Prints are graphic arts which means that there is a technique/process which enables printing the same image multiple times. Generally prints are categorized by the type of the technique/ process, such as silk screen, wood cut, linoleum block, etching or photograph.
But there is something else about a photograph which makes it unique, there is an underlying common assumption that there is something REAL in a photographic image, and we even have a contemporary term when that REAL THING has been altered—“Its been photoshopped!
Upon seeing this image, most people would understand it as a photograph, perhaps call it a snapshot or a visual record of a personal event which was Real. Its really me, my wife, my parents and Rev. Murakami who is a Real Buddhist pries in front of a Real Buddhist alter and its a Real me, my wife, and parents. If this were a silkscreen would you agree it Really Happened?
Here too, most people would call it photograph, probably not a snapshot but a Real visual record of a moment of a public event.
Another image, obviously it is a photograph, but at the feeling level, something does not quite jibe. For a few weeks my father and mother were “gaijin” (foreigners) on a Japanese TV show. This is a still from a professional photographer on the set, and I made a high resolution scan from a professional 5″ x 7″ print. There is a feeling about the “quality” of the image which suggests skilled control.
What is real? Its actors playing a scene. still this is a REAL record of that moment even if the moment is not real.
You can immediately feel this is a professional image and as quickly, that there is something not “Real” about this photograph, yet its a real image of the moment, these are real people really sitting around the table, etc.
What is not real? You know these people are not in a Real situation because of the feeling you have about what it would look like if people were there in the same situation— it doesn’t feel natural.
Its not “Real” that these people would look like this in real life, except of course they are getting paid for it, —the reason why does not matter. This image can generate some slight confusion, i.e. a mental question about what is Real, and when you unconsciously look to answer your question, you find an answer—all happens very quickly, generally unconsciously or intuitively, at the feeling level, Its knowing by feeling.
Some photographers will use that as a design element to generate interest in the image, but not all do, certainly in your wedding photographs you want something basic and beautiful, able to bring warm memories for the life of your marriage.
Suddenly this feels like I am intruding on someone’s privacy and yet if you look, you have learned nothing private about this person, still you get a feeling about who she is, though it is probably more related to who you are than whose is. . But it feels a little weird, there is less detail, edges are smoothed out, something’s not Real, its been photoshopped!
Back to business of being a photograph . . .
and back to the business of being a print.
In the former you are more aware of the woman as an individual, in the latter you are more aware of the people as parts in a design, the image is not about the people yet it tells you something about the people.
Actually I do not want to know anymore about these people than I know from the image, they were outside City Lights one afternoon. What they are doing is much more important than who they are—I find myself saying what an incredible world we live in .
You may have thought you were the only one . . .
End summary: a photograph has a “certain visual feel,” when people see a visual image and it feels like a photograph. they know that feeling and trust it. Second, a photograph has a “ social mentality,” once people define it as a photograph then they want to know what it “Really” is.
Having a piece of visual art hanging on your wall is different from seeing it everyday on the internet.