Attaining Value

May 24, 2016 3 Comments

Thurston Photo waves shooting at home

- Photo by Bryce Thurston.

Today we are living in an incredibly digital culture that thrives on an instantly gratifying lifestyle. An information era of screens and visual demands that is advancing much faster than our own processors can possibly keep up with. For example, over 80 million photos a day are being uploaded to Instagram and over 350 million photos a day are being uploaded to Facebook among its collective 1.5 billion users worldwide.. And that’s just 2 social media outlets uploading to the internet, not the photos that are actually being taken. You can imagine the amount of photos getting around in the world right now would be potentially comparable to the grains of sand on a beach.. Kind of overwhelming I know.

The advancement of technology seemingly appears to be primarily focused on making things more and more easy and convenient. Taking a photo for example has never been easier, kids are given phones before they can walk and every cellphone now has a camera in it, and I absolutely agree that photography is a great tool for communication and sharing stories and lives, but with cameras being so accessible it raises some questions.. does taking a photo make someone a photographer, and does being a photographer necessarily make someone an artist? Indeed, art is a very broadly used term for ones individual expressions, and not for a minute am I taking away from anyone’s endeavors to create it, but to dignify the term, I’d like to entertain the idea that the title ‘Artist’ is a well-deserved attainment for someone held in high regard for the works that he or she creates, not a term for a beginner pushing buttons. We all begin somewhere and that is a very healthy thing, but what differentiates one image from another in the sea of photos out there, is its value; everything changes when we introduce that special thing called ‘value’. Value is in my opinion, the separation from the masses, the distinguishing factor and explains how a single grain of sand can be worth so much. But what it is, and how do we get it? As you read on, I am going to briefly explore the concept of value, its cost, and the journey involved in attaining it for your work.

You may have heard it said ‘Everything has been done before.’ That concept is an increasingly challenging one, I can’t even begin to describe how many times I’ve envisioned something, got excited about it, only to see it pop up somewhere before I had the chance, resource, funds, equipment or time to capture it. There are over 7 billion people in the world and an estimated 2.5 billion of them have digital cameras with access to the internet, out of that figure, how long is your ‘never been done’ idea going to keep its discretion? Or more accurately thinking, how many times has it been done already that we’re not aware of or it hasn’t become mainstream/viral enough for it to appear on our own screen yet. Interesting thought, however, my take is that, regardless of the flooded, image-saturated world, an artist is not worried about plagiarism or figures, he/she is patient, and executes their vision the way they see it..

Thurston Photo getting the shot. Photo by Matt Blakers

Photo by Matt Blakers.

A camera creates a snapshot of a subject, but a photographic artist will interpret a subject. The lens of a camera is technical, achieving a technical result, but the lens of a human is emotional, capable of achieving an emotional result with meaning attached to it. An image by a film-camera is processed with chemicals (or today’s cameras; data processed by an internal computer) but an artist will process an image with the mind and heart. That’s where the worth and value is added to ones work, creating an image with the mind and heart. An image that originates out of that space, will create an experience for the viewer, an emotional connection. When someone engages with that, it will be valuable to them.

I’ve always had a connection with the ocean, drawn to its power and emotive displays of both wild chaos and peaceful serenity. Like a living creature with personality and mood, all the attributes of a free will, yet still confined to its own borders and limitations. For me, capturing it, provides a sense of connection to something greater, an invitation to wonder and be filled with that sense of belonging. I’ll go to great lengths to capture it in all its artistic performances and use the best gear I can to relay the detail I see with my own eyes.

Adding Value to Your Work:

0% off sale! If you advertised your work with that pitch how many people would jump at that? If none, then there is work to be done. It’s an interesting world selling prints or artworks, my personal interpretation of an artwork that is on sale, is an artwork that lacks value. Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Desperation to sell and lowering the price does not add value, patience, self-worth & integrity adds value. Putting 100% of your passion and life into your work adds value. If you put 100% into your art, your price should reflect that.

An artist NEVER puts his work on sale. Because price is linked to value. In fact, the price of art should actually rise over time. A timeless piece of work, doesn’t go out of date, nor does it expire and it doesn’t become irrelevant, old, or ever need to be updated. If this is the case, what motivates someone to put it on sale? Could it be the market pressure, or could it be lack of value in their own work. I can understand it can be tempting in this image saturated world to promote a bargain, in fact I’ve seen a lot of photographers promote the sale price of their work for far less than it cost to have my own work printed and framed! As a photographer and artist, it’s important to know having the lowest price is NOT going to lead to long-term success, art doesn’t work that way, save the bargain thinking for the grocery store. A low price will only lead to low value and decrease in profile. I’ve sold many prints all over the world to people whom share the worth and value I’ve invested into Thurston Photo. They have all been sold for what I believe they are worth. If you can’t put value on your own work, how is anyone else supposed to.. Putting a piece that someone has paid $1000 for on sale for $500 would be an insult to the collector and devalue the piece of art on their wall.

Print by Thurston Photo

Let’s take this image for example: The camera cost $2000, the lens; $2500, the housing system over $4000, the card that reads the image data $120, the Jetski I’m sitting on $8500, the 4WD that towed it to the ramp; Ongoing $$, my wetsuit, the fuel, the airfare, food, camping equipment, survival gear, emergency items, and that’s not including the risk, the time, the energy, and I won’t go into the 10 years I spent shooting photos to develop an eye for the shot or the decade in post processing experience I pushed through, learning how to develop what I’ve captured. Yes, anyone can take a photo, but the ones that I take are not going on sale. That image is worth a lot to me. Why? Well, not only is it a frozen moment of time that will never repeat, it’s a representation of passion, a token of commitment, dedication, persistence and energy that has been poured into a purpose, a purpose to inspire, to promote wonder, to engage thought and appreciation of something beautiful and true beauty is priceless, true beauty is timeless. Shoes go on sale. Art does not.

Photographic art is not a perishable, nor is it a fashionable item, it’s an interpretation that has taken a lifetime to develop. The intricacies of an individual’s world expressed through a visual medium and processed by a human heart with a unique and exclusively wondrous mind. 

"In an age where everything seems so attainable, we often don’t appreciate the cost involved in attaining something truly beautiful."

Thanks for reading and being a part of Thurston Photo! 

- PT :)

3 Responses


June 24, 2016

I get what you are saying, I agree with what you are saying, unfortunately the digital world has stripped value from all but the work of a select few photographers, in todays world no-one cares what it cost to make an image, as soon as you put it online any value it had is gone because it will have been seen, shared and onto the next one we go. You take incredible images, in my opinion some of the very best that are out there, but there are literally thousands of similar (ish) shots that get posted on social media. Generally photographers sell stuff because it is relevent to the area/person/event etc there will always be that market, the fact that you are telling people how much it costs to create an image just goes to show how ill educated the masses are. Untill that changes then the cost to create will always outweigh the monetary reward. Peace.

Brad McDill
Brad McDill

June 23, 2016

Well said and kudos to you for putting in the time and effort to create such amazingly beautiful pieces! I’m an aspiring nature/landscape photographer struggling with the sense that my work will never be as good/unique/valuable/loved as so many others out there. I’ll keep doing it though, because I love to. Thanks

Bruce Thomson
Bruce Thomson

June 23, 2016

Hi PHIL, that’s a thought that I have had for a while, but your words give it real meaning! Thanks so much for taking the time to say it.

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