When the Editing Luke travel photography and film projects took a pause during lockdown last year I never would've imagined that 16 months later I'd be reflecting on selling prints of my work. Sure, corporate commissions or the odd personal order weren't entirely uncommon in previous years, but what happened during lockdown was absolutely insane.
I can't overstate this - I've sold more prints in the last 12 months than in every other previous year combined since I made my first artwork sale in 2012.
What makes this a bit crazy is that it all happened through online flash sales - no brick and mortar location, no permanent ecommerce site to order from, no print business established before lockdown hit. I was following the same model as Supreme and dropping limited releases at random. I owe the success of this entire grand experiment to an engaged following and a few strategically run Facebook ads when the new prints went live.How did this happen?
I took the Henry Ford approach to mass production when I had so much new content being released each week - you could have any size print you wanted as long as it was an 8x10" and any colour frame you wanted as long as it was black or white.
Not only did the limitations work, but it made selections a simple, standardized process. It also meant that because the prints and frames were always the same size, it wasn't uncommon for people to keep coming back to add new prints to their collections as the months rolled on.
Where was all this new content for prints coming from? Well, there was already years of back catalog from previous travel shoots that many were happy to look through, but roughly 80% of all the sales over the last 16 months were driven by the new releases coming from my lockdown inspired "Hometown Series" shot in Medicine Hat, Alberta.From prairie landscapes and brick facades to epic sunsets and small town quirks, the series had me exploring my hometown again and sharing the novelty with an audience that was just as captive as I was. Interestingly, because of the nature of my work, that audience just happened to be a lot more spread out than I had actually realized.
Until the print shop I really had no idea how varied my following actually was in age, location, and interest because I hadn't ever been selling to them directly. The moment I always reflect on when I mention this to someone is that I remember during one of my first flash sales I had two matching orders but one was shipping to a university dorm and the other was going to a retirement village. That's some broad appeal!People sometimes think I'm joking when I say that the print sales really did become an elaborate operation when the production company was on pause, but the reality was chaotic. At its peak I had hundreds of boxed frames lining my walls, hundreds of prints cataloged, a framing station, a parcel station, regular deliveries and shipments happening every week, and bi-weekly day trips up to Calgary for restock.
To my amazement, it turned out I had years worth of people who had been interested in my work or who had wanted to purchase a print from me but simply never knew how to go about it because I had never made it an option. There had just never been time. So with everything on hold and then nothing but time, everything just kind of lined up to give this a go.
After 16 months it really was a wild ride.
In addition to the unbelievable amount a prints that were delivered locally, my framed prints were shipped all across Canada to all 10 provinces + the Yukon territory, to over 30 U.S. States, and to 8 countries - including orders as far away as France and Australia.
To have seen so much of my original work released and hung up in the last year, it's absolutely the silver lining to what would have otherwise been a devastating year for my business. I can't express my thanks enough to everyone who made this happen, who supported my work, who purchased a print, and who engaged with all the new content that was created.
Unfortunately, the print shop was always meant to be a temporary diversion until things started up again - and today that time has come. As new work has started, the lockdown print shop has wrapped and the last orders have been shipping out this week.
Is this the end of original prints from Editing Luke? Not by a long shot. But, after 16 months of this, I'm looking forward to welcoming a little reinvention again.