Research Paper

How to Preserve Unoriginal Photographs? Some Questions of the Film Photonovel

The issue of the preservation of photographic heritage involves much more than vintage prints. Other unoriginal prints – that is, images we only know as reprints of (lost) original prints – are also a matter of concern, and the film photonovel may help raise significant issues in this regard that would otherwise risk being overlooked. At first sight, the specific medium of the film photonovel – that is, the reissue in photonovel format of original movies, a cultural practice that was extremely popular in the second half of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s – raises all of the questions that arise when discussing the materiality of photographic archives: issues of material fragility and decay, authorship and authenticity, and completeness and value. At the same time, the utterly uncanonical status of this corpus, sometimes described as the ‘lumpen’ version of what is generally considered an illegitimate genre, provides an opportunity to ask different kinds of questions with regard to the very definition of key notions such as photography, photographic record, and photographic archive. In this sense, the film photonovel opens a range of questions that continue – yet in a very different direction – Rosalind Krauss’s provocative question on the discursive spaces of photography.

Author Jan Baetens
Magazine or publication History of Photography