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Wednesday, 06 April 2022


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Regarding "slowing down with film," I guess I will stick to slowing down with digital photography. When I used to shoot film, I shot a lot, nothing slow about it, and I processed quickly, at places like Costco, which could do it for cheap. Then I ended up with piles of 4x6 prints in boxes. Most of them are now in a large foot locker in the basement. That's my iPhone camera roll from the 1990's, much of it from an Olympus Stylus, and very little artistically inclined, but still fun to sort through on occasion. Nowadays you have to either spend $20-30 dollars a roll to get them processed and printed at some place like The Darkroom (less if you just want scans) or you have to build your own darkroom. The reason it's so slow these days is it's very inconvenient.

The tsunami of digital information correctly fed into Google will has became subliminal advertising material. And so it goes: "Eat Popcorn" and "Drink Coca-Cola."

"Our smartphones are stuffed with photos. The challenge is finding the good ones

Google already did this for you."

Despite your slightly curmudgeonly retort to this claim, the author of that comment is correct, at least for Apple's IOS Photos "camera roll". If you store your images on the iCloud Photos will use quiet times to curate sets of your images into brief videos ("Memories") accompanied by music, with titles like "New York in the Fall", "Central Park Winter", "Dinners on Maui", "The Met Over the Years", etc. It does a pretty darn good job, too! Certainly better than most amateurs can or will do for themselves.

Be careful what you sneer at. You never know what your next "assignment" for the New Yorker may be.

Photo Organizers? To curate our family photo archives? Really?
I guess that's a service for folks with much more disposable income than you or I, brother.
I have a younger friend who quit his job to start a business helping downsizing seniors decide what to throw away and what to keep. He's "curating" their junk.
I did the same for my aged mother-in-law for free. Maybe I should send her a bill.
Rant over, dagnabbit.

On the topic of "AI" taking over the creative process from actual people (scary !!), here's an article from DPreview in 2016 describing exactly that:


You would basically pay USD 99/month for "camera-as-a-service". An APS-C camera with a fixed prime, viewfinder, shutter button and nothing else. You don't see the pictures that you take until the day after, when a curated and edited selection of your pictures are returned to you via an App.

NOTE: Part of the curation process would also be leaving out entirely the pictures that the AI would deem as "bad". And no way to recover them - you would only get back what the Machine liked.

A review from FastComany here: https://www.fastcompany.com/3066522/relonchs-camera-uses-ai-to-edit-your-photos-and-isnt-ready-for-prime-time.

Not surprised that this never took off...

 "The ease with which we can make a superficial image
often leads to creative disaster"
          -Ansel Adams

 Alphonse Karr was right.

This post gave me flashbacks to the movie "The Final Cut", which starred Robin Williams as a professional who edits deceased people's memories into feature-length movies for viewing at memorials. People in this future have brain implants that record everything. The job is called "cutter", the character is named "Hakman", and the movie was similarly disappointing, but the performances are decent. Anyway, the memories were grainy and washed out. I don't remember if that was ever explained, as my memory is apparently kind of hazy, so maybe that was just realistic.

For some reason, the other thought this post inspired is that a full, rewarding life is possible without any photographic documentation, and that we are capable of remembering things vividly without images to help us. And while photographs can become valuable and cherished reminders, keepsakes and artifacts, they are also only that. Maybe that's my self-defense against the deluge.

Which reminds me: there is also photography for the sake of photography (as opposed to documentation, note-taking, etc.), and that's fun, or at least it's supposed to be. Which is to say that the doing of it is its own reward, and to heck with what's left over, piled up, forgotten or lost.

Flawless but unreal digital? I remember developed pictures coming back with noise, motion blur (ISO 1600 wasn't always fast enough for low light shots) scratches, spots and even other peoples finger prints and hairs. Give me digital every time these days and it does offer a more realistic capture, if that's what you want.

Let the New Yorker editors know that you also write humor.
After reading about poor Aunt Mandy, I will never again be able to keep a straight face at a funeral.

This idea of an automatically managed and indexed digital archive of everything you might do has been around for at least as long as storage technology has made the idea possibly practical.

I recall reading a breathless piece about it in the early 2000s, no doubt in some forward thinking but not very thoughtful publication.

The truth is computers are no closer to understanding what is actually interesting to you or me or whoever might want to look at all the pictures and sound and video we record now than they were 20 years ago. And they probably won't be that much better at it 20 years from now. It's a hard and complicated problem.

And really, who wants a dumb robot to edit your photos anyway?

To me, shooting film again is about as appealing as vinyl LPs - not appealing at all. I am happy to leave both in the dusty past, scratches and all.

Rather than a hard and fast analog/digital divide, there's a third, "hybrid" approach that seems to combine the best of both media. Shoot and develop your large format film negatives - no one will ever accuse you of digital running and gunning - then scan the negatives, make digital corrections to those several hundred megabyte, 16 stop dynamic range TIFF files, and then print digitally. A bit of experimentation may be needed to get the digital prints just right, but making repeat prints is a snap.

You know what no one talks about or asks about? The poison chemicals that the so-called 'analog' photographers dump into the public waste stream. Wonder why that is?

Brave New World: The advertising aspect of your riff reminded me of the horrible ads from the 1990’s where John Wayne was inserted into lite beer ads and Fred Astaire was selling vacuums. I suppose Aunt Mandy could also end up capering about (JAZZ HANDS!) on holographic billboards hawking the latest soylent green burger. :-)

I was also reminded of a Consumer Reports article I read recently about the ACR (automatic content recognition) technology built into most smart TV’s and Blue-ray players. The ACR tech monitors everything you watch (cable, OTA broadcasts, streaming services, DVDs, Blu-ray) and transmits the data to the TV maker and its business partners if you’re “smart” TV is networked. This is supposedly done so your TV can recommend shows you might want to watch and for targeting ads to you and your family. Apparently you can still turn off ACR but even then your TV will continue to collect some information for its manufacturer.

Back in the day, you signed up to be a Nielsen family and got paid 15 bucks a month but now they just take the data simply because they can. The industry does all it can to make this look as normal and matter of fact as possible because they believe that any data you generate doesn’t belong to you and ACR can’t be bad because it’s a “feature” built into every new TV!

Back in 2019 the FBI issued a warning to the public that said in part, “Beyond the risk that your TV manufacturer and app developers may be listening and watching you, that television can also be a gateway for hackers to come into your home." Don’t you just love the way they dropped the phrase “watching you” into that sentence? I realize we’ve had TV’s with facial recognition for years now but this whole Truman Show business really creeps me out. My TV is not networked.

I'm perplexed and confused. I'm a film and darkroom taught photographer who embraced digital around 2005. And I have tried, but I don't understand the fascination with film. A lot of the rationale seems to me like stuff out of marketing departments, eye catching but empty. "...seeking real over flawless" is an example. Is there really something more "real" or "natural" about making pictures using chemicals spread onto strips of plastic.

[Why be confused? You don't like film. What's wrong with that? Some people do like it. What's wrong with that? Some people like insect photography and some people don't. Some people like B&W and some people don't. Some people like printing and some people don't. Some people like view cameras and some people don't. Etc. and etc. It's all good. --Mike]

A little bit more about the film GRAIN can be read at https://www.grainthemovie.com

It's interesting that your featured book is one of Larry Clark's. I attended an exhibition of his work years ago. Included in the exhibition were relatively lengthy texts providing context for his pictures. I was, to put it mildly, appalled. Drug use, sex and violence aren't shocking to me, and I have books from photographers who have documented and lived all of those that don't offend me. But I distinctly remember a text where Mr. Clark boasted about how he and his friends would take turns having sex with a poor girl until her genitals consisted of nothing but "hair and air". It was quite obvious from the text that he and his friends held her in very low regard and that this was something he was smugly proud of. I was absolutely disgusted and haven't been able to respect any of his work since.

I realize that this was years ago and people evolve and I'm sure I don't have all of the context, etc., but...as you said the other day, I couldn't help it. It was a visceral reaction and not one I have any urge to overcome.

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