Seeing Everything, Michael Wolfe, Robotic Cameras as a Kind of Surveillance, Trawling for Gold, Gigapan as the New Digital Back (and only 1 self-link)

A long time ago, in a post far away, I pitted a few pictures against Google’s Street View as a lark, to see which had more aesthetic muscle, a chosen picture or a robot’s picture. A faulty Word Press upgrade later, the pictures were wiped out, but a question remained. “Are robots good photographers?” (A shoutout if you can find an image of a humanoid-shaped robot from a Sci-Fi movie, walking around with a camera around its neck.)

The hullabaloo over David Bergan’s inauguration photo, taken with the help of a robotic tracking device, is instructive for a few reasons, not the least of which is the picture has brought the server to its knees. The picture is a step toward trying to solve how lame it is to look at detailed photographs online (while introducing a whole host of other problems) which is something I’ve been trying to address in my own work (no links, yet).

Michael Wolf has taken a crack at the more-is-more pixels-are-good style in Transparent City“, where the detail he’s unearthed is only limited by the resolution of his scanner and the size of his film.

What gigapan instructs, is that you can achieve more resolution with an inexpensive (and multi-purpose!) $400 Canon G10. Now that gigapan’s robot is available for sale, every techgeek and equipmentnut is going to be taking timed exposures and printing them huge and mining the 100% view for gold (like Clarence Thomas nodding-off in the middle of Barack Obama’s inaugural address.)

from David Bergan

It’s easy to fold-in a discussion about Antonioni’s “Blow-up” here, in that the ability to see so deeply, so easily will lead to privacy concerns, whether or not you know you’ve witnessed a murder in the park. What interests me is when photography becomes a kind of driftnet, in which you don’t know what you’ve got (really), until the robot’s done and you’ve gone home and another robot (in effect) stiches the whole scene together for you.

Rosie the Robot Maid. She stiches?

As with Google Street View, or this incredible curation of satellite photos of sculpture and architecture, someone will be mining the digital clarity for nuggets of gold.

What amazed me in looking at the 100% views of a photograph by Joshua Schapiro of the view from Hotel 71 in Chicago, was that you didn’t have to look far to find areas of aesthetic interest.

Untitled 6
from Joshua Schapiro

Kinda looks like “The Architecture of Density“, doesn’t it? To be fair, I’m not trying to compare them as objects (I’ve seen Wolf’s prints from this exhibition, and enjoyed them very much) but I’m interested in how the aggressive resolution and detailing that’s only been available to photographers with large format cameras and sheets of expensive film/processing/scanning has now trickled-down, and the explosion of global detail is about to literally, blow-up.

On the pure surveillance level, and on the issue of street photography, there’s the inherent weirdness of being photographed everywhere, all-the-time. Londoners don’t seem to care, but Americans are a touchy lot when it comes to privacy. Look at them Chicagoans, wandering around as if no one were watching.


Untitled 5

Untitled 7

All from a photograph by Joshua Schapiro

Here are more Gigapan images from Chicago. I’d be interested in seeing what the (ahem) blogosphere comes up with as a kind of filter for these photographs, even if the gigapan site allows notating small details.

I don’t know where any of this is going, and don’t try to know. But I think that the inauguration photo is interesting if only because of what it’s sparked. It’s the beginning of something — a new trend for sure, where eager, able amateurs will begin to quickly adopt digital techniques that until now have been the limited-edition, analog signature of fine artists.

© Olivo Barbieri, “Site Specific_Las Vegas”