What's in a name?

September 10, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

 

Definitions of photography abound on the web - long ones, short ones, lame ones, clever ones, historical ones, allegorical ones, poetic ones, sarcastic ones, physical ones, chemical ones, even all out esoterical ones. But photography goes beyond definition. It is an art form, yet it is more than just art as well - it can be a medium and a means, an interpretation or a representation, factual or fantastical, a profession, vocation, ambition, celebration, even damnation. It can transport you to an ethereal state of calm introspection or be so mind-numbingly boring and unimaginative that you fear for the future of human race itself. Whatever it is, it is not contained in a defintion.

The etymological root of the word photography of course is from the Greek 'photos', meaning 'light', and 'graphos' meaning 'to draw'. Hence, to draw (or paint) with light. Personally I think this is quite a restrictive term, representing only a narrow aspect of what photography has evolved to become these days. But my main objection to the term is the complete and blatant disregard of the other element of photography. The shadows. Painting with light is all very well, but it is the interplay, the dance, between light and shadow that is the essence of photography. I would therefore alter the term a bit - sticking with Greek, 'skia' means 'shadow', so perhaps 'photoskiagraphy'? Or 'phoskiography'? Yes, phoskiography, I like that. The latin version is what I've used as the title of this blog - Vider lucem umbra, meaning 'to see light and shadow'. Well, well, I think we have the basis of a proper website/blog here!


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