A footnote to the Automatic Selfie


Slackers-Friday-1The last post on the algorithm topic for a while, maybe ever, but the theme has intrigued me and maybe I’ve learned something. After writing the last post and subsequently finding this article I thought I’d test Google stories further to see if I could work out what criteria might be applied to data and images by photographing a trip into Bristol and back on a bus with some Continue reading


The automatic self(ie) and the making of memories.

A '19 Moments' Story

’19 Moments’ – a Google Story, to be included in a future post.

All the features in the recent post (about the application of algorithms to popular online photo sites) have the potential to be ingredients in a story, so what algorithmic tricks might be available to spin your photos, your ‘moments’, into a yarn, automatically? For a start Google Stories can take the effort out of selecting and sequencing your holiday photos, locating them as ‘moments’ on a ‘fun timeline’ with a location …

Continue reading

‘Halloweenify’ special

Some seasonally spooky examples of the Google+ ‘Halloweenify’ effect (part of Google’s ‘Auto Aweswome’ enhancements as featured in my recent post), if there are faces in the photo that the software can detect they’ll get an undead makeover (or something less scary if you choose the ‘fun effect’), if it can’t recognise a face your image will be transformed into a ghostly scene. Continue reading

‘Auto Awesome’, ‘Interestingness’ and al-Khwārizmī

Google+ chose to Auto Enhance this prosaic shot of palettes stacked in the garden!

Google+ chose to Auto Enhance this prosaic shot of potential firewood stacked in the garden.

Following on from recent posts about online software that will automatically arrange your photographs, I’ve been finding what else is going on out there, and discoveries include some odd features as well as the next stage of automation – story construction. This won’t be news for the tech savvy but there may be a few people reading this post who share the same low level of technical comprehension that I have and might find these topics entertaining, if not useful.

What intrigues me about this subject is that somewhere behind all the algorithms there must be teams of human beings involved in identifying and agreeing criteria on which the code is then based. I know little about how this process works (pleased to hear some explanations) and the only personal experience that has any relationship to this goes back to 2000 when I collaborated briefly with a computer science researcher who, for his PhD thesis was working in the field of metadata for image databases and was investigating classification, indexing and retrieval of images. Continue reading

Englishness / England – Keep’n it shabby.

Is this a uniquely English pursuit? Nature tamed and tormented at the local flower show.

Is this a uniquely English pursuit? Nature tamed and tormented at the local flower show.

Over the last few months I’ve encountered a range of ‘stuff’ – exhibitions, books and articles – that has English written through it like seaside rock; some are featured here, more may follow in future. It seems there’s been increasing debate about this elusive quality of Englishness going on for a while now (centuries really), and clearly there’s been some specific focus on the topic lately – the forthcoming Scotland vote on independence is churning up an awareness of the UK nations; the wild aspirations of our national football team had some people’s blood up for a while in the summer and much was made in the media of the Commonwealth Games a few weeks back – I was intrigued to discover that the English ‘national anthem’ played at the Commonwealth Games was ‘Jerusalem’ – but it’s only now that I seem to have become attuned to the recent output on Englishness.

Continue reading

Oporto photo shuffling

Porto montage 1Ten years ago, I was commissioned to create a poster to help mark the 20th anniversary of Bristol’s twinning with Oporto/Porto in Portugal – one of the nicest commissions I’ve ever been asked to do! I had proposed the idea to the Twinning Association way back in the 1980s and it lay dormant for a long time, but the anniversary provided an opportunity that I jumped at. Continue reading

iDocs 2012


iDocs ‘the interactive documentary genre’ is a topic I’ve been keeping an eye on for a while, in part because some of the people involved are previous colleagues but also from the little I knew of it I suspect it’s something I might have been doing myself for a long time – or at least I’ve strayed into the margins. After unavoidably missing iDocs events over the last year or so I finally caught up with a session at the recent Encounters  Festival.

Continue reading

Photographs not taken

In a new book of interviews by photographer Will Steacy called ‘Photographs Not Taken‘  photographers  describe moments of potential photographs they’ve missed – either accidentally or more often as a result of an ethical decision.

Curiously related is the Descriptive Camera “Take a picture. The picture is sent to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk outsourcing service. A human writes up a quick description and sends it back. The camera prints it out using a tiny thermal printer.” Who is the human in this odd equation? How do they get recruited? Where are they located? Are they photographers themselves? How many different versions of one image could you get by sending the same photo several times? Might this process be used to circumvent ethical considerations of visual representation? Maybe more interesting to debate than the actual outcome.

And, last item on photography items that have caught my attention recently (not getting drawn into Instagram chat!) – a flatpack cardboard digital camera from IKEA – yet to be released.


Photo mags

Many years ago I was marginally involved with the South West Independent Photographers Association, SWIPA, who produced for a while, a monthly magazine called Light Reading. Photography in the early 90s was still having an identity crisis (ongoing since the 1830s), striving to be recognised as an art form, especially in relation to funding; it really wanted to be taken seriously and SWIPA was on a commendable mission to reinforce this status.

I came across a copy amongst my archive of photo stuff recently – a copy I’d kept as I’d written an article about a project the Bristol Women’s Photography Group were doing at the time, and I remember being pleased to read the magazine each issue, and to be part of the photographic scene in Bristol (also being a volunteer on Watershed’s long defunct photography advisory board, and even a South West Arts advisor at some point) but in retrospect, and especially in the light of the current publication mentioned below, Light Reading has an air of self-conscious intellectualism about it that belies its title – and it cost £1.50 even in 1994!

So, it’s great to find that paper-based photography mags are alive and well in the face of ‘the death of printing’ (see Guardian article about the exaggeration of this rumour). Not only good to find photographic publications out on the streets, free, but even better to find one that’s born in Bristol, but with an appetite for the International – Vignette. They produce a quarterly A3 size newspaper with a theme in each issue that incorporates a wide range of photographic styles, all nicely complemented by their website. They’re taking it seriously, but they don’t get too serious – good work team!