Monday, May 18, 2009

Plunge right in

Although the soaking of art collectors is a long and venerable tradition, the liquid immersion of actual art is much less developed. Hirst's shark comes to mind, and of course Piss Christ. But after those two the falloff is dramatic. And when it comes to photography the field is quite barren.

Humble Arts lays the foundation for a good soaking

Fortunately this situation is about to change. With its recent publication The Collector's Guide to Submerging Art Photography, The Humble Arts Foundation has laid the groundwork for collectors everywhere to soak their photographs safely and comfortably. Billed as "an invite only, unique 180–page source book distributed to collectors, art dealers, gallery directors, photo editors, museum professionals, and independent curators" this is a step by step guide to submerging photography.

The key insight of The Collector's Guide is that every photograph is unique, and so requires a unique approach. There are many possible methods of immersion. The guide carefully describes them all. For smaller prints like postcards, polaroids, and the daguerreotype shown below, a quick dunking in a fishbowl will suffice.

Most photographs can be submerged indoors in just a few minutes

For larger framed photographs like the Arbus prints shown below, a fish bowl is not sufficient. The prints would feel very cramped if submerged in such an environment. Instead, most collectors will find a large backyard receptacle to be more suitable.

Photographs should be tossed with care to minimize any damage to the frame or glass

Of course Humble Arts realizes that the majority of collectors wouldn't be caught dead dunking valuable photos in a fishbowl or tossing them into a pool. These are both shallow experiences compared to photographic diving.

Photographs by Katy Grannan and Richard Avedon add a touch of class to any underwater scene

According to collectors in the know, there is nothing like frolicking underwater with framed prints. To pull their wire hangers or feel one nuzzle against your diving apparatus is an incomparable experience, but one which requires training and preparation. Fortunately more than half of the guide is devoted to the practice of full submersion.

Because art photography submersion is an emerging practice, many collectors don't yet appreciate it. The initial reaction is often confusion or outright hostility. "Why would I want to do that?" asks the typical collector. This turns out to be a good question. After all most photographs turn into a soggy dripping mess when they get wet. Where's the payoff?

This is where editing is crucial. Many photographs survive just fine. The key is determining the specific soakability of each photo. It can make or break any submersion. Fortunately the guide's last three chapters describe the editing process, and in so doing they will help bridge the gap for hesitant or unapproachable collectors.

The Collector's Guide comes along at the perfect time. After the recent housing crash many homeowners find themselves underwater already, and the extension to photography is a natural fit. After reading the guide anyone should be ready to plunge right into submerging art photography.

1 comment:

amani olu said...

Wow, this is awesome. Thanks!