Art Photography and Context

From Austin Storm
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Obviously, it doesn’t help that the commercial world of photography — galleries and collectors — just love the idea of the unique object. If it’s not fully unique (most photographs simply aren’t — they can be made in any number), then they will have to be artificially limited: editions.

In the end, Gallerists don’t sell photographs, they sell an object that has an aura — to use Walter Benjamin’s term, and for most photographs (there are exceptions), the aura solely derives from the edition number. (Another way to describe what gallerists do would be to say they sell decorations that come with a form of prestige.)

The commerce-based world of photography exaggerates the aura even further by showing such photographs in often very expensive frames in very large spaces whose walls have been painted white. Galleries try very hard to look like museums (and not like the showrooms that actually are), because by construction (in our society) a museum comes with certain ideas attached: careful curation and a larger cultural prestige.

- Jörg M. Colberg, The Print, the book, the screen