The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for April 18th, 2013

troubled jottings

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The scenes depicted in today’s shots actually didn’t actually look very much like these presented photo. In general, I screw around with every shot a little bit- push or pull the exposure and midpoints of dark and light, alter the color temperature to neutralize and compensate for sodium or fluorescent lights, drop an exposure gradient into a sky or on the water to compensate for glare. I’ll do the occasional tilt shift here and there, but largely strive for the ability to do it “in camera” more than anything else. Nothing major is altered, by “retoucher” standards, who would define such adjustments as merely “helping” the photo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These photos, however, have had a whole bag of hammers thrown at them. One of the things I’m trying to eliminate from my mind these days is any fealty to the metaphor of film in creating a digital photograph. Even the term “photograph” is somewhat disingenuous as what these images actually “are” is a 23 megabyte computer file compiling the data captured by a sophisticated sensor. There is more information in the original file than is needed for reproduction, and the process of outputting the final image always involves a bit of photoshop editing work- deciding what to throw away, and that’s where the artsy fartsy stuff happens.

Losing this metaphor, the film one, leads one down the odd path of the so called “Uncanny Valley.” This term refers to a human perception bias which can instantaneously determine if something is artificially contrived, using CGI techniques to simulate a human face for instance. What I was “going for” in developing the shots as they are was a sort of old timey hand colored thing accomplished by a severely limited but quite saturated color range and an extremely high contrast regarding the black and white ratio. It’s a “formula” or “look” I’ve been asked to apply to other people’s files in my advertising life, by the way, usually for sports marketing stuff.

It beggars a certain question though- If it’s not a faithful rendition of the scene, a photograph by definition, what is it?

Also: Upcoming Tours!

Glittering Realms Saturday, April 20, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets on sale soon.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

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