Returning from holiday in Northumberland I stopped at a petrol station and found that they were selling ‘Limited Edition’ sandwiches. Not just local sandwiches either but Boots (I think) Limted Edition Chicken and Pesto sandwiches. I’m not sure why they were Limited in Edition – surely they didn’t buy the last 3 pots of red pesto from the supermarket, and there was no evidence of any numbering system, holographic id or certificate of authenticity.
Strangely, at the time I was just amused and slightly irritated at the arrant nonsense marketing teams will produce by way of decoration and attempting to offer some sense of exclusivity. I didn’t at first consider how the relation to the photography and print market, where limited editions are all the rage. I would be delighted to limit my editions to 250 or 500 prints – it would have no impact on the level of sales… and presumably none on value either. Given that photography was created, at least in part, to allow limitless reproduction of images, as compared to the limited numbers that can genuinely be made from some printing plates (look up Collograph for what can be a particularly fragile approach) to artifically limit production is simply a device to control the volume of product and hence maintain prices. In a market that is heavily oversupplied, there are many substitutes for most of the photography for sale and, like the sandwiches, it may not be helpful in generating sales from knowledgeable customers.
As a side note, if your work has value because it was done by you and not because of the image itself, then there is a very strong case to limit production. This is what the art market is all about I think. Limited productions by ‘approved’ masters or artists.
Of course, one good reason to limit production could be to allow yourself to move on. In this case, just make one or at the most a couple at the same time and then do exactly that. Move on. The only reason to come back then would be to do something new with the negative or file, and if you are making new work you may not have the enthusiasm for that when the cost is not making something entirely new with your time.
I didn’t buy the Limited Edition sandwiches.