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  • August 17, 2012

    Defining Photography

    Photography is a medium of multiple originals and should not be confused with the word reproduction, which means the original already exists before it is printed. Painters who reproduce their originals shouldn’t use the term “print”, but instead should use the term reproduction.

    In 2005 I was a member of a committee that produced the Glossary of Digital Art and Printmaking.

    Definitions of a print from the Glossary of Digital Art and Printmaking
    1. In the context of fine art, an original work of art (as a woodcut, lithograph, photograph, or digital print) where the art object or artwork does not exist until it is printed. The print is made directly from the matrix by the artist or pursuant to his/her directions. Also known as “fine print,” “work on paper,” and “original print.” 2. A physical image, usually on paper, produced by, but not limited to, such processes as etching, lithography, serigraphy, relief printing, photography, or digital methods. Prints are usually, but not always, produced on paper and in multiples. Traditional, photographic, and digital processes can be used to produce prints.

    Ansel Adams - Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941

    On the Ansel Adams web site, you can purchase Ansel Adams “original photographs” printed by his assistant or archival replicas (reproductions) that are scans of Ansel Adams original prints.

    Other issues
    As to how this relates to art festivals, there are two other issues that need to be considered, printing and editioning.

    Printing and Editioning
    A few years ago I wrote an article titled “Photography’s Role in the Art World,” which addressed both the printing and editioning issues. For the article I interviewed Helen Wright, North American representative of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Margit Erb, gallery director of the Howard Greenberg Gallery that handles the fine art sales of the Life Magazine archives, and Kim Bourus who is head of the cultural department at Magnum Photos.  For a really good read about limited editions, I received permission from Brooks Jensen, editor of LensWork magazine, to reproduce his article titled “What Size the Edition?“.

    Henri Cartier-Bresson - Girl Running, Siphnos, Greece 1961


    Henri Cartier-Bresson never printed his own photographs and never numbered. Before he passed away, his signed prints started at $7,000.

    Making or Taking
    I realize that reading this doesn’t help photographers explain to lay persons (or artists in other mediums) what it is that they do that gives their work value. But what they can do is define their work as making (as in creating) photographs and refer to what lay people do as taking pictures or taking snap shots. There is a big difference between making and taking.

    © Larry Berman