Here’s an interesting video in which acclaimed documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (the guy who directed The Fog of War) talks about the issue of truth in photography, and how he thinks we’ve forgotten that there’s a connection between photos to the physical world.
Photographs are neither truth nor false. Talking about the truth or falsit of a photograph is nonsense talk [...] All photographs are posed.
He also makes the point that sometimes photographs are posed by excluding things.
German photographer Andreas Gursky is one of the most successful artists of our time, and yesterday a print of his titled “Rhein II” became the world’s most expensive photograph, selling for $4.3 million. Back in the early 2000s, director Ben Lewis made this interesting 23-minute feature that gives an inside look into “Gursky World.”
Back in September we shared the story of Teresa Berg, a photographer who volunteers her time to take professional quality adoption photos for dogs in shelters. Sadly, similar efforts to save dogs through photography aren’t always encouraged. A woman named Emily Tanen was fired from Animal Care and Control of New York City back in May for her photos of dogs scheduled to be euthanized. Her crime? Violating the group’s strict photo policy, which includes a rule prohibiting showing humans in photos. The New York Times writes,
When she started working at Care and Control, Ms. Tanen said, she believed that the animals were photographed poorly and that the images failed to convey the warmth of a potential pet.
With her art background from her studies, Ms. Tanen decided she could do a better job with her $1,500 Nikon.
[...] Ms. Tanen said she tried to comply with the rules, but sometimes felt her judgment trumped her superiors’. She continued to show people’s hands touching a dog, even after receiving a warning against doing so. “I think they just didn’t want photos of animals that they were about to kill looking cute and adoptable and happy with people, but they said it was because their research showed that photos with people didn’t encourage people to adopt,” she said.
You can see some more of Tanen’s photographs here (be warned: they show humans).
A 19-year-old man in the UK has been sentenced to two months in prison for snapping a courtroom photo. Paul Thompson was sitting in a public gallery last week — the defendant was a friend who was on trial for robbery — when another friend texted him to ask where he was. Thompson decided to snap a picture with his Blackberry to explain why he couldn’t talk, but was quickly arrested by officers who noticed what he was doing. He was then sentenced to two months in prison for “contempt of court” by Judge Barbara Mensah, who wanted to send out a strong message:
There are notices all around the court building about not taking photographs in court. This is a serious offence and the message must go out that people cannot take photos.
Although two months in jail seems harsh, it could have been worse: CBS News notes that the law gives the courts the right to jail someone for up to two years for photography.
On a sunny day in October, Robert Cornelius set up his camera in the back of his father’s gas lamp-importing business on Chestnut Street in Center City, Philadelphia. After removing the lens cap, he sprinted into the frame, where he sat for more than a minute before covering up the lens. The picture he produced that day was the first photographic self-portrait. It is also widely considered the first successful photographic portrait of a human being.
[...] the words written on the back of the self-portrait, in Cornelius’ own hand, said it all: “The first light Picture ever taken. 1839.”
Robots might not be able to convey emotions or tell stories through photographs, but one thing they’re theoretically better than humans at is calculating proportions in a scene, and that’s exactly what one robot at India’s IIT Hydrabad has been taught to do. Computer scientist Raghudeep Gadde programmed a humanoid robot with a head-mounted camera to perfectly obey the rule of thirds and the golden ratio. New Scientist writes,
The robot is also programmed to assess the quality of its photos by rating focus, lighting and colour. The researchers taught it what makes a great photo by analysing the top and bottom 10 per cent of 60,000 images from a website hosting a photography contest, as rated by humans.
Armed with this knowledge, the robot can take photos when told to, then determine their quality. If the image scores below a certain quality threshold, the robot automatically makes another attempt. It improves on the first shot by working out the photo’s deviation from the guidelines and making the appropriate correction to its camera’s orientation.
It’s definitely a step up from Lewis, a wedding photography robot built in the early 2000s that was taught to recognize faces.
On Memorial Day 2011, Narces Benoit witnessed and filmed a group of Miami police officers shooting and killing a suspect in a car chase and armed robbery. He was then confronted by officers who handcuffed him and smashed his cell phone, but Benoit was able to sneakily preserve the video with some quick thinking. The Miami Herald writes,
Benoit said the officers eventually uncuffed him after gunshots rang out elsewhere and he discreetly removed the [memory] card and placed it in his mouth.
Officers again took his phone, demanding his video. He said they took him to a nearby mobile command center, snapped a picture of him, then took him to police headquarters and conducted a recorded interview while he kept the [memory] card in his mouth. He insisted his phone was broken.
President Obama announced last week that photographs of Osama bin Laden’s body would not be released to the public due to concerns that it would incite violence and hatred, but a number of news agencies and advocacy groups are attempting to have them released using a Freedom of Information Act request. The Associated Press is one of the agencies that filed a FOIA request (they’re also requesting that video of the raid be released), and the US government has 20 days to respond. Read more…
Last week a United Airlines flight out of Denver International Airport was returned to the gate after being ready for takeoff when a passenger noticed “suspicious behavior” and notified a flight attendant. The plane was evacuated and swept for suspicious devices, the suspicious passengers were taken and questioned, and the flight was delayed by 2.5 hours. Now it’s believed that the passengers were simply taking pictures during taxiing, though the fact that two of the picture takers were of Middle Eastern descent likely had something to do with the “suspiciousness”.