The Ontology of Photography A Reassessment

Mohamadreza Abolghassemi


This paper explores some issues concerning the ontology of photography. It would appear that photography’s ontology bears some significant specificities comparing with other art forms. First, the study of negative film and printed photograph relations shows us that photography has a multi-layered ontology, since although the latter is ontologically dependent upon the former, it stands autonomously as work of art. Second, I will consider the problem of forgery in photography. It seems that photographs are autographic and allographic, fakeable and unfakeable. Third, ontological status of negative film will be explored. Apparently, current ontological categories aren’t pertinent as far as negative-photograph’s ontology is concerned. That’s why, relying on Gérard Genette ontological notions, I propose to consider the negative film as «immanence» and the printed photograph as work’s «transcendence». In this regard, printed photograph functions as a manifestation of the negative film.


ontology; photography; negative film; printed photograph

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