Photographs or Images?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Sean, May 5, 2004.

  1. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

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    Seems the digital camp has stopped using the word "photograph" and now uses the word "image". It's all about the "image" not how it's created, the final "image" is what matters, etc. I have to hand it to them "image" does have a nice ring to it, even sounds powerful. Are these terms "photograph" and "image" one in the same? I am not so sure. Personally I want to make traditional photographs, not "images". This thread is brought on by seeing the word "image" a gazillion times in the hybrid photo mags and websites. The new way of using the word "image" seems to be trying to redefine photography, as if photographs are old and dated and "images" are where it's at..
     
  2. Cheryl Jacobs

    Cheryl Jacobs Member

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    Know why I use the word 'images'?

    Because 'photographs' gets shortened to 'photos' which has pretty much the same ring to it as 'snapshot'. I can't use the word 'print' with my clients because it doesn't occur to them that I mean 'photograph'. 'Portrait' is too specific and formal. That leaves me with 'picture' as a last alternative, and ..... no.
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I often use the word "image," but if I think about it more carefully, the image is the thing in the mind, and the photograph is the thing in the hand or on the wall.
     
  4. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

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    a wonderful way to put it, David, that is also how I feel. the thing-in-itself is the image, the photograph is just a piece of paper. I SEE and make images all day long. These images often confuse me and sometimes even overpower me, my problem is in the technical, but I am sorting that out.

    It's amazing how much my art has come to reflect upon my philosophy.
     
  5. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Image has a sexier connotation, than say picture. It would be dishonest to use the word photograph. I would prefer digital illustration or some other moniker that referenced the digital process. Image shouldn't be owned by digital folk just as it shouldn't be owned by the analogue folk -- it is too big a word.
     
  6. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    I never use the word "image" when referring to a photograph. It implies that all the photograph is is an image of what is pictured. An image is not a photograph. Photographs are pictures. Images are not. I am a photographer, or sometimes, a picture-maker. I am not, never was, and never will be an image-maker.

    Also, images are what appear on the ground glass. They are not yet photographs.

    Those who use the word "image" when they really mean "photograph" are usually indulging (consciously or more often, unconsciously) in pretentious and high-sounding languange.
     
  7. David R Munson

    David R Munson Member

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    As I see it, a photograph is an image. And so is a serigraph, a block print, and a cave painting. To me, the word image simply means a visual representation of a thing or an idea. It can be totally mental, but it can also be physical. Photograph is a more specific term referring to an image physicalized through a photochemical process.
     
  8. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I agree sometimes not usually, except in the media and by those who just sold 20 years of film equipment to buy a $3,000 digital postagestamp picturemaker. Using the word image to describe a photograph, although probably not the best choice, is not necessarily pretentious or strictly incorrect.

    Websters: Image 1. a representation of a person or thing. 2. the visual impression of something in a mirror, through a lens, etc. 3. copy 4. a) a mental picture; idea b) the concept of a... 5. metaphor or simile...

    Definitions 1-3 apply pretty well to a photograph (1,3) or an aspect of the process(2). It is not until you get to 4 and 5 do the definitions begin to address the 'bigger' meaning of image.
     
  9. Cheryl Jacobs

    Cheryl Jacobs Member

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    Oh, come now. I say 'image' and you infer that I am probably indulging in pretentous an high-sounding language? That assumes a bit much, don't you think? They are nearly the same by most definitions, and to insist that 'it' be referred to in one way rather than the other seems a bit uppity to me.
     
  10. noblebeast

    noblebeast Member

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    "An artist's job is to be true to himself/herself. If you want to make an occasional photograph for the sake of commercial value, by all means do so. I cannot anticipate ever doing so. All it would be then is just a job--something just to make money. If Making money were my interest I would do something else. There are a lot better and sure-fire ways to make money than making fine-art photographs." Michael A. Smith, from another discussion.

    Now that's pretentious!
     
  11. Leon

    Leon Member

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    I say image here when I post an entry into the galleries because what you see on this screen isnt the photograph, it's a digitial image of the photograph. Once i have the final print in my hand, then I have a photograph. Is it pretentious to say Photographic print rather than photograph?
     
  12. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

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    I guess I keep finding words in the digital arena are being redefined at their convenience. Get ready for the new epson "gelatin" papers and "silver" inksets that will be called, you got it -> "silver gelatin" prints..
     
  13. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    According to the dictionary definition #1 an image is, " a representation of a person or thing." And it implies that a photograph is, as I wrote, "[only] an image of what is pictured." A photograph as work of art is so much more than that. Always.

    Cheryl: I was inferring nothing from how you refer to a photograph. What I said was, "Those who use the word "image" when they really mean "photograph" are USUALLY indulging (consciously or more often, unconsciously) in pretentious and high-sounding languange." I said "usually". I did not say "always" and I was not referring to anyone specifically. That has been my experience. I know a number of photographers. I do not believe I have ever heard any of them refer to their photographs as images. But perhaps I have not met the right people. Calling photographs images is something that came out of the colleges, universities, and art schools where photography is taught. It is an academic and high-sounding way of referring to photographs. You, and others may disagree with that, but I have found it to be true, by-and-large.

    "Photographic print" is not pretentious in any way. Neither is " picture." Yes, there is an image area, but that is not the same thing as calling a photograph an image. Maybe this is something out of nothing for sure. Hey, I did not start this topic. Only contributed.

    To the annonymous noble beast: Real safe and cowardly to hide behind an annonymous name. What I wrote can be seen as so highly principled that some might consider it arrogant. But "pretentious"? Doesn't fit.
     
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  15. Poco

    Poco Member

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    There's a vagueness to the word "image" that I'll willingly cede to the digi-crowd. Much worse would be if they tried to appropriate the word "photograph," thereby robbing it of its very specific meaning (remember the "carbon print" outrage on another thread?) I'm for anything that keeps the distinction between analogue and digital very clear.
     
  16. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    I, too, would cede the term "image" to the digi-crowd if they would quit using the terms photography, photographs & photographers. Anyway, "Image" is closely tied to marketting & Madison Avenue - an area film photography plays a minimal role. But, as we search for terms to better describe who we are & what we do, we're open to charges of pretentiousness & forced definitions. Most prefer shorthand terms, ie. taking a shot to making a photographic negative. But much of the shorthand terminology has connotations of physical violence, probably influenced by the big game hunters. Maybe I'll be satisfied with "taking photos" rather than "making images" since it implies that I'm performing as a photorapher.
     
  17. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    voss's higher-archy (yeah, i know... hierarchy) of nouns which are sometimes used, with great awkwardness, as verbs.

    PHOTOGRAPH.....works exceedingly well as a noun or a verb and conveys a commonly understood object or process.

    IMAGE.....works well as a noun to offer variety in paragraphs that would otherwise use 'photograph' to excess. should never be used as a verb....please!! (almost as bad as 'referenced'....ever hear of 'refered to'?)

    CAPTURE.....YIKES!!!! predatory digiterm....may it never be used to denote an actual, analog photograph!!! however...should digicams themselves be captured and flung into the void....well.....here's a quiet hooray....ill drink to that!!
     
  18. 127

    127 Member

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    I'm with Dave on this one: Image is just a more general term.

    A photo is an image.
    An image is not necessarily a photo. It could be a painting, or any other 2d representation (without getting into the broader definitions of image as a concept, which is a distinct meaning).

    If digitial are moving away from the word "photograph", then thats a good thing for everyone, as it implies that its being recognised as a distinct form. However the use of the term "digital image" is something as a stopgap - in 1900 we might have tacked about "photographic images", until we arrived at photograph. Digital will eventually arive at its own word but for now they're forced to use more general terms, and then qualify them.

    (Over to Ed our resident expert on the derivation of words...)

    Ian
     
  19. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    "Image" can be artspeak, but to be fair to my academic colleagues, many scholarly articles discussing the work of photographers are about the "image" as a representation and not really the photograph as an object. One may disagree with the premise that the object is separable from the representation (I do), but sometimes (not always) the academic usage is for the sake of precision and not just pretense.
     
  20. mark

    mark Member

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    I don't know if I would call the word IMAGE pretentious. In fact I would call it generic, probably the most generic word used in visual communications. Think about all the times you see and hear the word image. You hear it when you talk about painting, movies, commercials, photos, television programs, celebrities, etc. etc. etc. It is hard to think of the image of a budweiser can as pretentious. In fact, Cheryl proves how versitile the word is. She uses it in a way to set her photos apart from the everyday snaps of her clients.

    The digital world in my opinion, is just defining what they really are. Digital imaging, or an image created through the use of a computer. Where as we produce photographic images.
     
  21. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I agree the object as a whole should be considered. I had a sculpture teacher who thought that using a media to imitate another (acrylic for oils or hydra stone or plaster for marble) was dishonest. He went so far as to say a sculpture should weigh as heavy as it looks like it weighs. A subset of the art object could be the image it projects or implies.

    Image as a generic term is usable without pretense -- of course. There is implied meaning though, when used to describe a picture. That pretense is not always bad. Cheryl's usage has pretense --it is more than common -- and I don't see that as being bad. I think that usage of the word to cover a genre (as in the [digital] image) is wrongfully pretentious.

    I think that Michael is sensitive to this latter instance. It may be that he wishes his photographs to be taken as whole without pretense.

    Or maybe I'm all wet...
     
  22. Cheryl Jacobs

    Cheryl Jacobs Member

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    Definition for the wore pretense from Dictionary.com:

    My usage doesn't have pretense. None of the above applies to me. I simply choose to use the word 'image' for the reasons I already mentioned. Since when is using a near-synonym pretentious? The problem is, some analogue folks now associate a negative connotation to the word simply because of the phrase 'digital imaging'. No other reason than that. It's a word. It does apply to photography. Sheeesh.
     
  23. Tom Duffy

    Tom Duffy Member

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    I think I'm going to use the word "photograph" more consciously from now on, this in keeping with my "print as object" worldview.

    I've never used the word "image" to describe a photograph. It always struck me as artsy-fartsy, as saying "film" when you meant "movie".
     
  24. Leon

    Leon Member

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    we all say film and never say movie over here - does that make the English, Scottish, and Welsh artsy-fartsy? :wink:

    I'm with Cheryl, BTW - it's only a word
     
  25. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Webster:
    Pre•tense 1. a claim; pretension
    pre•ten•sion 1. a pretext

    I don't intend to put words in to your mouth, but I will stand by what I said earlier. It fits your description. You offer a pretense or claim -- 'my pictures are not snap shots' -- by using the word image, which you seem to view as having a better connotation than photo.
     
  26. noblebeast

    noblebeast Member

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    Well, you certainly put me in my place. Of course, it would have been a lot more impressive if you had spelled "anonymous" correctly, at least once, since we are discussing nuances of language. :tongue:

    (And what makes you so certain that Noble Beast is not my christian name? Maybe I had hippy parents.)