« Blog Note | Main | Sarah Meister On Dorothea Lange »

Tuesday, 04 December 2018


I had the pleasure of hearing Kirsch give a talk at the Portland Art Museum some years ago,
about his work analyzing art works and inventing digital imagery. It was a great talk.
I remember particularly him saying he regretted that he arranged the pixels in a plain, inflexible, rectangular grid. He regretted not taking a hint from the great Byzantine mosaic masters who placed their tiles so as to enhance the image's contours, a kind of smart sharpening. Maybe we have technologies to do this now, or are already doing it for all I know.

I look forward to a time when dementia, Alzheimer's and their like can no longer literally rob people of who and what they are; a time when those insidious medical conditions, which I consider well worse than cancer, are long a thing of our bygone past.

One positive aspect of old(ish) age is that he won't have to waste time on social media! I restrict mine to three sites - all photo-based - and I have never had to play the "Like" button game which seems to represent one of the more mindless occupations of the day.

Not everything about a 'sane' old age is that wonderful, though, and health aside, the longer you last the greater the demands on what you were able to save during your younger days. That's one huge problem about photographic self-employment, because a steady income is not guaranteed, and as a direct result, your pension plans are limited, or at least, they were during my working days. Generally, other than some Gitzo tripods, there's very little a self-employed photographer is left with that he can sell when he retires... most of us thought we never would, but life has its own rhythms and pension plans such as stock photography took our dreams away with it, and digital sure didn't do a lot to help that concept survive!

One thing's for sure: having a devoted other-half makes the trip worth the battles, and the hole deeper when that's lost.


Thanks for posting this article. Such an impactful figure in my life yet I’d never heard of him previously—perhaps because all those years ago when I could have/should have been embracing a new medium I was too involved fighting the digital revolution rather than embracing it.

Jim Fix wrote, “ You never know who your neighbor is and what they've been part of, and it's often good to put in a little work to find out.”

While seamingly obvious, we can forget this point in our age of digialized relations. It is a very nicely expressed comment.

Science is populated with unsung heroes, and Russell Kirsch is certainly one of them. I first worked with digital images in 1970, but I never knew who built the first real digital scanner (thanks, Mike!). Early computers were incompatible and networking was non-existent, so it took a long time before many digital images were available for researchers to work with.

Groups at MIT and USC distributed a few images on magnetic tape in the early 1970s, including the famous "Lenna" image scanned from the November 1972 issue of Playboy. There were fewer than 32 digital images available at the time, so we used to joke that any digital image in the world could be coded into 5 bits.

I recently learned about Willard Boyle, a co-creator of the CCD sensor in 1969 for which he was awarded a Nobel prize 40 years later. Had he lived longer (he died in 2011) we might have been neighbors. He was born in Amhearst, Nova Scotia and retired in the nearby village of Wallace, Nova Scotia where I bought a cottage last year.

In the tiny local museum, buried among seafaring relics, there is a display case that chronicles his accomplishments in physics.

Here's a picture of Walden Kirsch (no longer a baby!) who for many years worked as a TV reporter, and has spent the last 18 years at Intel Corporation in communications.


The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007