Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Grandma Mary

I have, on occasion, written about the difference between copy and original in a medium designed to be endlessly reproducible.  Back when I was working full time at a photo lab, one of our customers walked in with a camera original Ansel Adams negative.  I have no idea how he got it; purchase, gift, or theft. Nevertheless, it was my job to match the original print, made by Adams, with nothing more than a coffee table book for reference, and if that book was an accurate representation of the Adam's print, I did a pretty good job.  So, was it an original print or a copy?

Most art collectors would want a print made by the photographer, or printed under his or her direct supervision.  But the fact is, a lot of very good and very famous photographers turn their negatives over to people they don't know for printing.  Go to a museum, or it's website, and look at their photography collections.  You'll see it over and over again, photo by whoever, 1936, printed in 1983, five years after the photographer's death.  So, is it a copy or an original?

Written on the back of this Polaroid, and with out a doubt, copy of an old chromo-lithograph, "Grandmother Mary Keoster."  

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