Almost any half-decent reproduction of the Game of Madness or Blind Woman conveys their power. A photograph by definition is a reproduction rather than an original, a reproduction that carries and confronts us directly with an actual chemical trace of a human being in a particular place at a particular time. If we pause to think about that for a moment, we must admit that this is awesome, but it is an awesomeness of a totally different order to the painterly wonders of a Holbein or a Rembrandt.

via The Great Leap Sideways.

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  1. “A photograph by definition is a reproduction rather than an original”

    That’s just flat wrong. A photograph is a depiction and by definition is an original – an individual’s interpretation of whatever or whoever or where ever is being photographed.

    This isn’t a mere pedantic quibble about poor word choice by the writer, it is a recognition of the deepest fundamental nature of photography.

    To think much less say a photograph is merely a reproduction is to start from a debased valuation of the photograph, of photographers, and of photography in general.

  2. I’m going to have to agree with Ellis on this. To say a print is a mere reproduction is a dangerous way of devaluing photography. Like Ansel said, the negative is like a musical score, and the final print is like the performance of that score. It is that “performance” that stands as an original piece of art, not a reproduction.

    • Yeah, reading the quote within the whole piece certainly changes my perspective on it. I can see where he’s coming from, as far as the comparison of paintings and photographs.

  3. Photography was the industrial age’s answer to the high cost of painting, and it is obviously more mechanical and less organic than painting. But the true artistic value of either lies in the story told and emotions invoked, not in how it was produced.

    Whether there’s only one original in existence, or a million prints out there says nothing about the value of the story, only about the cold hard facts of supply and demand.

  4. Interesting choice of a headline. I definitely don’t agree with Badgers definition in regard to the print or for that matter a photograph. He stands by himself or in a small crowd with the definition used in direct relationship to traditional photography.

    When you apply today’s technology, photographs can be reproductions, one frame produced hundreds or thousand of times by inkjet printers for the masses to view. So I agree in the application of terms used. However, I don’t think Badger would use his definition if presented with darkroom crafted prints. Damon’s Quote of Adams is validation.

    I think what is significant is his perception of how much power the photograph has as a reproduction. It almost seems as if he thinks the reproduction has the ability to change the world through inundation.

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