Expert art photographer, Ali Elai of Camerarts, shares his tricks of the trade

by leslierankowfinearts

Photographing sculpture Studio, Camerarts, NY

Photographing sculpture
Studio, Camerarts, NY

SINCE ITS INCEPTION IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY, PHOTOGRAPHY HAS OFFERED AN UNPRECEDENTED WAY TO STUDY AND EVALUATE WORKS OF ART. THROUGH LIGHTING, FOCUS, ANGLE OF VIEW AND THE TECHNIQUES INITIALLY OF DARK ROOM AND NOW DIGITAL MANIPULATION, PHOTOGRAPHERS NOT ONLY DOCUMENT THE WORKS THEY RECORD BUT ALSO CREATIVELY PRESENT AND INTERPRET THEM. IN 2011, THE CURATORIAL STAFF OF THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK,  OFFERED A CRITICAL EXAMINATION OF THE INTERSECTIONS BETWEEN PHOTOGRAPHY AND SCULPTURE IN AN EXHIBITION ENTITLED THE ORIGINAL COPY: PHOTOGRAPHY OF SCULPTURE, 1839 TO TODAY. THIS CRITICAL EXAMINATION PRESENTED NEARLY THREE HUNDRED OUTSTANDING PICTURES OF SCULPTURE FROM MODERNISM TO THE PRESENT, LOOKING AT THE WAYS IN WHICH PHOTOGRAPHY INFORMS AND CHALLENGES OUR UNDERSTANDING OF WORKS OF ART.

ALI ELAI, OF CAMERARTS, HAS A PRACTICAL UNDERSTANDING OF THESE ISSUES AND PROVIDES HIS CLIENTS, THAT RANGE FROM MUSEUM CURATORS TO GALLERIES TO PRIVATE COLLECTORS AND DEALERS,  THE TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE AND AESTHETIC SENSIBILITY NOT ONLY TO RECORD WORKS OF ART BUT ALSO TO PRESENT THEM  TO THEIR BEST ADVANTAGE.  ALI AND HIS TEAM CAN BE REACHED AT CAMERARTS,  Tel: (212) 517-3982  Fax:(212) 249-9295,  camerarts@gmail.com

IN TODAY’S LRFA BLOG, ALI ELAI EXPLORES AND EXPLAINS THE THINKING PROCESS AND CONCERNS THAT PRODUCE THE BEST PHOTOGRAPHS.

ALI, THANKS SO MUCH FOR YOUR CONTRIBUTION.  HOW CAN THE CLIENT, BE IT A GALLERIST, PRIVATE COLLECTOR OR DEALER BEST EXPRESS THEIR REQUIREMENTS? WHAT ARE  THE  DIFFICULTIES IN COMMUNICATING A TECHNICAL CRAFT TO THE LAYMAN?

On a more personal level, I find it problematic to deal with the occasional client who doesn’t seem to understand the basics of photography. Obviously, an informed client is far better able to communicate what he or she wants. In addition, the uninformed client sometimes makes statements or asks questions that — and I think this is as gentle as I can put it — don’t make a lot of sense. To give just one example, I once had a client who showed me the negative for a painting and asked me whether I could reproduce the back of the picture frame simply by turning the transparent negative around! Suffice it to say, this is not how negatives and transparencies work. But it is questions like these that warrant patience and understanding. 

DO YOU WORK PRIMARILY FOR PRIVATE COLLECTORS OR PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS OR A MIX OF BOTH?  DO YOU FIND THAT THE REQUESTS OF PRIVATE COLLECTORS TO DIFFER FROM THOSE OF THE GALLERIES AND THE PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS? IF SO, IN WHAT WAY?

I have worked with all categories of people within the art community, including publishers, artists, galleries and advertising agencies, as well as lawyers specializing in estate law and divorce law. Generally speaking, private art dealers are in more of a rush than, say, galleries, to have the work completed. This is because they generally work on consignment and have a limited time to get a deal done. Galleries, on the other hand, schedule their appointments around their shows and catalogs. Because of this, they often have a bigger time cushion and are rarely in a huge rush to have a job completed.   

HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THE DEMANDS OF THE GALLERY BUSINESS CHANGE?

At the peak of the art market’s boom era, galleries were popping up faster than anyone could keep track of. Just trying to keep up and fulfill demand was lucrative for a great many people and companies. The galleries themselves seemed to follow the philosophy that you have to spend money to make money, so they were extremely active both in terms of buying and selling and in their use of companies like Camerarts. I sometimes photographed the same artwork multiple times for various dealers as they changed hands quickly. Eventually, of course, the market’s pace slowed a great deal. There were a number of reasons for that, chief among them the economic downturn. They seemed to he much more cautious in their spending on catalogue printing and photography.

IN OUR NEXT BLOG, ALI ENLIGHTENS US ON THE WAYS IN WHICH TECHNICAL ADVANCEMENTS OF DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY HAVE ENHANCED THE PRESENTATION OF ART, IN THE MARKET AND IN THE WORLD OF ART COLLECTING.  I WELCOME YOUR QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS AND LOOK FORWARD TO HEARING FROM YOU!