NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2009

CREATIVE ACCOUNTING

Two Photographs

$11,095.57 and $6,667.28

Film photography is a delicate combination of preparation and serendipity. Film speed, aperture dilation, exposure time, and the intensity of light burning into the film must all be in balance. Add in film developers and printers, and the process of making a single photo relies on a series of trained assistants and specialized equipment.

The following are the complete budgets for two photographs by Laura Letinsky, an artist and photographer based in Chicago. The budgets are divided into three sections: preparation, shooting, and processing. Preparation is the cost of traveling to and preparing a scene. Shooting costs cover the equipment that the photographer uses to take the actual photograph. We have listed the cost of buying new equipment, which has a long professional life—too long for us to accurately estimate one photo’s toll. Processing is the cost of transforming 4" x 5" negatives into an image on a gallery wall.

In the first case, Letinsky’s Italian gallery, Brancolini Grimaldi, sent her on a three-and-a-half-week tour: she visited fifteen Italian patrons over three weeks, ate lunch with them, and then took photographs of each meal’s leftovers, which she carefully arranged as a way to explore the tension between planning and spontaneity. She ended the trip with seven gallery-quality images.

To contrast with Letinsky’s $10,488.91 commissioned photograph, the second budget is for a photo she took in her own home. She used the same painstaking process, which uses expensive film and processing, but without traveling farther than the supermarket for her shot.

This is an installment of Creative Accounting, an ongoing series that shows where the money goes in the major creative industries. Future issues will cover dance, fine art, television, and more. Eventually, the series will be collected into a single, indispensable volume, published by Believer Books.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Chris Benz

Chris Benz lives and works in the Bay Area.

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