Datum, 2015
15.10.–15.12.2015
5. Photo Forensics: Can You Enhance That?

When you view a sign from a highly oblique angle, the perspective distortion may cause the text and graphics to be unrecognizable. To make the sign interpretable, you could change your vantage point and view the sign head-on. But what if the sign appears at an oblique angle in a photograph? Is it possible to remove the perspective distortion and view the sign head-on? This question arises in forensic settings when the evidence contained within an image is obscured by perspective distortion. In this post, I describe how perspective distortion can be removed to reveal, for example, the identity of a barely visible license plate. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 15.12.2015
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4. Photo Forensics: As Seen on CSI

A digital camera contains a vast array of sensor cells, each with a photo detector and an amplifier. The photo detectors measure incoming light and transform it into an electrical signal. The electrical signals are then converted into pixel values. In an ideal camera, there would be a perfect correlation between the amount of light striking the sensor cells and the pixel values of the digital image. Real devices have imperfections, however, and these imperfections introduce noise in the image. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 27.11.2015
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3. Photo Forensics: J.J. Abrams Style

Bright lights may appear to emanate streaks of light, and this could explain why the sun is often depicted as a circle surrounded by rays. The streaks of light are created by imperfections in the lens of the eye and are referred to as lens flare. Lenses refract (bend) the light rays that enter the pupil of the eye so that the rays focus on the retina. Because of slight imperfections in the lens, some light rays may be scattered or reflected rather than refracted. It is this wayward light that gives rise to lens flare aberrations. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 11.11.2015
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2. Photo Forensics: In the Shadows

When asked to judge the location of the sun relative to this scene, most people would respond quickly that it is on the right. When asked to localize the sun more precisely, most people would need to think before responding and they would still be inaccurate. (For evidence of this perceptual failure see 1Hany Farid and Mary J. Bravo. Image Forensic Analyses that Elude the Human Visual System. SPIE Symposium on Electronic Imaging, San Jose, CA, 2010., but also test yourself: the answer is below.) The difficulty we have localizing light sources is surprising because the scene contains abundant information for making this judgment. The fact that we cannot easily perceive information that is clearly contained within the image provides an opening for forensic analysis because forgers may be unaware that they have introduced telltale clues that we can easily detect. In this post, we will see how to determine whether the cast shadows in an image are consistent with a single light source. If the shadows are inconsistent in a scene that is clearly illuminated by a single source (e.g., the sun), then we have strong evidence of image tampering. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 29.10.2015
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1. Photo Forensics: From Stalin to Oprah

We know to be wary of the photo hoaxes that litter the online landscape, the impossibly perfect women in fashion magazines, and the scandalous images in tabloids. But can we trust photographs in reputable news outlets, prestigious scientific journals, and government publications? In this series of posts, I will examine how the ubiquity of photographic tampering has eroded our faith in images. I will also discuss recent technological advances in the field of photo forensics that have the potential partially to restore this faith.

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Veröffentlicht: 15.10.2015
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5. Godfeathers and Ghetto Doves

In my previous blog post, it was a pigeon fancier that exonerated the innocent ex-convict Leon Tate, and a bite that exposed the wannabe music producer Malik “King” Harris as the wanted sexual predator who used the New York rooftops as his hunting grounds. The narrative dreamwork of this episode of Law & Order: SVU shows an even deeper bite mark of reality if we follow the zootropes at play even further – they lead to another “Malik”: Malik Abdul Aziz, the legendary box champion and pigeon fancier better known as Mike Tyson. Tyson, a former undisputed heavyweight world champion, was disqualified in 1997 for biting his opponent Evander Holyfield on both ears. Five years before that, Tyson was sentenced for the rape of Desiree Washington in one of the most publicized U.S. court cases of the 1980s and 1990s. 1 mehr

Veröffentlicht: 04.08.2015
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4. Dreams and Deserters of Aroofa, Tar Beach

Imagine if Ice-T, the notorious rapper of the track “Cop Killer” were a cop. 1 That, in fact, has been the case for the last 16 years – at least in his role as police detective Odafin Tutuola in one of the most successful U.S. television series of all time: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. While Tutuola is the second-longest-serving cast member, it is only in the handful of episodes focusing on the only black member of the elite squad chasing rape victims that some information about his personal background is revealed. 2 One of these rare episodes is titled “Rooftop.” 3 Here we learn about Tutuola’s age indirectly: he was six years old when the 1968 riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. hit the hood. And it is another “King” who will be found responsible for the rape and killing of black, underage girls on the rooftops of Harlem at the end of this episode: Malik “King” Harris, a music promoter, who uses his rhetorical skills to seduce women by pretending to enhance their career in the music business. While engaging in the plot of finding the perpetrator, this episode actually deals with the status of race relations after the American civil rights movement with a complex play of zootropes involved. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 28.07.2015
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3. Here are Lions

In ancient Roman maps, terra incognita at the edge of the Empire were marked with the notation hinc sunt leones – “here are lions”. Specific zootopes, animal-places as places of or for animals, are always connected to certain zootropes, animal metaphors and animal images. This is also the case for unknown places, to which the Roman maps seem to attest.

People, through their historically changing material and ideological practices, are part of this complex situation – along with animals and their practices. Animals thwart not only our dreams but also our bedrooms. They populate utopias and heterotopias, are assigned to certain topologies, and transcend them. Animals are ignored and loved, segregated and caged in, but nevertheless build relationships – with humans and other animals, architectures and cities, environments and ecologies. Werner Herzog’s film The Cave of Forgotten Dreams from 2010 gravitates poetically around this relationship in its search for “ecstatic truth” while dealing with the Chauvet Cave drawings in France. Dating back an estimated 30,000 years, the cave paintings are twice as old as any other visual artifacts of human history. Both the birth of man and the birth of art are depicted as one and the same act – a moment that supposedly was inextricably linked to animals and images of animals.

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Veröffentlicht: 15.07.2015
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2. Towards a Theory of the Zoopolitical Unconscious

There are utopian spaces knitted into the fabric of the seemingly pessimistic film La Haine.1 One famous scene in La Haine condenses this “fleeting utopia”2 more then any other moment in the film: Hubert packages and smokes weed in his bedroom, listening to “That Loving Feeling,” sung by Isaac Hayes, and looks outside the window of his “rabbit hutch” (cage à lapins – as the identical flats of the cité are called). His gaze falls onto the inhabitants of the banlieue below. While the sound of a police helicopter immerses the social landscape in a tense mode of being watched by unfriendly eyes, Hubert’s gaze arrives at another window. Here we see a DJ, Cut Killer, positioning the loudspeakers by the window to sound outwards into the space between the buildings. The non-admission of young migrant men into discotheques is a recurring theme in banlieue films3 and also later in La Haine; here, the loudspeakers transform the open space of the banlieue into a grand dance floor.4Cut Killer stages an ingenious mix with samples of U.S. hip-hop artist KRS-One’s “Sound of the Police,” French rap formation Supreme NTM’s “Nique La Police” and Edith Piaf’s notorious “Je ne regrette rien.” mehr

Veröffentlicht: 27.06.2015
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1. Last Night, During the Riot, I Ran Into a Cow

Without cows and their appetite there would be no photography as we know it, argues Nicole Shukin in Animal Capital.1 The scientists at Kodak’s research laboratory had a problem at the beginning of the 20th century: The gelatin used by Kodak to bind light-sensitive agents to a base had produced results of poor quality. Only after mustard seeds had been added to the cows’ feed were satisfactory photographic results achieved. If cows hadn’t accepted their new diet, the photographic and cinematic history of the world would probably have been quite different.2 mehr

Veröffentlicht: 15.06.2015
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01.05.–15.06.2015
5. Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Gynocene: The Many Names of Resistance

In my past postings, I’ve pointed out how the Anthropocene thesis can be roundly criticized for its assorted failings. Nonetheless, the term remains significant for one reason: it registers the geological impact of human activities, and as such offers an important wedge—one that unites climate science and environmental studies with the environmental arts and humanities—against climate change denialism, funded generously by the destructive fossil-fuel industry. And now, with the momentum of its growing adoption across diverse fields of academic, science, cultural and artistic practice, the term Anthropocene is likely here to stay—despite, or even because of, its use-value in generalizing and thereby disavowing responsibility for Earth-systems disruption, validating further geoengineering experiments, and diffusing political traction in the struggle against climate change. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 12.06.2015
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4. Capitalocene Violence

“Climate change is global-scale violence against places and species, as well as against human beings, writes Rebecca Solnit. “Once we call it by name, we can start having a real conversation about our priorities and values. Because the revolt against brutality begins with a revolt against the language that hides that brutality.”1Rebecca Solnit, “Climate Change Is Violence,” in The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness (San Antonio, TX: Trinity University Press, 2014), http://www.truth-out.org/progressivepicks/item/28933-climate-change-is-violence. One way to “call violence by name” is to opt for the Capitalocene—the geological age of capitalism—rather than the misdirected Anthropocene—identifying “human activities” as the agency behind environmental change.2araway credits Andreas Malm and Jason Moore with the earliest usages of “Capitalocene,” in Donna Haraway, “Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin,” Environmental Humanities vol. 6 (2015), 161. The “Chthulucene,” for her, designates the post-anthropocentric and post-anthropos age of multispecies assemblages—named not so much after sci-fi writer H.P. Lovecraft’s monster Cthulhu, but rather the “diverse earth-wide tentacular powers and forces and collected things with names like Naga, Gaia, Tangaroa...” suggesting “myriad temporalities and spatialities and myriad intra-active entities-in-assemblages, including the more-than-human, other-than-human, inhuman, and human-as-humus”—the basis for Haraway’s additional rejection of the Anthropocene. No doubt any single term is ultimately inadequate. The terminological distinction invites a critical analysis of Anthropocene imagery, especially in regards to popular photography. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 05.06.2015
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3. Against the Anthropocene

On May 16th, 2015, the “Paddle in Seattle” demo unleashed its kayak flotilla, a mass direct action against Shell’s Arctic-bound Polar Pioneer drilling rig temporarily stationed in the west coast city’s port. Word and images of the “S(h)ell no!” protest spread widely online, accompanying reports in indie media and some mainstream press, distributed by environmentalist and Indigenous movements, adding momentum to the popular challenge to extreme extractivism in the far North. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 25.05.2015
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2. Geo-Engineering the Anthropocene

“A daunting task lies ahead for scientists and engineers to guide society towards environmentally sustainable management during the era of the Anthropocene. This will require appropriate human behaviour at all scales, and may well involve internationally accepted, large-scale geo-engineering projects, for instance to ‘optimize’ climate.”1Paul J. Crutzen, “Geology of Mankind,” Nature 415 (2002), 23; http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/415023a.—Paul Crutzen, 2002 mehr

Veröffentlicht: 13.05.2015
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1. Welcome to the Anthropocene!

"In a single lifetime we have grown into a phenomenal global force. We move more sediment and rock annually than all natural processes such as erosion and rivers. We manage three quarters of all land outside the ice sheets. Greenhouse gas levels this high have not been seen for over one million years. Temperatures are increasing. We have made a hole in the ozone layer. We are losing biodiversity. Many of the world’s deltas are sinking due to damming, mining and other causes. Sea level is rising. Ocean acidification is a real threat. We are altering Earth’s natural cycles. We have entered the Anthropocene, a new geological epoch dominated by humanity."

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Veröffentlicht: 05.05.2015
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5. Remnants of the Index: Hanging on to Photographic Values – The Installation Shot

Having reflected on the selfie and how it connects to the canonical qualities attributed to the analogue photograph, in this last blog post, which concludes my series of posts for the “still searching” blog, I will discuss the installation shot as a second example of how traditional values associated with the classic photographic image continue to live on as part of online culture. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 27.04.2015
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4. Remnants of the Index: Hanging on to Photographic Values – The Selfie

My last two blog posts, entitled Remnants of the Index: Hanging on to Photographic Values, will each focus on the legacy and the importance of iconic photographic values. The first does so through a discussion of the selfie, while the second considers the installation shot. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 20.04.2015
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3. Online Image Behavior, Where Photographs Live Today

Whereas the relation between reality and representation was a key concern of classical photography, now, as photography has become digital, the focus has shifted from this single relation to a multiplicity of relations that extend from a photograph. Value is no longer primarily derived from the special relation between the object in front of the lens and the way it is depicted in the photograph, but it is generated by the multiplicities of image visualizations and variations branching off from the initial moment of capture.1Part of this value is also accrued through the generation of metadata. This is the central point of Katrina Sluis and Daniel Rubinstein’s paper titled “Notes on the Margins of Metadata; Concerning the Undecidability of the Digital Image.” In this article, the authors claim that meaning and consequently value is not generated “through indexicality or representation but through the aggregation and topologies of data.” Daniel Rubinstein and Katrina Sluis (2013) “Notes on the Margins of Metadata; Concerning the Undecidability of the Digital Image,” Photographies 6 (1), pp. 151–158. http://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/6238/1/DR_KS_Notes_on_the_Margins_of_Metadata.pdf When uploaded, as the artist Kari Altmann aptly describes this process, “the image might aim to move more anonymously in a swarm of similar content. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 08.04.2015
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2. What I Talk about When I Talk about Photography

If one thinks about photography in medium-specific terms, digitization actually hasn’t introduced any significant challenges to the essence of the photographic moment. Cameras and iPhones that produce digital photographs still contain optical lenses that record light from which an image is generated.1The lenses of the digital devices presently used may have regressed in terms of quality, as Hito Steyerl argues in her text “Proxy Politics: Signal and Noise,” and consequently the process of creating an image increasingly relies on algorithmic computations based on a network of visually proximate images. Nevertheless, the optical lens continues to be a necessary component in the creation of a photographic image, despite Steyerl’s convincing argument that algorithms co-write the photographic image by comparing it to already existing images. As such, photography becomes speculative and relational. Hito Steyerl, “Proxy Politics: Signal and Noise,” in e-flux journal #60 (December 2014), http://www.e-flux.com/journal/proxy-politics/. What has changed, however, is the process of image creation that directly follows from this moment. Whereas analogue photography registered light on paper and in this way created an image, digital photography translates light into data out of which an image is calculated. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 30.03.2015
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1. Introduction

For this blog, I will address a number of ideas about the contemporary role of photography within digital culture and artistic practice. With the photographic image having become firmly established as the predominant form of online image, photography is now an increasingly pervasive mode of cultural production. As a result, it is important to explore the role of digital photography within the context of photography as both an artistic medium and a specialized field that has emerged over the course of the last two centuries.

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Veröffentlicht: 16.03.2015
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5. Beyond Paul Strand: What Can Radical Photography Be?

I started this blog by posing some questions about the arbitrariness of dividing Paul Strand’s career into a late period of political subject matter and activism and an early period that seemed devoted primarily to formal concerns. Certainly, this is something of a straw man, because most of us would agree that the visual arts are inherently about shaping matter, with all its inherent recalcitrance, into form, regardless of the desired or received “meaning” of that shaped form. The other problem is, of course, what we intend by the terms, “political subjects” or “political art.” The gathering together of any people into a governing unit begins to constitute the body politic, so that virtually all social life in some sense can be read as “political.” However, historically we distinguish “political art”—art that is intentionally made to express a political party line or promote a particular government or policy position—from art that can be read as confirming a location within conflicting ideologies (which may cut across formal party platforms or regimes).  This latter sense of art as functioning politically and representing certain values that can be decoded has driven much of the social history of art in the past fifty years and is what I was striving to uncover in Strand’s enigmatic urban views. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 10.03.2015
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4. Rear Windows: Strand’s Backyards

In 1916, the same year that Paul Strand made his remarkable studies of lower-class types caught unawares by a disguised camera lens, he moved away from New York’s crowded streets to capture backyards visible from a bird’s-eye perspective.

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Veröffentlicht: 26.02.2015
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3. The Politics of Urban Planning: Strand at Midtown

The same year that Strand shot City Hall Park he took another, somewhat similar picture in a second prominent location, Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, New York. Still perched above his subject but physically closer than he was in the courthouse north of City Hall Park, Strand was shooting from the second-floor window of Marius de Zayas’s Modern Gallery at 500 Fifth Avenue. The building is now gone, but from photographs it seems that he had to be behind a window (was it opened?) using a lens that radically compressed the width of Fifth Avenue and brought him nearer street traffic while catching a bit of a unfocused cornice in the lower left. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 18.02.2015
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2. Reading Strand’s New York Photographs: City Hall Park

In my last post, I suggested that we should rethink how we might read “politics” into the works of Paul Strand.  I put “politics” advisedly into quotes, because few photographs can translate specific political tenets or party lines into form. Apart from a unique photograph called “Skeleton and Swastika, Connecticut” contrived in 1938-39, Strand was no John Heartfield and never directly attacked scowling financiers or aggrandized noble workers in the fields in his still photographs. He remained above all an artist with a distinct social point of view, who recognized that the power to shift the public’s attention by forcing it to visually engage with the overlooked was his greatest gift. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 08.02.2015
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1. The Problematic Politics of Paul Strand

The recent retrospective exhibition of Paul Strand’s photographs, organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art to celebrate its purchase of more than 3000 prints and lantern slides from the Paul Strand Archive at the Aperture Foundation and coming to the Fotomuseum Winterthur in March, provides an ideal moment to think about Strand’s contribution and how he has been fashioned as a master of “modernist” photography (if not the slippery status of not-for-profit institutions that sell donated works to raise funds, perhaps the subject of another blog). More particularly, my interest derives from the ongoing debates about Strand’s politics and its importance to his work. At the heart of these debates, I would argue, are critical assumptions not only about what “political photography” looks like, but about how we have defined the winners and losers in our efforts to write a history of avant-garde, twentieth-century photography. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 01.02.2015
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