Monkey Coffin (More Troubles With Terminology, Dept.)

This post is by Ron Dawson from The Online Photographer

Epson p900

Ich bin kein Affensarg

In film days:

Printer: Human person who made prints, usually a darkroom worker making photographs on light-sensitive paper. Also, in commercial parlance, a person who operates a large printing-press, also called a pressman.

Printmaker: Artist or artisan who made fine-art prints using any of a number of craft-based method for creating multiple artworks, e.g. woodcuts and linocuts, copper-plate etching, silkscreen, intaglio engraving, stone lithography, etc.

These days:

Printer: A machine, usually but not exclusively inkjet, that makes prints.

Printmaker: Same as old definition.

Missing in action, or rather co-opted to the point of confusion, is a word for the human person who makes prints, including one who uses a printer! Is it really the case now that a printer uses a printer to make prints? Or is that a printmaker, who somehow switched from stone lithography or linocuts to Epsons? We need a new word. (“Printer” dates from the 15th century.)

I was very proud to be a printer, back when I was one. It was one of the few things I was ever expert at doing. I’m not happy with having my title usurped by a large plastic box the size of a monkey coffin that nobody can keep working.

That is all,


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Featured Comments from:

Tom Burke: “‘Computer’ would be another term which has lost its humanity. Prior to the 1960s a computer was a person who performed calculations; NASA (and its predecessor organisation) employed many computers in the 1950s. Here’s a link.”

Mike replies: Lensmakers employed (carbon-based) computers as well, to calculate ray tracings. Silicon-based computers do it infinitely better, because far more calculations can be performed.

Bob Johnston [no relation]: “I know how you feel. I used to consider myself a good darkroom printer. I couldn’t believe it when all that skill, accumulated over years of practice, was thrown on the scrapheap. I knew what was going to happen so I was an early adopter of the whirring box. Those early printers were terrible. It was well-nigh impossible to make a black-and-white print without a colour cast. Now they are really very good. My Epson P800 is still printing after six years of use. Oh for the days though that all you had to replace every year or so was the enlarger bulb.

“I still have my darkroom. It was fun to show my grandchildren how it was done but otherwise it’s just nostalgia.”

Stan B.: “The one that gets me is ‘editing;’ back in the day, it was separating the wheat from the chaff. Now it’s for, it’s for…ya know—making the thing look good. Don’t know what the word for that is, or should be—but I thought ‘editing’ was already taken!”