It has been four months since my initial proposal and I'm prepared to call the experiment a total bust. Of the 8 photographers who signed on originally, I don't think any followed through with the trade. The only person I'm sure sent off a print was myself. When I emailed a followup reminder a few weeks after the trade to make sure everyone had mailed and received their print ok, and to get feedback on the process, there was no reply from anyone. A clear bust.
I've been thinking about the swap and what went wrong, and how I might have structured it differently. I think two issues stymied the process.
The first issue, raised at the outset by several people, was quality control. I put no restrictions on who could join the swap. In effect it was totally unjuried because I was unwilling to play the role of judge, and because I thought less restrictions would encourage more entrants. But it worked the other way. Some photographers were unwilling to sign up for the trade without some quality filter in place.
The second problem is that the trade relied on trust in strangers. Basically I needed folks to trust in the process enough to just send a print to a stranger on the assumption that some other stranger would do the same for them. There was no guarantee that this would work other than my optimistic promise. And to most readers of this blog I am basically a stranger myself without a strong enough record to back up the process. Although I suspected this might be an issue for some, I underestimated how little trust exists in cyberspace, and I think this mistrust ultimately hurt the print swap.
But don't worry. I still trust everyone (at the same time I trust no institutions), and I'm still willing to trade prints with any photographer out there.