An Original, A Facsimile & The Three Miracles At The Wedding at CanaSaturday, September 29, 2007
You see here a scanned b+w negative of Rebecca Stewart my granddaughter posing in my garden while holding the English Rose, Rosa 'William Shakespeare'. When I saw this picture on a contact sheet I thought of the portraits of Alice Liddell by the Reverend Dogson. I sepia toned it with Photo Shop to give it that 19th century look. Then I found under my darkroom enlarger (it sits on an old and massive oak library table), an envelope with five 16x20 inch sheets of Agfa Portriga paper. Before Agfa disappeared a few years ago they had already discontinued this premium paper loved by most of us who printed portraits or landscapes. When you immersed this paper in concentrated solutions of selenium toner, you got what is called split toning. In some areas of the photograph you would get warm tones. These warm tones would be next to cool tones. The overall effect was one that almost looked like three dimensions. You can see the effect in this scan of a smaller Portriga print of a view in VanDusen Botanical Garden. Click on it to see it in more detail.
Because the paper was old my three prints of this picture (and two of another negative) were even more special. The whites were no longer white. They were a dirty white that added something that I could never or will ever be able to duplicate. Those three prints of this negative are originals. But there is one possible solution. Read on.
I have reluctantly signed over the rights to particular photographs of mine only for considerable money or when I have been desperate for it. I remember that the National Film Board called me about 7 years ago and wanted me to take stills for a project of theirs. I was delighted until they asked me if I were willing to hand over my original negatives. I told them that with the digital revolution a scan of an original was as good as the original. They did not buy this. So I did not work for the National Film Board.
I routinely photograph lawyers, writers, artists and I may give them high resolution scans of the photographs. They are happy and I am happy to keep my original slide or negative in my files. To me that negative or slide is the only original.
Today I read about Veronese's The Wedding at Cana which was removed from Venice and taken to France by the victorious Napoleon, who also ended the Venetian Republic. The French have "returned" an exact facsimile, even to the bumps and imperfections of the original. To me this article buried in today's New York Times's arts section is a harbinger of things to come. As it becomes increasingly impossible for art galleries of impoverished nations to pay for the necessary travel insurance to transfer works of arts from one museum to another we are increasingly seeing shows of lesser known masters or lesser known works of those masters. Perhaps only the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York could persuade and pay the insurance so that the Louvre might sent Leonardo da Vinci's La Gioconda.
But all that could change. We in Vancouver will some day gaze on an "exact copy" of La Joconde while not being surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of eager tourists. We will rationalize that this will be better than spending the money (which we might not have) to go to Paris to get a three minute (if we are lucky) glance at the original. As increasingly more people gaze upon "originals" such as the on line versions from the Tate Gallery, as an example, could this be a good thing?
The Real Thing
The Real Thing again