I've started having meetings with faculty and facilities in preparation for taking photographs for the next book. My goal is to explore hidden spaces at Carleton—rooftops, tunnels, basements, and secret rooms, recording messages left by past adventurers and to share the experience of discovering unseen infrastructure. Goal is to have a library of photos collected by week 6 or so, produce the book source by week 7, and have physical copies before I leave.
I really don't know how to explain this one. I walked out of the restaurant, took one look at the sky, and sprinted to the van to grab my camera. Two hours of thunderstorms and a tornado system moving up from the southwest left the sky churning with clouds, at times pale gold, at others a vicious burning orange. I spent the next 45 minutes running through Superior, past scrap yards, bar parking lots, and through the massive granary complex on Dock Street. Each photo just kind of led to the next in an adrenaline-fueled rush; I couldn't believe how lucky I was to witness a storm system like this move overhead at sunset.
I don't know how to handle the color correction for these images: Stormstack is basically a flat white-balance with the saturation brought down, and it's still a little too orange. All I can tell you is that yes, the sky did look like that. I've never seen anything like it in my life.
Over the past 10 weeks, I made a book, entitled Sampling Error: Stochastic Perturbations to Reality. It explores the relationship between measurement in the physical sciences and photography as an act of measurement. I designed the layout in Scribus, an open source desktop publishing tool, worked with a local print shop to have the photographs printed, cut woodcuts and set type, then folded, bound, and cased six copies. They’re finally done, and being distributed to friends and family.
I’m really happy.
Winter term concluded nicely: solid work through 9th and 10th week, then caught a ride with Anna out to Madison for a couple weeks with Justin & company. Finished up my finals and emailed them in from WI–everything was either a paper or take-home, so I was able to take my time, put in my best work on everything, and turn them in without a 4 hour drive. So, spring break felt like 3 weeks, which was a really nice change. I needed the space to decompress, get to know myself again.
I’m taking up the guitar again: bought an old Suzuki from a guy in Madison through Craigslist, which sounds pretty good. Deeply resonant sound, bit of a buzz (in the tuner?) on the open G string, but otherwise plays nicely. I ran into Dirk’s Guitar Page, which pleasantly has many of the same pieces I played as a kid: Carcassi, Sor, Paganini. Progress has been surprisingly fast, but I’m a long way from playing well.
Carrie, Justin, Jenny, Bobby, and I all trekked down to Florida for Spring Break; my first independent vacation! It was really nice to spend the time with friends; screaming through the Tower of Terror at Disney World, swimming and hanging out with new friends from Ohio State at the beach, learning to play tennis, and just relaxing on the beach. I do regret not reading more of Quantum State Diffusion, but that’s a small complaint.
For months now, my friend Justin has been trying to get me up to the cities, and, more importantly, to meet the people on the Equality Ride. While I can’t hope to express what the ride is without having been on it, the best story I can offer is that of 50-odd young adults traveling around the country on two buses, going to college campuses which make life hard for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people. Some universities have policies so severe, students may be suspended or expelled for supporting their gay friends or family. The ride aims to change this by, well, talking. Talking to students about their experiences with sexual and gender identity, explaining how their faith interacts with those, and challenging arguments that these identities are fundamentally immoral.
The other half of the ride is more a public relations effort: when schools refuse the ride access to campus, riders stand vigil at the sidewalk, walk around the campus borders, or deliberately trespass. At one stop, riders carried pictures of their family. At another, they left lilies to symbolize the suicides of LGBT students, and read those stories aloud. “All we want to do is talk,” the campaign seems to plead, “and yet we are handcuffed and arrested because the school doesn’t want their students to have this dialogue.”
While I agree wholeheartedly with the Equality Ride’s efforts to talk with students, this method of civil disobedience rests uneasy with me. I think it’s disrespectful to invade a private property, especially as a part of an organized group. These colleges have the right to bar people from their property, and, perhaps to a lesser extent, the right to determine a code of conduct for students. Surely a college can enforce its own attendance criteria: for example, as a man, I wouldn’t complain about being denied entrance to a woman’s university.
I sometimes wonder about how much postprocessing is, for lack of a better word, “honest”, in creating a photograph. When working with an image composed of a bit vector, which is only interpretable through the use of complex hardware, I feel free to modify the image as much as desired; unlike working with a traditional negative, in which the image has a concrete physical form, one sequence of bits is, in some sense, as good as any other. This lack of permanency, of a link to the exposure itself, is in some ways liberating, but can also feel dishearteningly trivial.
For most images, I perform mild color (usually, just levels) correction, rotation, and cropping only. I feel that these modifications are not only traditionally acceptable, having analogous processes in the darkroom, but do not change the photograph in a way that misrepresents having been there. That is, I suppose, the most important aspect of photography for me: relaying the experience of seeing something in the world to someone else. Drift too far from that experience, and the photograph communicates a dream, not reality.
The funny thing is, I’m not troubled by paintings, sketches, or detailed computer graphics for not conveying reality. Likewise, I enjoy fantastic effects at the movies, where people interact with fabricated images so realistically that it is difficult to identify what in a scene actually existed in the first place. The idea that photographs, by virtue of their apparent realism, must somehow be constrained to that reality, is, when I think carefully about it, quite arbitrary.
This paper explores an interesting technique for measuring the angles of light rays at each point on a CCD, by using arrays of small lenses. There's a decrease in the resolution of the image, but the data captured can be recomputed to generate photographs focused at varying depths in software. This also means that photographs can be taken with larger depth of field without changing the aperture. I'd really love to have a camera that could do that...
Non-commercial re-use with attribution encouraged; all other rights reserved.
Comments are the property of respective posters.