What are the differences between a picture and a photograph?
A variance of this question was asked to me via Quora. The actual question and my answer are below.
Picture has an “i” a “u” and an “e”.
Other than that, none.”
My answer was an attempt to make a point that what we’re talking about here is a recording of light. In other words, we can call it by any word that we’d like but its’ simply a recording of light. And my gut feeling was that the person who asked the question was using these words to make a distinction. But, not a factual distinction. Instead, I felt that a distinction was trying to be made in an attempt to elevate or diminish. If that’s the case, such distinctions are useless at best and harmful at worst. In addition, I think that trying to answer questions such of as “what are the differences between a picture and a photograph” are impositions on our work.
Words are most useful as a utilitarian vehicle. For example, when I’m teaching a class I ask photographers to describe their work. Specifically, they’re asked to describe it in a way that is non-judgemental and in a manner that simply describes what they did to make the picture and what that picture looks like. In other words, just a factual description of their process and the results of their process.
To be clear, words themselves aren’t the problem. However, it’s the attachment of concepts to words beyond the utility of the words that causes the problems. For example, when we see a recording of light we can call it a photograph or we can call it a picture. Either way, it’s simply a recording of light. And, regardless of what we call it, our opinion of it doesn’t take away from, or add to, what it is.
Other than the word used to describe the recording of light that we are seeing, none.
So go ahead, use whatever ever word you want. Because after all is said, it’s still a photograph and it’s still a picture.
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