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View Poll Results: Fine Art Work for Sale: Do you sign or not?
Yes - I hand sign on front of the image. 1029.41%
Yes - i hand sign on the back or side of the artwork 1029.41%
Yes - I hand sign on matting - not on the image itself 514.71%
Yes - Signature is digitized copy on the image 514.71%
No - i don't sign but provide contact info on the back 38.82%
No - i don't sign or provide contact info on the art piece   00%
This question does not apply to the work that i do. 514.71%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 34. You may not vote on this poll

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04-12-2012, 01:50 PM   #1
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Fine Art: To sign or not to sign?

I currently have a month long show up in a wine shop that has an artists loft for such events, so perhaps i'm a temp. pro. But i'd really like to explore this question more.

Today i walked thru a co-op gallery show which was a tribute to one of their photographers who died recently. Kit Taylor considered himself a street photographer, but his images went beyond that. Surprisingly, some images that came out of his house were even finer than the ones he usually showed at the gallery - a mystery there. When there were no customers in the store, we would have some great conversations and he let me look through his new Fuji x100 which he enjoyed. I'll miss him.

But to get back to the question. Some of Kit's prints were signed on the image itself and some were not. The ones that were signed were priced significantly higher than those that were unsigned.

In my current show, i've not signed them on the front, but stapled my business card on the back of the stretched canvas prints with contact information.

Painters don't hesitate to sign the front of their artwork, but many photographers seem reticent about the practice. I'm wondering what the pros or pro-like members thing about signing their art work they are selling or displaying. A poll is attached if you don't want to spend the time with an answer.

Thank you!

04-12-2012, 01:54 PM   #2
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Interesting question

I am no pro by any stretch. That said as a consumer if I was buying a framed photo from a gallery or off the street as a "piece of art" if you will to hang, I wouldnt mind. It would also make sense maybe if you were selling numbered prints

fyi I see no poll
04-12-2012, 02:07 PM   #3
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Deimos, thank you. You replied while i was providing a minor edit to the poll - if you look again the poll will be there
04-12-2012, 02:35 PM   #4
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My mom once put my initials on every album cover of mine she was shipping to me, using a sharpie. Killed the resale value....

However, for fine art, I think it would only help.

04-12-2012, 03:54 PM - 1 Like   #5
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It is unlikely that a serious collector will pay serious money for an unsigned work of art.

The real value of an unsigned fine art photograph is, for the most part, equal to the cost of materials used. The signature adds the rest.

In many art circles, it is considered amateuristic to sign a print on the front or on the front mat. The preferred place is the back or the borders that are covered by the mat. A date and copyright notice is also desirable and common.

Even more important to collectors is to limit the prints to a small number of copies.
04-12-2012, 04:12 PM - 1 Like   #6
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signing print

Yes, by all means sign your work, but certainly not the mat. The function of a mat is twofold: to enhance the image contained within it; and to protect the artwork with a substrate that is free of acids and that also can be replaced if it is soiled or damaged -if your signature is on a mat that is replaced..... Some photographers refuse to sign the front, only using the back, however, the general convention is the front bottom right. By signing the work you are making it limited, personal, and attesting to the fact that this work represents you and is of good quality. Although photography is obviously duplicated when a painting, for example, is one-off, the numbers are generally still fairly low in most cases. If you choose to number your prints, then be careful that you do not exceed that number in that edition. Some date their work, some do not, this is an individual choice. Whatever you choose to do, be tasteful and make certain that the image mounting is reversible in the future. Good luck to you and congratulations on having your pictures on display.
06-24-2012, 02:21 PM   #7
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This thread is 2 months old now and so i thought i'd give it an update.

I think signing pictures is an important thing to do, it says something about your attitude, i.e. I made this picture and am proud of it.

Since i last posted on this thread, i had a print accepted into the Edmonds Art Festival, WA, and attended an artist's reception for that event (i know - brag, brag, brag :-)) As i walked around the photography display, I looked for signatures on each one. This is what i found (sorry i don't have exact numbers - too many people to be able to conveniently count.
a. The majority had no evident signing, but i couldn't look on the back - and it wouldn't have been appropriate for me to take them off the display :-(

b. Some were signed on the picture itself

c. Some were signed on a white border of the picture itself

d. Some were signed on the mat.

I signed my print on the back of the canvas itself, in an area of darkish color so that it wouldn't show through, even in unlikely back light. Very lightly signed it with permanent ink so no indentation would show. Also wrote down the copyright symbol and printed my name.

I'm going to date it in the future as well, but am not going to serialize them. In reading the various forums on art shows and selling prints, etc., there are some counterpoints to serializing them - and its convinced me not to do it. But i'm not criticizing anyone that chooses to do so.

The one picture that was accepted from me won no prizes but sold (and it was signed :-)) at the highest amount i've ever charged, so that was a nice feeling.

In the future when i enter juried shows, i'm going to put "signed" in the comments section of the entry form. Its so much easier for the painters - tradition accepts they are going to sign their work - and they just do it automatically. we photogs just wring our hands over the issue. I'm willing to bet there were a number of prints in this show that were not signed at all. i think thats sad in a way.
06-24-2012, 07:16 PM   #8
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Phil, congratulations on your acceptance to the exhibit and the sale of your work. Some may argue this point, but work is considered copyrighted in this country whether it has the symbol present or not. Having the symbol present is fine, a copyright symbol essentially identifies work as your property, however, if it ever came down to trying to defend your rights and work as your property, unless you have established a date by registering it with the US Copyright Office, it could be an uphill and expensive battle for you. If you have work that's important to you and is going to be in the public arena, then register it/them with the copyright office, and you can do this for multiple images at one time since there is a fee involved.
I personally don't agree with those who sign a mat for the reasons I stated in my previous post; the mat is not necessarily permanent and if it goes because of damage or reframing, so does anything on it. Whether it is signed on the front or back is a personal decision, however do be careful with the type of pigment used in the signing instrument, some inks change color over time; etc.. if you use ink it is a good idea to use a well pigmented one that is considered permanent. On a personal level, I prefer to use a pencil on the front, but I am not using the glossy photographic paper. I have a friend who always signs the front of his images with a stylus, or ball point whose ink is gone, thus leaving only an impression; this is a very subtle way of signing. And last, although it has nothing to do with the quality of the image, it confers an intangible value to those considering purchase as a "signed work". Best wishes to you for future success.

06-25-2012, 12:40 AM   #9
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Thanks fstop for the kind words, very much appreciated.

I agree with you on signing the mat.

One of the reasons i don't sign on the print face is i don't want to put a distracting element into the image. I know its a subjective thing, but it matters to some people. I know one painter who very artfully prints her name in small letters and incorporates it into other picture elements. It doesn't distract and is even hard to find. When she scans her original, that signature goes with the scan and becomes a part of the digital original. I did that one time by adding an electronic signature into one of my prints - but it was unsatisfying, in a way. I suppose its like when an author signs a published book. The original signature adds an an intangible linkage to the author.

Its not like i'm ever going to mass produce prints such that i can't take the time to sign one at a time :-)
06-25-2012, 05:20 AM   #10
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Phil, it really comes down to a personal level, there are no hard and fast rules for many things in the art world. I would, however, have to think long and hard as to whether an embedded signature was a watermark/facsimile or not; personally in most cases that is how I would regard it. If it were something absolutely unique and consistent, then possibly, but it would not have the cache of a handwritten notation to me. Some photographers only use a "chop" to make an impression in the paper to show authenticity, which falls somewhere in-between. The idea, regardless of how it's done, is to identify the print indelibly as something an artist has made, and generally because the number of works signed will be low; those works are therefore limited. Last , as you said well, it presents a tangible linkage to the artist. The medium of digital photography has presented a conundrum in several ways, you have touched lightly upon one. In any case, while discussion is worthwhile, the important thing is that you are satisfied on a personal, meaningful level.

Last edited by fstop; 06-26-2012 at 01:10 PM.
06-25-2012, 08:42 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by philbaum Quote
I currently have a month long show up in a wine shop that has an artists loft for such events, so perhaps i'm a temp. pro. But i'd really like to explore this question more.

Today i walked thru a co-op gallery show which was a tribute to one of their photographers who died recently. Kit Taylor considered himself a street photographer, but his images went beyond that. Surprisingly, some images that came out of his house were even finer than the ones he usually showed at the gallery - a mystery there. When there were no customers in the store, we would have some great conversations and he let me look through his new Fuji x100 which he enjoyed. I'll miss him.

But to get back to the question. Some of Kit's prints were signed on the image itself and some were not. The ones that were signed were priced significantly higher than those that were unsigned.

In my current show, i've not signed them on the front, but stapled my business card on the back of the stretched canvas prints with contact information.

Painters don't hesitate to sign the front of their artwork, but many photographers seem reticent about the practice. I'm wondering what the pros or pro-like members thing about signing their art work they are selling or displaying. A poll is attached if you don't want to spend the time with an answer.

Thank you!
I don't sign prints on the image because (a) I don't like it and (b) I have bad arthritis and have a lot of trouble producing a decent, consistent signature. My solution has been to design a template for certificates of authenticity on 5x7 archival paper. I drop in a small version of the actual image, enter the title, and initial by hand. The buyer can attach the certificate to the back of whatever frame or mount is chosen. I only print and initial certificates as I make prints, so there are no extra certificates to be attached to images after I am hit by a bus. This approach has been very well-received in all the galleries I have sold through since adopting this approach..

There is also no harm in signing and dating the back of the print as backup, especially if the print is not to be dry-mounted. Or you can sign the back of the substrate if the print is mounted without a matte. I think the artsy term for that is "signature au verso".

The point of the exercise, in any case,, is to establish "provenance". Certain people really like to honk that word through their upturned noses.

My personal opinion is that more sophistcated galleries and collectors are not likely to be crazy about photographs signed on the image. Signatures on the matte used to be OK, but that fashion may have changed. I would probably sign mattes if I could make a decent job of it.

John

Last edited by John Poirier; 06-25-2012 at 08:58 PM.
06-26-2012, 05:25 AM   #12
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John, I'm sorry about your arthritis problem, that's something I wish a cure would be found for. I think that you have found a good work-around for your signature. While there are some upturned noses who purchase soley to flaunt provenance, it's a two edged sword, since it also establishes that an artist produced a work at a given time (assuming it is dated, or has been registered at the copyright office) so that in the case of plagiarism it can be more easily defended, or (hopefully!) should the artist become collectable, it may/can establish value by virtue of the limited number signed and when it was made -these things do matter to some collectors. And last, please bear in mind that I'm not trying to pick on you, a kind reminder that sophisticated galleries will hardly disregard a print signed by someone such as Ansel Adams on the front. And speaking of signatures, take a look at one by Ruth Bernhard some time, she used a broad nibbed pen to give a very bold signature. Where someone chooses to sign an image is their own business; Stieglitz reputedly once became very angry with a patron who wanted him to sign a print and retorted "Look at the sky, do you see God's signature?!" This is all very personal and subjective, but from a conservator's viewpoint signing a mat is not the best plan since the role of the mat is to protect the image underneath by keeping it from contact with the glass; to protect the edges of the print; and to complement the image visually. If a mat is damaged it can be replaced, it will have served its purpose, but anything on the mat may also be replaced. However one does or does not sign their work, I wish them well.
06-26-2012, 06:24 AM   #13
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I don't sign the front of a print. I do sign the back up in the photo margin with a permanent fine Sharpie, usually in gray or silver, because it's less likely to bleed through than the black pens will. Usually I don't sign it where it would matter if it did, but still I'd prefer it that way if I was buying a print. There to mark who took it and the date, but not in my face, only on the back. I figure if I ever take a gallery worthy shot it will have a card under it telling everyone who took it. Otherwise I'm humble and I only sign on the back. Digitally speaking that's another story. I watermark the heck out of any work I care about and make it less than 72dpi usually besides. But I think if someone is actually buying a a real print they actually deserve to be able to see it sans any vanity on my part. If they ask I'll sign it on front but normally I only do it on the back.
06-26-2012, 06:47 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by demp10 Quote
It is unlikely that a serious collector will pay serious money for an unsigned work of art.

The real value of an unsigned fine art photograph is, for the most part, equal to the cost of materials used. The signature adds the rest.

In many art circles, it is considered amateuristic to sign a print on the front or on the front mat. The preferred place is the back or the borders that are covered by the mat. A date and copyright notice is also desirable and common.

Even more important to collectors is to limit the prints to a small number of copies.

I agree to an extent.

I would sign somewhere outside of the image and also show somthing to the effects of 1 of 10. I'd place any copyright and contact info on the back of the print towards the center. This all would apply towards a gallery print.

If it were something such as a wedding album; it just depends. If it would not be somewhere on visible on the front it would most definately be on the inside front cover; and also on the back of every print
06-26-2012, 03:00 PM   #15
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Sign, sign, & sign...wherever.

I see so many excellent pictures on these forums, I just want to see folks signing their work - wherever they decide to do it.

The posts we are getting are great - noone insisting this is the only way to do it, just how they do it and why. Let each decide, but please sign!

I'll repeat where i started from - a photographer in a local co-op gallery died, and the gallery was nice enough to hold a month long display of his work. The signed copies of his work were selling for a lot more than the unsigned - if that makes a difference to anyone :-)

Magkelly - love your new avatar - cool!
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