By John Hansen-Flaschen
A recorded still image that has been deliberately modified to alter the visible content of a scene captured through a lens can be called a photoplast. The adjective is photoplastic. The process of making photoplasts is photoplasty. An individual who makes photoplasts is a photoplaster.
-plasty means means "molding, grafting or formation of a specified part" (Oxford English Dictionary). The Greek is -plasti, from plastos, molded, from plassein, to mold.
Photoplasty relates to a family of medical terms that refer to surgically modifying or "molding" the body, such as rhinoplasty and angioplasty.
The meaning of the word photoplast is reasonably self-explanatory and is not perjorative. Photoplast is not currently listed in English reference dictionaries. However, no term so straightforward is likely never to have been used before. Indeed, a Google search reveals several highly technical meanings for photoplast or photoplastic, one in cell biology and one or more in engineering. Kodak made or makes a photoplast material and photoplast darkroom plates.
Notably, in the 1920s, the inventive photographer, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, was also interested in the use of cameras to make images that are optically true, and in the ability to modify those images post-capture. He used the term photoplastic for metaphysical photomontages he created in 1920's, but the term did not propogate then.*
To “certify” that a still image is a photograph, not a photoplast, an image might be published with the symbol [circle G] , analogous to © [circle C] for copyright and ® [circle R] for registered.
Widespread adoption of this new family of words and certification convention might go a long way toward restoring the integrity of photography as a documentary medium.
John Hansen-Flaschen, M.D., is Chief of Pulmonary Medicine and Medical Director of the Penn Lung Center at the University of Pennsylvania.