I have today been struggling with definitions. Having uploaded digitally scanned images of manipulated images (on paper) of an image (on negative), I’m confused. What is the final product ?
The way I work is straightforward enough: I capture an image using a 35mm SLR camera loaded with standard monochrome film. That image is fixed on the surface of the film through a conventional chemical development process, resulting in a ‘negative’. At this point, a “photographic” image exists.
In the next step, I place that negative in front of a light source and project it onto photosensitive paper. After a sequence of chemical baths that develop and fix the image on the paper, the thing we normally call a photograph is created. But this is already a “photograph of a photograph”, with the inconsistency (often portrayed as progressive degradation and distortion) that is implied in the analogue copying transfer process. Unlike a print, each step (the negative on a clear base and the positive image on paper) creates a unique artefact, not replicable without variation.
In my case there are a few intermediate steps, too. During the conversion from the negative to the positive image, I often manipulate the final image by either marking the paper itself before exposure or use objects and materials in the path of light to distort the image. This introduces an element of photogrametry.
My confusion about the correct nomenclature for the final product stems mainly from the fact that most convenient shorthand term would be “print”. Prints, however, seem to be exactly what these images are not. I’ll be changing the copy on this site to reflect this. And in the meantime I’ll continue to ponder the unreliability of perception and the journey from the sight to the seen.