Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Lenswork Folios

I am now the proud owner of three Lenswork Folios so I thought it time to comment on them. First off, I find the whole concept of a folio wonderful. They nicely sit on my lap and the print size is ideal for viewing - large enough to appreciate detail, small enough to not fold up as you hold them, nor so big you can't find an even light to view them under.

I take a folio, admire the inlaid cover image, then flip the folio over. I open the four leaves and can either take out the colophon (Table of contents/bio) to read, or I can go straight to the images, leaning them against the lower opened leave against my chest so that I can view each image with a minimum of contact. The Harman paper is a little shinier than I like for my own work but does a superb job on presenting the images. At this size you want a minimum of surface texture so you can fully appreciate the images and I feel that Brooks has made the perfect choice for displaying the images.

Each image does have the folio title and image title at the bottom but they are discreet and do not interfere with the enjoyment of the folio. The whole folio exudes quality - definitely value for money. The folios close easily.

One aspect of a folio is that you of course don't get to choose which particular images are enclosed and no photographer is so good that you are going to stare in wonder at every single image and so it is with the three folios I have - Brooks Jensen's "Silva lacrimosa", Mitch Dobrowner's "The Still Earth" and Michael Reichmann's "Landscapes From Around The World"

In each folio all images are of excellent quality, it's just that some resonate with you and others don't - it's the same with looking at a book of images. For all the superb printing quality in Lenswork itself, the folio images are another step and are of course larger too - double the size of images in the magazine.

I figure that if there are four images that I really like out of each folio, that puts the cost of each at around $25 which coincidentally is what I have been charging for images from my book (4 prints for $100) so I can hardly argue with the pricing - I think Brooks got it exactly right. This was a brave move because many will see it as setting a value of each image at around $10, creating a fundamental change in the marketplace for fine art images. And it does - and I think it was high time. As Brooks has said, you can purchase a CD of the finest music by the greatest orchestras/musicians for around $20 and the music industry is worth billions.

If you doubt the soundness of this argument, I ask the following question of you - how many prints do you own of great photographers? Few own more than a dozen and I suspect the vast majority of "serious" photographers own none at all. A sad state of affairs and Lenswork is in a position to change that entirely.

I am very excited by the whole concept of the folio. It will be interesting over time to hear from photographers included in Lenswork Folio proramme, how they feel about it after a year and what it has meant economically, especially in comparison to sales of prints in the previous year.

Yes, it is scary to value prints at $10 but only because it's so different from what we are used to - the vast majority of photographers working with galleries and direct print sales would say that the previous paradigm was not working - so what do we have to lose.


Howard Grill said...

I also own "The Still Earth" and "Landscapes From Around The World" folios and also enjoy them immensely. As you say, I haven't fallen in love with each and every print, but there are many in each that I find very compelling. And you can't beat the price to have artwork like this. I am really quite pleased with them and intend to buy more if they catch my eye.

The one thing that I personally would change is the title of the folio and artist name at the bottom of each image. Perhaps it is done that way to associate all the images with a particular folio, but I personally think it detracts a bit from the artwork. Perhaps a bit better to have the folio/artist name stamped on the back? What do you think?

George Barr said...

All things being equal I'd be happier without the text but don't feel strongly about it and recognize the validity of indicating the source of the image on the front (though of course it can be covered in matting).

These are not signed prints and I believe the prints are made by Lenswork, though of course with profiled systems and inkjet printing, this isn't an issue. it does reflect on the collecting value of the prints but frankly the whole collectibilty issue has not done photographers any favours over the years.


Anonymous said...

I have not received my folios yet, but I have ordered the same 3 folios
a bit over a week ago:
Brooks Jensen's "Silva lacrimosa", Mitch Dobrowner's "The Still Earth" and Michael Reichmann's "Landscapes From Around The World".

Hope they get here soon (Norway) as
I'm looking foreward to look at them.

Mark said...

I own "The Still Earth" and was absolutely stunned at the fit and finish of the folio as well as the work within. I personally don't think every single image in such a collection has to be a winner on its own, but viewed for its contribution to the overall body of work.

I would have liked a little bit more "story behind the images" with the enclosures. The text didn't bother me - I think it gave the folio a gallery-like presentation quality.

mkinsman said...

In one of the recent Luminous Landscape Video Journals, Brooks is interviewed by Michael Reichmann, during which he discusses the folios and why the text is done the way it is on the prints. Listening to it, it make sense. The format offers a variety of ways to matt and frame the images if desired, with a few variations on what text is displayed.