Photograph Identification Guide
by David Rudd Cycleback


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International News Photo of Thomas Edison and his latest invention. INS was one of the big early 1900s photo servies.

(For the sake of saving space, 'press photos' will be used instead of 'press and publishing photos.)

Press (and publishing) photographs are photographs made by, for or otherwise used by the press and publishing industries. These photos include wirephotos made by wire services like Associated Press and UPI, original photos shot by magazine and newspaper photographers and photos made by Hollywood movie studios and rock music labels to promote their upcoming products to the press.

Press photos are popularly collected, as the images encompass most every popular subject, including sports, movies, music, politics, celebrities, history, space exploration, art, nature and everyday life. Many of the world's most famous photographers have shot press photos, including Ansel Adams, Mathew Brady, Charles Conlon, Richard Avedon, Alfred Stieglitz, Francesco Scavullo, Carl Horner, Harold Edgerton and Napoleon Sarony.
The photos come in a wide range of quality, prices, sizes and styles. Some are large originals with crystal clear and artistic images, while others are small, later generation photos with lesser to poor images.

The vast majority of press photos are gelatin-silver prints (black and white) and chromogenic (color). Some press photos from recent years are photomechanical, including digital/computer prints.


Identifying photos as press photos

Most press photos are easily identified due to text on the photo. This text can include a magazine's stamp, a news service's paper tag or a movie studio's terms of use printed below the image of a movie star.

Some photos have an editor's handwritten notes detailing how it was to be used ('Two column picture in Tuesday's Sports Section.') Some photos have production marks showing that it was used in publishing or advertising.
Some photos don't have such identifiers, but are known to have come from a newspaper's archives, editor or reporter. You may some day buy press photos from a photographer who worked for a famous magazine or photo service.

There are cases where even the seasoned collector or dealer won't be sure where the photo came from or how it was used. Sometimes you have to appreciate a photo for its artistic merits alone, aware that you may never know its history or identity. The occasional mystery never hurt anybody. main

(c) david rudd cycleback, all rights reserved