The photographic art reproduction came into being simultaneously with the invention of the medium: Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce captured engravings in his earliest heliographs, while William Henry Fox Talbot praised the reproductive capacities of the calotype in The Pencil of Nature (1844).
As much as art has affected photographic reproduction (for instance, Louis Daguerre who arranged sculptural pieces into elaborate still lives recalling those by Dutch Golden Age masters or, perhaps, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin), the reproduction has affected art. As Walter Benjamin has influentially argued, it put the 'aura' of the original into question. Together with Paul Valery and Erwin Panofsky, Benjamin sparked a century-long debate on the interrelationship between the original and the copy, which is still far from any decisive conclusion with Peter Walsh, Michelle Henning, Georges Didi-Huberman and Bruno Latour readdressing the problem in the last decade.
What is more, the other aspects of the photographic reproduction have received much less scholarly attention. Despite the valuable efforts of Dominique de Font-Réaulx, Stephen Bann and Patrizia Di Bello, there is still much to be discovered with regards to its materiality, function, and reception:
- What technical challenges has photographic reproduction faced since the appearance of the medium and how has it resolved them?
- How have new technologies changed the relationship between the original and the copy?
- What were the multiple uses of photographic reproductions?
- What do they tell us about the aesthetic taste of their day?
- What impact has the photographic reproduction had on the fine arts since the nineteenth century?
- Does it itself have any artistic value?
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