before photoshop we had darkrooms

In photography communities online there's a persistent conceit about "getting it right in the camera" or "no photoshop". People often claim they like to "retain the original purity of photography".

Personally I think the argument is bollocks. Photoshop emulates the darkroom and if the darkroom could have done some of Photoshop's new tricks, you can be damn sure photographers would have used them.

As soon as we had photography, we had photographers who modified, tweaked, composited and just plain faked images. There was never any notion that it was a pure art form.

Consider this photo, showing Richard Avedon's notes to a printer about preparing a portrait shot for an exhibition:

Photo with a large number of handwriten notes all over it

That's the reality of photography. Photographers didn't shun post-processing just because it didn't happen in the camera. They always used every available technique and all available equipment to produce the best final result.

Photoshop did not really introduce anything to the equation, it just subtracted the chemicals and the annoying fumbling with film canisters in the pitch dark.

Composite images were always an ethical dilemma. The question of whether to alert the viewer that an image is not a raw capture has nothing to do with how it was created or processed.

So if you like to "do it all in camera" for the challenge, or the personal satisfaction; then good for you - it does take skill. Just as properly post-processing an image takes skill.

But if you claim you're doing it all in camera for reasons of being pure to some "original spirit" of photography... and especially if you think it gives some sort of moral or technical superiority over those who don't... well, with respect, I think you're demonstrating an ignorance of history rather than anything else.

[Image found via photographers: richard avedon's instructions for his printer. There's some more info at Camera Works: Photo Essay (]

rock climbing

trusting my body
(which i haven't done in years)
i climb the rock wall

irrational fear
drowning out logical thoughts
i jump off the ledge

i hear people cheer
while i let go of the bar
leap of faith is done


On Wednesday night I went rock climbing for the first time ever. Fun, scary, highly recommended :)

Part of the first night experience was doing the Leap Of Faith (my friends kindly built it up into a big thing ;)). It's where you climb up to a ledge, then leap off to a trapeze, then let go and a descender brings you down.

I have to admit, I just wasn't prepared for how scared I was when I stood up on the ledge. I expected to be nervous, not hind-brain scared. But I eventually managed to stop shaking, keep chalk on my hands without sweating it off, and make myself jump off.

So anyway, now I just keep thinking about the next climb :)

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clickable raccoons
the perils of keyword links
discussion goes on

2008.04.11 (We were discussing an advertisement spot with the Optus rock'n'roll raccoons, amongst other things. Some days there's rather a lot of Random in my workplace...)

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mark pesce on the organisation

the human network » Engaging Conversation:

The institution finds itself caught in a paradox: aggregation makes it powerful, but takes away its voice. When power was important, the institution prospered. Now that the cultural balance is shifting toward hyperempowered individuals engaging in conversation, the institution is under threat. It is being disempowered in a way that it can not adapt to without a fundamental restructuring of its organizational behavior. This is something that governments are only slowly coming to recognize, but educators (and, in particular, educational administrators) are already well aware that their students are more empowered than the educational institutions they attend. The desynchronization between the scope of institutional power and the chaos of unconstrained and unconstrainable conversational hyperempowerment presents a challenge that will transform the institution – or kill it.

the politics of the olympics

Sometimes you see something and wonder... were they serious? Could they honestly have been this ignorant, or is this intentional irony? Without any context it's hard to tell:

Protest sign which reads: would we have allowed nazi germany to host the olympics?

The answer of course is, yes, Nazi Germany did host the 1936 Summer Olympics. It's hard to imagine someone writing that placard without knowing, but then there are no limits to human stupidity.

Does hosting the games really encourage a regime to change? Almost certainly not. Would a boycott achieve anything positive? Almost certainly not.

Hosting the games may have been a propaganda backfire for Hitler, but it didn't stop him pursuing his agenda. I doubt a boycott would have done anything either. Boycotting the 2008 games probably wouldn't achieve anything more than insulting the Chinese leadership (do you think it would change their minds about anything?).

Basically the olympic games manage to be caught up in politics without having a serious effect on them.

No matter what happens, I think we'll end up watching the games as we would anyway. We might remark to each other how uncomfortable it made us feel to watch them given the country's politics. But that's about it.

In the modern world it feels like human rights abuse is just another spectator sport. The UN might send in some troops with easy-to-target blue helmets and no permission to fire back... but the full allied military don't mobilise for human rights, just oil. Any positive benefits for human rights are purely coincidental.

around the traps

  • The Topsy Turvy Bus. As a political statement, some people in America welded two yellow school buses to each other, one upsdie down on the top of the other. The point: to draw attention to the fact the US spends as much on the military as everything else combined. Which pretty much explains why they can't find the money to put New Orleans back together. They spent it all shooting at people who have oil but won't sell it to the US.
  • BRABUS SLR McLaren Roadster, Matching Smart ULTIMATE 112: Because Rich People Love Accessories
  • Defender of the Crown (complete in-browser version!) I played this to death on the NES :)
  • The Escapist : The Myth of the Media Myth

    Videogames are addictive, violent and blood-soaked. People just shouldn't let their kids play games. One attendee agrees with the next, polite apologies are made in my direction and the memes pass around the table with the bread.

    On the way home, I wonder where the hell all this comes from. These are the same people who drowned machines in quarters back in the 1980s, who played Super Mario Bros. until their thumbs were sore. I know, because I was there. I bet some of them even had Pac-Man lunch boxes like I did. So where's the love?

  • Seth's Blog: Before you buy your next ad...