Stating the ‘value’ of anything is simply a way of placing its desirability in relation to other, similar, items or to establish its usefulness in relation to a situation (a lifebelt to a drowning person for example is very valuable). If photography is used to show images which cause a reaction which helps in any way – the image of the naked, burnt girl in Vietnam, a Mother bathing her child in Japan who was crippled by mercury pollution, a Spanish soldier falling dead – these images are photographs which can be seen on a screen, on a wall or in a magazine and have a high value, they do something.
But to put a price on an image which is a digital presentation on a screen, or a printed version of this is, for me, ridiculous. I have just put some prints into an exhibition locally – a little gallery asked me to let them show a few of my new photographs, so I printed some (on paper and glass) on a theme – there are five other photographers showing. Most of course, use digital equipment, edit this with software and get them printed. They then ask hundreds of euro for these ‘prints’ – how can this ‘value’ be determined – by pressing a button hundreds, thousands of similar prints can be created, to me this is obscene.
I could not give any value to my prints, made in my darkroom. I was happy to show my ideas and what I am doing, but it is over 35 years since I had my last exhibition (where I sold stuff) and I am returning from a twilight zone into the light again after all these years. A digital camera can record an important event and can be used to manipulate light to show a pleasing or a disturbing image, in this case the ‘camera’ operator should be rewarded by society for their perception – but as a digital image is only a lump of binary code, intrinsically it is worth no more than the cost of the print. A crafted piece of paper, or glass, tin – whatever – with an image which shares a feeling or massage is unique – the artist has touched it and put life into it – The Greek philosophers had a word for it arete (ἀρετή) – the best translation is expounded (pun) by Ezra Pound (I love this quote or EP – ”If a patron buys from an artist who needs money (needs money to buy tools, time, food), the patron then makes himself equal to the artist; he is building art into the world; he creates.”) Ifthe artist then shares this – only then can it have true value.
I have stopped looking at any digital images if possible (it isn’t of course) and refuse to digitalise anything I make, so I doubt you will ever see my recent “real” work. There is so much dross overwhelming all media and so many people are using awful apps to make more rubbish ‘(hipstamatic for example).
It is sad – after many years I now refuse to use or own a telephone or watch and limit my keyboard time (or try to) to an hour a day – slowly I am getting free (perhaps).