A recent task was to tell the gallery that represents me in New York City just how many prints I have on hand of each of more than 100 photos. They have one to three prints of each one. I found no prints at all of several. That was the easy part. Of the rest, I found from one to several prints of each. Finding them required (1) a long-overdue filing frenzy, looking through many prints and putting each one in its place among my boxes, and (2) going through the boxes to find all the prints I have of the photos on the gallery’s list.
I started this in April, taught workshops in June, then picked the job up again in July, and finished in October. I set aside all the prints I found of the gallery-list photos. They fill seven 11×14×3-inch boxes, a substantial stack. Another small box holds written papers—the gallery’s list, and my list of the prints I found for them. Typing my long list took several hours, too.
I got a lot of exercise lugging print boxes from shelves to a table and back: paper is heavy. I also learned some things I hadn’t known. I found that I generally have more prints per picture of my early work than of anything done later. That’s because I did a lot of reprinting as I gradually came to see how poorly I’d printed many photos at the start. Many of my “vintage” prints, wanted by the gallery because they fetch higher prices than later prints, fall in this poorly-printed class.
Apparently bad printing bothers dealers and collectors less than it bothers me. Nicks and scrapes and stains seem to bother them more than poor printing. Recent photographic forgeries, sold to dealers as prints made by Lewis Hine and by Man Ray, were detected and deplored because the prints were too good.
To my mind, anyone who prints good pictures better than the photographers who originally made them is doing a public service. This should be considered by the court. Good printing is no crime. The crime is the deception, the pretense that those photographers had made the prints that he, the forger, “found.” It seems to me that a forger who prints too well should pay a f ine and suffer a legal slap on the wrist. He should then be put on the payroll to do good honest printing as himself. We shouldn’t waste such talents.