One of the keys to
judging the originality of a photograph is being able to make
a reasonable judgment as to whether or not the image was printed
from the original negative or transparency (a transparency is
used to make photographic prints just as a with negative, except
the transparency on the transparency is positive rather than
negative). By definition, an original is made from the original
negative (or transparency).
The key is that only the original negative can produce the
crystal clearest photographic image. Later generation negatives
can produce good but not as good of images. If the image is
crystal clear and with tremendous detail, it is fair to say the
image was printed from the original negative.
An original image is not always perfect. It could have been
shot out of focus or poorly developed. If an original image
is blown up (photo is much larger than the negative) or if it
is a distant shot, there may be a graininess or blurred detail.
Images from the 1800s often have fading.
Remember that an 'original printed later' photograph is made
from the original negative. The presence of a crystal clear
image doesn't automatically mean the photograph is vintage, though
it is a good sign. 'Original printed later' photos are usually
identified as such by the modern paper, stamp, photographic process
or other qualities.
Many images are obviously second generation as the images
are rough, the detail faded out or having other obvious problems.
Some second generation photos are photographs of photographs.
Often times you can see the picture of a scratch or scrape or
wrinkle that wason the original. You can see the damage, but
you can't feel it with your finger because it's only a photograph
of the damage.
When a collector is looking at a photograph that is supposed
to be original, he should ask himself if the image is consistent
with the photo being original. In cases the image will be so
clear and detailed that you will be certain it is first generation.
In other cases, the image may not be perfect but can still be
considered consistent with the image being original.
If a photograph is vintage and the image is crystal clear
with great detail, the photo is most probably an original. If
a photograph is vintage, has the stamp and/or signature of a
famous photographer and the image is crystal clear with great
detail, it is most probably an original by that photographer.
(c) david rudd cycleback, cyclback.com
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