Posted by: 6x6pix | May 23, 2010

C-Prints Proving Unstable

An article in The Art Newspaper quotes photography expert/collector Michael Wilson as saying that some C-prints (chromogenic prints) from the early 1990s have faded dramatically over time.

“C-prints are unstable, especially [those dating] from the early 1990s,” Wilson said, speaking at a seminar for new photography collectors. He recommended that potential collectors of works from this era “go to the big auctions to see the photographs from the early 90s that are being sold for a million pounds: the cyan is gone or is going fast,”

The article quotes Jim Coddington, chief conservator at MOMA, regarding the long-term studies and research that museum is doing to “better understand the fading of these works and appropriate display conditions for improved longevity,” and goes on to talk about the additional challenges of maintaining photographic prints that are face-mounted to plexiglass.

It’s a good read not only for collectors, but for photographers who sell prints of their work. [via Conscientious]



  1. This just goes back to something I’ve always been saying about photography in general… it is so behind the curve in terms of understanding scarcity, longevity, and value of a particular work. Were those prints REALLY worth the money they went for? I mean, one could easily make another. But we’re supposed to “believe” that the photographer won’t make another one, and that THIS one is THE ONE and that a LOT of work went into this “original” print and that it won’t fade and it won’t degrade and that everything was done to make it last forever. ** moose droppings! **. It’s all manufactured perception and manufactured scarcity… not much different than what the Franklin Mint does… “act now as the molds will be broken after the 500th pressing!” If you ask me, what makes a print “unique” is not something you wrote down and promised. It’s that it’s literally a unique print. It cannot be made 100% that way again. And everything that happens with that print is what was intended and/or at least considered… including fading or degradation (see the Starn Twins).

  2. I hear you on the trust factor, Jeff; it’s always been central when it comes to photography as a collectible art. Digital imaging/printing processes make things much harder from that perspective, but authenticity and “scarceness” have always been harder to suss out with photographic prints than with works in other media (except film… but film is intended for mass consumption in the first place).

    What’s always been interesting to me is that even though photography is a reproduction-based medium, most photographers are crazily protective of their negatives, even when they’re producing prints in so-called limited editions. Contrast this against non-photographic printmaking, where once an edition is printed, the plate is usually destroyed or altered in such a way that insures the “limited” part of the “limited edition” equation. I mean, think about that: a printmaker works for days or weeks crafting a work by hand, then destroys that original work (essentially a negative) once the prints (the actual artwork) are produced. When do you hear of photographers destroying a negative (or “original digital file,” whatever that is) once they’ve printed from it? Almost never; it’s considered a sacrilege, and the mere suggestion strikes fear into the hearts and guts of most photographers. That’s kind of effed up.

    Also, pretty much off-topic. Sorry about that ;-)

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