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Why is photography expensive? Is it?

Budapest, a city where everything is possible

The Lawyer

I decided to write this article due to a conversation that I had last night in a opening exhibition of an artist friend, a really good one. He works with giant panels, minerals, calcareous, pigments, etc. His work is brilliant, typical of a true artist, rare in our actual days… The opening was filled with other artists, curators, art gallery owners, friends of the artist. One of his friends, a lawyer, approached to talk to me, as I was with a curator, also friend of the artist (you could tell that he worked with the big ones, as once I worked in the biggest office law within Latin America). The lawyer, once he knew I was a photographer (although he didn’t bother to ask what kind of photography I work with), he started telling that he was in this fine restaurant, a very expensive one (he made sure to enlighten it), and in this restaurant there was this big photography on the wall, black in white, of a model wearing a vintage casque. He was hypnotized by it and wanted to buy it. By the time he went to the gallery, he said he was shocked by the price, around $3.300 and looked at me as if I was part of a cruel photographers mafia that charge an absurd only for a photography. If just only … I looked at him and said: did you know that maybe the gear the photographer used with that picture may be even more expensive the photography itself? That the material he printed the photo is expensive? That the frame cost a lot as well, apart of course, his unique look, that that moment will never happen again, etc. Then I tried to explain the origin of my work, coming from names such as Capa, Moriyama, Brassaï, my street travel photography, fine art, etc., and that moment I saw that he completed drifted away. That was funny.

The lawyer, once so full of himself, stared at me and did not know what to answer, except that he gasped and said of course he did not ever realize that (really?). Let's say that the rest of the conversation died at that very moment, because, for me as a photographer, what am I going to talk with someone that absolutely don't recognize the value of my work and stares at me as if I am guilty somehow of a big photographers conspiracy? He as a lawyer praise himself as a great professional, meanwhile I am seeing as just another eccentric ‘photographer’, artist, or as a non defined person.

Price x Value

It is OK to pay half million on a car whereas its price will deteriorate within a year, meanwhile it is wrong and absurd to pay $3.300 in a photo measuring 200 cm x 200 cm that will have more value each year and long-lasting at least 100 years on your wall? Why it is OK to pay £1m on the Banksy canvas of Girl With Balloon (shredded instants just after being sold at auction at Sotheby’s...genius marketing Banksy)? The truth is, people value it. And that is fine. That is fine if you want to pay $10.000 on a oil canvas or in a sculpture or in a Dior bag. The problem is when people see a photographers work and get grumpy about it, complain about it, say it is an absurd and criticizes us. People may not understand the value of a photography, but if they do, they pay for prints, books, studio shots, war photos, etc. If you are married, and you had the party of your dreams, you sure did pay a lot to the photographer of the wedding. And I am sure you didn’t mind, because you valued it. After all, it was the day of your marriage. If you want to have it, no matter how much it costs, you pay for it.

Think for a moment about the history of photography. How would we live today without photography? In order to love photography and value it, we have not only to admire it, but also read about it, understand about it, feel it. I am not talking about Instagram here. Please. I am talking about real photography.
The amount of information that goes on in a photo is there to be discovered and revealed, even if the photo has not a density quality. Many photographs tell us a history, moments that goes beyond and bring us back to other times. Provokes shocking, despair, emotion, excitement, joy, happiness, sadness, melancholy, art, discomfort, longing. Feelings that are priceless.
Lets remember October 10th, 1967, the day the photography of Guevara was broadcast worldly to prove that he was indeed dead in the weekend before. The picture shows us Guevara corpse, taken in a small town called Vallegrande. During the last two years before this photo was taken, there was doubt if Guevara was indeed dead or alive and many legends circulated about it. But when this photo came out, showing his corpse, the myth was busted and also it came as a political warning: his death became real and the photography was about the reality of that moment. A silent image that can call us upon decisions.
In the end, it is a matter of perspective. How much do you value a photography willing to pay money for it? How much do you want it hanging on your beautiful house beach, or how much do you want all the books from your favorite photographer? I buy tons of books of the masters of photography that I study and admire, of course! It is not only an investment, but I feel pleasure seeing it, having it in my hands, checking the details of their work. I also buy photo prints from others photographers, and I encourage every photographer to do so. I also have my apartment filled with my photos, all sizes. It is my life, my passion, moments I lived!

3 different moments, 3 different times, 3 different visions of the unique Eiffel Tower

Long-lasting quality museum

Photography prints can long last in your wall, within an art gallery or inside a museum. We are not talking here of cheap paper, instead, photo rag, high quality paper that will last more than 100 years old. Photos printed with paspatur (the beautiful white board around the picture), wood frames, glass without reflex, metals, big panels, textures, etc. All that costs money and it is not cheap. On the contrary, it is expensive. Whether is a profession or a hobby, photography is a process of very expensive maintenance.


Should we talk about gear? Absolutely. Where to start? The body camera? Lenses? Tripod? Flash lights? A good computer to edit the photos, laptops, programs? Not to mention, as in my case, a travel street photographer, the word travel implies a lot already: tickets, hotel or airbnb, does not matter, food, transportation, insurance travel. Yes, that also increases the price of a photography.

Moments that will never happen again

This is in my opinion one of the most important moments of a photography value, if not the most important. That moment of that photo will never happen again. Ever. Photography is all about when the photographer chose to press the button and isolate that moment. The photography is the result of the photographer’s decision of what is worthy to be registered. It is a unique condition. No matter how many times photos try to be copied or remade, not a single shot will be exactly the same, and this is fascinating about photography. That is what makes photos so special. Photographers are different. The way they work is different. Everything is different about this world. For instance, the amazing iconic photo worldly known as ‘The Bardot Pose’ taken by Ghislain Dussart in the 70s of the one and only Brigitte Bardot. This photo is unique. You can see the natural beauty of Bardot without extreme Photoshop manipulation changing her body. The light, her face, hair, her legs crossed, the sexy pair of black stockings and nothing else. Brigitte seems so at easy, so natural, so french without any effort. You can see Brigitte as herself. This is pure art fashion photography. Now we can see the others who got inspired and tried to make similar photos (unsuccessfully in my opinion).
Brigitte Bardot by Ghislain Dussart in the 70s
In the one that Gisele appears, we can clearly see the extreme Photoshop manipulation on Gisele’s body, not needed since she is pure perfection, but we see it anyway. What bothers me more is, what happened with Gisele breast? Not to mention the copycat. My point is: no problem with the inspiration at all, but the originality and moment that once came about with Bardot and Ghislain will never happen again. And that make the price of that photo and its value priceless. It is a one lifetime thing.

1. Gisele Bundchen by Nino Munoz for Muse Magazine, 2010

2. Monica Bellucci by Simon Hawk for Vanity Fait Italia, 2007

3. Lohan for Entertainment Weekly, 2004

4. Elle MacPherson by Herb Ritts for Playboy, 1994

In my case, fine art travel street photography...I think the moments are even more unique. The weather, the people on the street, the light, the cultural aspects of the cities, the political hour, the scene itself passes by and it will never be the same. So if you buy my work, you will buy my values, my vision, a moment that I lived and chose to bring it on for your appreciation. There won’t be nothing alike, because even though lots of photographers can be in the same place as I was, we all have different visions of what we see. I see what I chose to see, and what I chose to see is what you, my public, will see published. Once you love my work and value it, you won’t see any problem in paying for it, even if it is a small print. The important thing is that we both cherish what we see.

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