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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.