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Wednesday, 10 November 2021


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"Halfway through the story, she reached a detail that made it clear that everything she was relating couldn't have happened to her; but rather than get flustered, she just said, "Wait, this happened to my mom, not me," and went on telling the story. "

And an urban legend is born.

I swear the McDonald's around the corner was better 5yrs. ago. Huh.

It's no wonder you prefer to see things the old fashioned way. Your father put you on the defensive from the beginning.

I'd argue that black and white photography is a dramatic departure from reality, or at least the 'reality' recorded by our eye/brain systems. I've always thought that b&w photography is a serious manipulation of what was actually in the scene, often adding drama that wouldn't appear otherwise.

Well, the whole 'perception is not (necessarily) reality' has been around in my awareness since the 60s and LSD, Vendantic thought, etc. al. Way many books, articles, etc. - tho not so much actual research and research papers. That's a bit new. But the real reason I wrote, digital not photography? Light thru lens, captured on light sensitive coated paper, metal, glass, film, whatever, and then light sensitive pixel?? Why not? Pls refer me to whatever you wrote at the time and I'll start there. Or, add current thinking.
Just asking....

In this analog vs. digital debate and concerns about image manipulation, I think the elephant in the room is missed: The decision of the photographer what to include in the frame, and when to click the shutter release. This decision depends on what the photographer finds worthy of a picture, and is therefore thoroughly subjective. Of course, he could try to give an objective account on his surroundings by photographing everything he can see. - But most likely, the resulting pictures will not be very interesting to viewers, much like reciting a telephone book. Obviously, the notion of what's of interesting in a picture has to be shared between photographer and viewer for the picture to work.

I could imagine a photographic project which explores all the "uninteresting" subject matter and why most viewers can't make sense of it. Much like an inventory of the "dark spaces" in between the words of our language, where the things for which we don't have words live.

Best, Thomas

Yes, cameras can be copy machines, but where is the art in that? I guess that is expected if your aim is to render reality, but whose reality?


"The underlying problem was that for him, it was axiomatic that he was always right, no matter what. It never made the slightest bit of difference how wrong he might be."

I am sorry to hear your relationship with your father went like that at times. Now you know what it is like dating a lot of the men I dated during my life, and they were my age or a few years older. Ever wonder why a lot of independent women never remarry after a divorce? I know not all guys are like that, but from my experience, more are than not, at least in my age group. But hey, you get used to it until you tire of it. Best to you, Mike.

Quoting the great Steven Wright: "Four years ago... No, it was yesterday. Today I... No, that wasn't me..."

At my advanced age, I have decades of experiences that I am able to recall in minute detail. I just have a bit of trouble getting the facts straight.

Studies have shown that mistaken eyewitness testimony accounts for about half of all wrongful convictions:


FWIW: I was an analog holdout till 2016, and have no problem accepting that "digital imaging" is just the technological medium in which photography exists today; yes, it's a marked evolutionary, almost revolutionary (where the difference of opinion may lie) process from the century old chemical process, but "a rose by any other name," nonetheless.

I think the challenge of presenting digital B&W in a manner that rivals analog remains. A (very) scant few have been able to present digital B&W in a manner that emulates the subtlety and nuance of B&W analog, but for the majority, it may make more sense to just find a manner that successfully treats it as a markedly different animal that operates within its own grammar. I think someone like Matt Black has found such a lexicon, and it can be viewed in his current book and ongoing essay, American Geography:


Meant to add that Black's approach seems to embrace digital's tendency to compress midtones, lending at least a superficial similarity to Roy DeCarava's approach...

Jamie Pillars wrote …b&w photography is a serious manipulation of what was actually in the scene… I’ve always thought we easily accept b&w because that’s what we see in low light levels. Colour photography is in some ways more problematic since it tends to show what is there (to the camera) rather than what our brains have modified what our eyes have registered.

I’m not sure that either is more “natural”.

Ahh, the nurturing environment of the family.

'From the first, photography insisted, rebelliously, that we should see the visual world with traces of the same chaos and confusion as our eyes see it before our brains get a hold of it. Most humans, apparently, always resented that about it.'

Brilliant - that's got me thinking.

Now you got me started.
"New Physics Experiment Indicates There's No Objective Reality
Turns out, reality is at odds with itself." https://interestingengineering.com/new-physics-experiment-indicates-no-objective-reality

George Foreman. Still not as bad as Mrs. McCave:



As Graeme commented, "Ahh, the nurturing environment of the family."

Maybe a response like this would have been handy; "Oh, now I remember. You've never made a mistake in your entire life."

(Or perhaps not. I guess I'm often blunt when I hear someone utter obvious nonsense.)

Of my parents, my mom is the one who is as stubborn as a mule.

Regarding what we see and what we think we see; I'd rather not ever have to witness a crime and testify in court. I would be too unreliable regarding details.

I'm better when looking through the viewfinder, but not by much.

I would have felt guilty about taking the photo of the parking meter being held in place and would probably have told the editor. If she had said, "The meters had already been taken down when I got there.", it would have been at least halfway true.

Your dad sounds a bit of a tricky character. Good on you for turning out into the fine man you did.

It has long bothered me that some folks believe that "what the camera saw" is objective, more accurate than, and thus invalidates what I saw.

I am well aware that "what I saw" is not any sort of objective recording, of what may or may not be an objective reality.

But, what I am interested in sharing with others, on paper or screen, is "what I saw".

I see whatever changes I make to "what the camera saw", to make it more similar to "what I saw" to be entirely legitimate.

The first thing that came to mind was my first class in high school psychology: sensation and perception are very different things. Nothing about perception (which is everything) can be trusted to be "true" in any sense except the personal.

Malcom Gladwell did two or three episodes on this and the fallibility of memory / imagination in his Revisionist History podcast.

One of the techniques that shows how highly personal our construction of memory and meaning is, is the study of "flashbulb" events that leave an impression on everybody — the JFK assassination and 9/11 are classic examples. In the show, he compares his memory of the morning of 9/11 with the recollection of a neighbour he interacted with as it all unfolded. There's almost nothing they agree on.

Maybe more interesting for you as someone interested in documentary, is the case of Brian Williams, who covered a military incursion gone wrong, describing the night the helicopter he was on was shot down. Only he wasn't on the chopper that was shot down, he attended the crash from another bird in the formation. But his recollection of being shot down it was so strong that even after being contradicted by the pilot and not appearing in any flight documentation, he said that while he could accept that he could not have been on the downed chopper, he could not say otherwise and feel as though he was speaking truthfully. When he recalled what he knew from memory: he. was. on. that. aircraft.

It ended his career as a reporter. It's a fascinating must-listen.


Reality face perception that translate into interpretation that is conducted through imagination. Senses are giving the meaning of our thinking.

John Berger‘s Ways of Seeing opened with

“The relations between what we see and what we know is never settled”

According to Anil Seth in Being You it’s all a controlled and controlling illusion. “We live within a controlled hallucination which evolution has designed not for accuracy but for utility.”

On transferring terms to new technology: we still say a ship "sails" from Shanghai to San Francisco, even if it's under power the whole way. For a while one could say, accurately, that the ship "steamed" that distance. But there are very few steam-powered ships left, and the term has fallen into disuse. Almost all nowadays use diesel engines. But we can't use "diesel" to replace "sail," since "dieseling" is a malfunction of a gasoline engine (continuing to run when power to the spark plugs is cut off).

This could be the “Backfire Effect” ?
-via Michael Inman on the “Oatmeal”….

I think the average consumer with a point and shoot resented the time, effort, and expense required to get two or three decent shots out of a roll of 36 from the local drug store. At the end of the process they had a closet full of failure that they couldn’t bring themselves to throw away and the pleasure they got from their few successes was fleeting. I’m not sure the average Joe or Jane was that focused on the unfiltered chaos of their few keepers.

I bought my parents an entry level digital camera (Olympus D-580) in 2004 and suddenly everything changed for my Mom. Photography was easier. Mom’s keeper rate went way up thanks to scene modes and a built in flash and the pictures had the saturated look she preferred. When she had collected a few photos that she liked on the xD card she printed just those photos at the drug store at 4x6 or 5x7 and was thrilled with the process. Photography was suddenly easy and convenient and so the tiny camera was always in her purse.

D-580: 4MP, 3X zoom (35-105 f/3.1-f/5.2), USB auto connect, sliding lens cover/power switch

Your use of the word specious made me think of this old scene from the Simpsons. :-)

I thought the faint, curved, power lines in the upper left of this image were scratches, too, until I looked at some other transparencies made that day.



Here’s something along similar lines from just this week…

I kept waiting for someone to mention it, but could both you and your father be right? You remember how optical view finders didn’t show the whole frame (except for a few, like the Nikon F3, if I remember correctly). What he saw through through the view finder didn’t show the overhead wires but the print did. I used to be surprised all the time by the difference between what I remembered and what showed up on the print until I figured it out.

Google "Madness" by W Eugene Smith. Back in the day this was called "hand of God" printing.
At one point there was a pretty heated debate about the ethics of burning and dodging in a news photograph among NPPA folk. I'm not sure it ever got resolved.
Not related to image manipulation, my middle grandchild Gus loves turtles. His room is full of stuffed and toy ones. They are all named Frank. Love that kid.

To follow on from Richard Parkins' reply to Jamie Pillers, neither color nor B&W photographs are making things up. Rather, they record different characteristics of "reality" (more accurately: light). And there is light information that both methods record and that both omit. If B&W can "add drama" that wasn't there, it can also reveal drama (or straight up data) that was there but would have been diminished or hidden by color information. The fact that one or the other process happened to record the part we don't value or need doesn't make it inaccurate so much as unhelpful.

This is interesting to think about following a post about flare and glare. Are those things part of "reality" or not?

Just here to quote Tolstoy:
“I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.”

Regarding Frank Hamsher’s comment on the Crosby, Stills and Nash album cover, I believe that the photo was taken before they decided on the name of the group. A few days later, with name decided, they attempted to re-shoot the photo, but were unable as Frank described.

Photography: reality and imagination.

Without any pictures to get in the way…

I think I finally may understand it.

What many people are doing today in terms of photographic images is actually fiction—as in fiction versus nonfiction—as in literature.

I don’t know why that didn’t occur to me before. I understand now and can finally articulate why those kinds of images are not particularly interesting to me.

You’ve all seen these…

Otherworldly skies over otherworldly landscapes over impossible colors and improbable reflections and the inconceivable hallucinatory fragments and, of course, the seemingly requisite coincidences of celestial occurrences—ad infinitum.

I believe that images like that take me to the creator’s computer, and not to the place they visited or the scene they observed.

But that still wasn’t a concise statement of description.

Certainly, photographs are processed for clarity, highlights and balance, etc.— to help bring the viewer to the moment and to the scene itself.

What is happening more and more goes far beyond processing…

Fiction fits those fantasy images best— not that there’s anything wrong with that. Art is art, right? Making things makes us artificers and everything we make is artificial—so, enough said?

For me, life is too short for too much fiction. And very little fiction out there really stands out as exceptional storytelling… such as “Dune”, as one recent example of (science) fiction, along with many other classics in multiple genres.

For the most part I crave nonfiction where I can learn about a place, a person, a People, a process, a history… and I generally find that most fiction can be rather a waste of time.

And time is running out.

For me, what a work of fiction must do is overtake its own mechanism of contrivance and feel absolutely real… A great movie will do that, as will a great book.

I still have never seen a heavily processed/blended/denatured photographic image that can actually achieve this, no matter how beautiful it may be.

Images such as those are examples of digital painting to me—one pixel at a time—and no longer actual photography:

Writing and recording what light has revealed.

In today’s photography, the pixel has become digital paint. That is neither good nor bad— it’s just not photography to me when the light is no longer being graphed.

The computer is here and now pixels of images are being manipulated and mapped instead.

Cartopixography, a word I have just coined for the manipulating and mapping of image pixels, would be a more accurate word for what people are doing on Photoshop and many other post-process image tools of the day.

A single image, irrespective of how it was generated, cannot effectively overcome its own contrivance—in my mind—no matter how “good” or how well it may be executed— if it is fictionally denatured and no longer truthful—when it is no longer a faithful storyteller.

I do believe that a great written work of fiction can be a faithful storyteller—a great movie can be one as well.

I believe that this is why the greatest single images in art are those which are faithful to the truth though they may vary greatly in their method of expression…

A slow walk through the Getty museum can demonstrate this. Or perhaps a walk through a fine art museum near you…

Impressionism versus realism, abstracts, etc.—any of which may bring the viewer to a special place and transport the mind without filling in every blank—such that the viewer may ultimately behold the image and make it their own as reality and imagination work tirelessly together.

In these extensively processed and blended photographic images found in much of today’s “photography“, every single detail is provided by the creator and not a single dot is left for the viewer to connect which makes the image remote and inaccessible to me such that it can never be an image that I could carry in my heart as my own or at least as a shared experience with the author.

An image of art should never cause the viewer’s imagination to rest, stumble or shut down by declaring that it is no longer needed.

An image must humbly feed the viewer’s imagination without telling them what to imagine in order for the image to be at its most powerful state of expression and availability for adoption by the viewer.

In this jaded and modern world, we must gently get back to: “I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me”!

With an image crafted as such—blended and manipulated into a near-plastic-banana otherworldly fantasy, in many cases—I am, as a viewer, always on the outside looking in at a projected hallucination—and instead of being taken and transported instantly to a place which I could hope to go to, see, and experience for myself, I’ve been taken—instead and by the hand—to the image-makers digital workstation.

Over the years I’ve started tolerating this less and less wether it be hyper-processed photographs, the commercially available works of fiction in print/download/audio or “movies“ due to their ever-weakening screenplays, plots, and artificial characters.

What’s even worse is that fiction photographs, or “cartopixographs”, even those which are better and more competently executed, no longer look particularly unique or fascinating as they may have, once upon a time, as they are taking on the cookie-cutter sheen of “run-of-the-mill” hallucinatory post-process-based image alteration. The stand-outs are harder to find.

Twitter has been very informative in that I have been seeing loads of these kinds of hallucinatory fantasy “shots” and they are all starting to look the same. At the end of the day, people will pay for an illusion so there will continue to be people that will continue to provide them—and that’s fine.

I can’t.

Ansel Adams was able to do amazing post-processing—but in not a single one of his images is the viewer ever dragged back into his darkroom to smell the bitter chemical baths which reflect the dim red worklight overhead.

Similarly, I believe the post-processing done in digital photography should never drag the viewer back to the photographer’s computer, any more than you would want an exquisite work of cabinetry or furniture to take the beholder back to the master joiner’s shop.

So, that is my story on today’s cartopixography: Image pixel mapping and manipulation.

I had to make up a word just to understand it.

I’m finally getting my head fully wrapped around the nature of some of today’s fiction photography.

For so long, the false flag has been extolling the virtues of either analog or digital when, all this time, it has been, truly, fiction versus nonfiction.

And fiction has a real leg-up with the present available technology.

Conclusion: can there even be one?

Fiction succeeds in literature and in movie screenplays in ways that a single photographic image cannot fully support.

It’s time to distinguish digital painting (cartopixography) from photography.

They are different vehicles.

If we can deal with the difference between sedans, vans, cars, trucks and SUVs, we can deal with this right?

We already deal with photojournalism and not-photojournalism, etc.

But now comes the inevitable question:

Where do we draw the line?!

Or do we just leave this mess alone?

Is it a mess? Isn’t all art, generally speaking, a mess, anyway?

Do we all try to make cartopixography (fiction photography) better?

Is cartopixography merely far from maturity as an art form? Can it become interesting to me someday? Perhaps, just with some moderation?

In-camera “Hallucinogenic” pre-sets might be interesting. No more waiting to run it through Photoshop…

There could be an in-camera (even on your phone!) that puts the core of the Milky Way over every subject you take, or even between the jumping legs of your friends at the beach in colors of your choice!

No pictures provided here in deference and respect to your own imagination, kind reader!

Remember, a picture is worth 1000 words.

We should make every word count.

And the picture must be interesting!

And that’s not always easy—in all the chaos and confusion—to render the full and pleasing (to whom?) union of reality and imagination in a robust 1000-word two-dimensional image.

The new word I made up here today, cartopixography, is non-inflationary—and, if ever adopted, will not increase the price of any dictionary or thesaurus.

Ed, via Twitter.

When we have traveled to a place, and see the landscape before us, we are within the very three dimensional scene, and we have our natural in-built tools to process what is before us.
Our visual subsystem builds a wide sharp detailed view in our imagination, based on rapidly scanning eye movements. We can easily look past, filter out, and forget the telephone lines, and fully appreciate the beauty of the mountain beyond.
But when presented with a photo taken from that very spot, now we are evaluating the beauty of the photo, and we lack the thee dimensional tools ( including stereo vision and small parallax viewpoint movements ), so the various imperfections intrude much more harshly.
So to show the beauty of the mountain, the photographer must take conscious care to choose a viewpoint that omits the reality of all the other stuff.

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