If photography is as simple as pointing and clicking, why are beautiful framed pictures so damn expensive?
It’s something we pondered while at House of Spoils, a pop-up photography gallery now open at Platform in Culver City (you can also shop online). It’s an offshoot of Mister Spoils, the aspirational e-newsletter that contains Instagram images of beautiful women, action sports, European cars and nature.
To be fair, the black-and-whites on offer here — which range from motorcyclists charging down a beach to a bare female tush emerging from a swimming pool — are hardly overpriced. The images come in three sizes (18x14, 27x20 and 41x30) and at most will run you $350, framed and shipped.
But they look so good we began to wonder what goes into pricing photographic art. Here are two things to keep in mind:
1. The notability of the artist
House of Spoils runs images by amateur and hobbyist photographers whose careers are just taking off. Clint Robert makes a living shooting fashion. Riley Harper is a stuntman. Tom Hawkins is a creative at Deus.
2. The materials used
House of Spoils prints using archival inks, a more durable digital-printmaking process that ensures at least 20 years of vitality. It’s also waterproof. This is the high side of digital printing, an additive process of applying dots to paper, much as your ink-jet printer would. They also work with Framebridge, a direct-to-consumer frame company does great work for a fraction of the cost.
Using chemicals to develop images is another more expensive — yet higher quality — method of processing. This is where you hear of things like C-Type prints (which can be done digitally well), silver gelatin (premium black-and-whites) and silkscreening (think Warhol).
As for where else you can buy quality photography in L.A.? Here are three more galleries we love.
Rose Gallery has an exhibit right now by German photographer Elger Esser, whose bucolic images are rendered on copper plates using a chemical process that’s indelible and appears almost ghostly.
Kopeikin consistently puts on exhibits that straddle the line between conceptual and accessible. You’ll find artists like Tabitha Soren, Blake Little and Steve Finch, whose current exhibit Vanishing Vernacular catalogues the neon glow from our nation’s dying roadside businesses.
Von Lintel Gallery
Von Lintel often features photographers alongside their typical fine-art fare, like their upcoming exhibit with Klea McKenna, a tactile shutterbug whose prints are done in silver gelatin.