In the shadow

In the market of the arts, fairs and gallery exhibitions, it is customary to put coloured stickers next to the works on display: red if the work has been sold, green if it is still for sale.
Photography, just like any other art form, is no exception.
If the copy of a work produced by hand can be defined a ‘fake’, this it cannot be said for a photograph whose reproducibility is inherent. We remember the words of Walter Benjamin, who said: " the work of art reproduced becomes increasingly the reproduction of a work of art related to
the reproducibility”.1
In the digital era, it has also become extremely easy to reproduce an image.
The ‘copy’ of an original photo is identical to the original. It is itself an original, and its birth in chronological order cannot determine that it is a copy, nor the depreciation of its ‘hic et nunc’2; its lesser value depends on the intention to repeat a moment which in itself is unique.
So if there is a depreciation of this moment, it is only because a certain type of photography has bowed to market forces.
Increasingly often, ‘exhibition’ photographers decide to create multiple works to be exhibited, and sold.
In a limited set of three specimens, the value of the ‘copy’ 1 of 5 is different from that of number 5 of 5; the variation is upwards.
The market mechanism is simple: when you reach the last example, the price is driven up by the perception that there are none more available.
And while it is true on one hand that an original ‘single’ is more valuable because of its uniqueness, it is also true that the last copies of multiple examples are worth more: if two out of three copies of a work have been sold, then the third will be more expensive.
Yet they are identical! And another paradox: in order to maintain the value of a work, there should not be too many copies on the market.
There was a time when the artists who worked on commission, bowing to the whims of their patrons, rebelled, each in his own way, by discretely hiding a mark in the work.

1 W. Benjamin, L'opera d'arte nell'epoca della sua riproducibilità tecnica, Einaudi, Torino 2011
  Original title: Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit, 1935
2 Ibidem