my Hagia Sophia folio which was printed on Kodak Endura paper I used a gold ink pen because that color was integral in the design of the folio
- If the print will be matted, I only show the photograph itself hiding my signature and title. So, I replicate steps 1 and 2 on the mat just below the opening using a pencil.
- On the back of the framed print, I paste a certificate of authenticity as shown in the opening of this article. If I deliver unframed prints, the certificate is in the same plastic bag with the print itself.
- To offer a little hand in creating the certificate of authenticity, I have created a PDF file that you can download, fill in the fields using Adobe Acrobat, print it and sign it. Ready to roll!
Here is the PDF Certificate of Authenticity with instructions on it. In addition to adding all the necessary text, there is a small area that will take a small copy of the image in the front to complete the certificate. Open it in Adobe Acrobat to fill the form and add the small image. The instructions and a few other visible fields on the PDF form will not print, giving you a clean certificate to affix on the back of your prints or deliver along with the original print unframed. Unlike the opening image sample that has my name in the text, the wording on this version has no name hardcoded but entered by the photographer into the appropriate fields.
Authenticate your work! Let me know how this process works for you.