By Tim Bradshaw
It's sad that attempts to make material available, like the Southworth and Hawes daguerreotypes from GEH in the previous post, are likely to contribute to the devaluing of photography.
One of the things that is immediately apparent if you look at daguerreotypes is that they are fascinating physical objects. And in particular they are very hard to reproduce: a digital image of a daguerreotype seriously fails to do it justice.
This is true to a greater or lesser extent of many kinds of photographs. I went to an exhibition of inter-war modernist photography the other day ("Foto," currently in Edinburgh: see it if you can). I have a number of books containing good reproductions of works from the same era, but they don't compare at all well to seeing the physical objects, particularly the collages (photomontages?) but also the more conventional prints.
As more and more material becomes available in digital reproductions, I think there is a significant danger that we will all start to think that this is what photographs look like, when in fact these things are quite often pale imitations (literally in some cases) of the actual physical artifact.
Pictures of things are not the same as the things themselves, even when the things themselves are pictures.
Featured Comment by Oren Grad: "In some of the most satisfying photo books, the photographer has not even tried to reproduce literally the attributes of the 'original' photographic print, but rather has created a new rendition that reflects the craft attributes of the chosen book-printing method.
"The example that comes immediately to mind is A Hudson Landscape by William Clift. The tritones in the book by that name bear no resemblance to the silver-gelatin contact prints and enlargements Clift has made from the same negatives. The book and the prints remind the viewer of each other, but each stands on its own as a work of exquisite craft. They just happen to share the same source material, the original negatives.
"Actually, there are three different expressions of this work, since the book has also been sold in a limited edition with an accompanying gravure created by Jon Goodman.
"Following up on Mike's comment, the same applies to jpgs on screen. I prefer to think of web display as a medium in its own right, because the brilliant backlit display of a monitor is radically different from the relatively subdued reflective surface of a print, and the post-processing required to bring out the best in each medium is correspondingly different. Some pictures work well in one medium and not in the other; others can be effective in both, but in different ways. The print and the on-screen jpg are different works that happen to be derived from the same source."