I was at a local estate sale recently, something you'll find me doing most Thursday and Friday mornings. I was looking for a deal, to add to my camera or photo collection or really any kind of deal. I had found a very nice lot of photographs from the late 1800's when I saw a black frame out of the corner of my eye. One of the things I look for are frames in good condition that I can use. I did a double-take on the image in the frame. It was one of my photographs.
Some of my photography is available at a couple of local shops, plus the occasional local art festivals. The asking price was $5.00 so I bought it, figuring that I could put the print back into circulation and at the worst, get a decent frame out of it.
So I brought the picture home and proceeded to dismantle it. The image was one of my "Reconstructions," that had obviously been purchased as a print without frame. The buyer, or gift giver had thoughtfully put it in a plain black frame with a black pre-cut mat. The photo was a longer horizontal, and the mat was 11 x 14, so something had to give. What gave was a brutal (ouch!) crop on the print to make it fit the mat, with about five inches lopped off the right side, including my signature.
Now I'm sure most artists think of the work they produce as valuable merchandise, destined to grow more valuable as time passes. But the raw truth is that most folks don't always see it that way, especially photographs. I believe they purchase art because something about it resonates with them. I stewed for a bit, thinking "how could you do this to a piece of art?" And obviously the answer was in this case, it wasn't art, it was just a photograph. And I'm not Ansel.