France 2004

Rummaging through Gallic adventure memoiries, I recalled a slide show I pulled together a few years ago for friends headed to France. They are images from my most recent trip to France, 2004:

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Republique Francaise

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It takes a while to download, but I think it’s worth the wait. If you download and run the slides on Acrobat Reader, I think it’ll run like a slide show. I have not put a soundtrack to it—yet. Let me know what you think. Please report technical difficulties. I’m looking for ways to make this site more “media” friendly, suggestions invited.

Shape-shifting

Each month the Carnegie Museum of the Arts Hillman Photography Initiative invites response to an interesting, sometime provocative image.

The image for March, 2015 is Sara Cwynar’s Girl from Contact Sheet 2 (Darkroom Manuals), 2013, accompanied by this question, “How has photography’s shift affected you? This month’s photo, Girl from Contact Sheet 2 (Darkroom Manuals), shows an uncertain history of manipulation or data loss. Look closely. Its digital blur suggests what happens when photography straddles two worlds. How has the dramatic shift from print to digital impacted you? What does this image say about the gains and losses of this transition? Respond to this picture and our questions with text, photos, videos, or audio files, and we’ll feature your response on our website.”

Girl from Contact Sheet 2 (Darkroom Manuals)

Sara Cwynar’s “Girl from Contact Sheet 2 (Darkroom Manuals),” 2013. Courtesy the artist and Foxy Production, NY

My immediate, almost visceral, non-verbal response was to post a copy of The Wave of the Future, a 1983 poster that struck me at the time as a brilliant depiction of the digital revolution about to sweep society.

The poster pictures Katsushika Hokusai’s 19th-century Great Wave off Kanagawa, its surf breaking into pixels that, in turn, transform into a digital map of an even larger wave. The image reads like a historical scroll; it was prescient.

http://www.grafik.com/uploads/2011/04/Wave-of-the-Futurea_RGB-042111.jpg

Judy Kirpich, a creator of The Wave of the Future tells the story of how it came to be. Ironically, the startlingly perceptive vision of the future of digital imaging was actually produced entirely by hand. Digital image-mapping was prohibitively expensive in 1981; there was no Photoshop or Illustrator. A team of designers and illustrators spent days creating six separate overlays, hand-coloring each little square on acetates spread over the original lithograph and inking in each line of the digital wave.

The poster was published right around the time I acquired my first personal computer, a Kaypro “luggable” that had a nine-inch, green monochrome screen whose display relied entirely on keyboard (ASCII) characters. While a clever programmer could do some amazing things with such a palette, it would be almost a decade before I would have a computer with a truly graphical interface. However, I had gotten hints of the graphic potential of digital imaging a few years earlier.

In the 1960s and ’70s, Bell Labs was doing research into human perception, computer vision and graphics that underlies today’s high-definition computer and video graphics. In 1973, Leon Harmon, a leading researcher of mental/neural processing of what we see, published “The Recognition of Faces,” the cover story in the November issue of Scientific American.SA-Nov73cvr

In his research, Harmon overlaid a 16 x 16 grid of squares on the portrait of  Lincoln etched on the US five-dollar bill, the uniform color of each square averaging the color of all the points within it.$5Lincoln-oval-maskedAbe-Harmon

The result is an image that up-close resembles a black and white Piet Mondrian print, but from across the room looks like a blurry image of Honest Abe. It went as “viral” as an image could in those analog days.

Within a year, Salvador Dali incorporated not only Harmon’s photo-mosaic technique but the Lincoln image itself into a painting of his wife—Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at a distance of 20 meters is transformed into the portrait of Abraham Lincoln (Homage to Rothko).

Lincoln_in_Dalivision,_Salvador_Dali_

Lincoln in Dalivision

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Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea, which at a distance of 20 meters is transformed into the portrait of Abraham Lincoln (Homage to Rothko)

The painting was displayed at the Guggenheim in New York during the US Bicentennial in 1976. That same year, Dali published a slightly different version of the image as a lithograph edition of 1240: Lincoln in Dalivision. Within three years, both Harmon’s and Dali’s images had gone around the world.

These analog images illustrate a photo-mosaic presentation of visual information that would become fundamental to digital graphics—from arrangement of photon sensors and interpretation of their signals in our cameras to the pixels of color on HD TVs, computer screens and patterns of ink spots printed on photo paper.

 

 

 

 

To be continued…

Listen to Lincoln

AddWords20x30

Lincoln’s death mask peers out from its case at Add-the-Words demonstrators lining the halls of the Idaho Statehouse. They hold portraits of a young Idahoan who, bullied for his sexual orientation, took his own life. [This image may be copied and reprinted as a 20″x 30″ poster to a 4″x 6″ postcard. Photo by Nicole LaFavour]

I’m delivering 106 postcards with this image to the Idaho Statehouse today, one to each legislator and one to the president of the senate, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, likely our next governor—as soon as the present occupant gets tarred & feathered and run out of town on a rail (or sees the writing on the wall and retires). On the back, I’ve asked, “What would Lincoln do?” Republicans like to claim Abe as the father of their party, but few show his political courage.

After hearing hours of testimony from hundreds of witnesses documenting many instances of discrimination in Idaho based on gender identity and sexual orientation, Republican leaders decided by default to allow it to continue. They appear to be trying to craft a “religious” exemption.

It’ll be interesting to see how that turns out. Would the religious exemption apply only to discrimination claimed because of sexual orientation or gender identity? How about a neo-Nazi who refuses on the basis of her “Christian” belief to serve a Jew or black person at her Aryan-only lunch counter?

It is dereliction of duty for the legislature to adjourn for the year, knowingly allowing this defect in our law to continue. If they can support gender-identity and sexual-orientation discrimination for another year, who know how much longer it’ll be allowed to fester. Perhaps a clean voter initiative would be better than some convoluted dodge based on personal belief.

 

Family album

My sister Dyann sent me home from Cleveland with a stash of 2¼” x 2¼” transparencies taken by her father in the 1950s and 60s. I have been scanning and digitizing many of them. Here are a few “classics”:

TheGirls

Sisters Janet, Donna & Dyann, & Grandma (Zella B. Knapp) Lile c. 1960

 

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My mother Margaret Lile Davison &   her mother Zella B. Knapp Lile

Farm House Occupants, 1963

Farm House Occupants, 1963

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Farm House, Pipersville, PA, 1963

 

Dy&Jan001

Sisters Dyann & Janet Davison with Bunnies, c. 1963

 

Mark&Erik001

Erik & Mark Richardson

 

 

 

 

…more new(ly digitized) old (35 mm.) images

1975-6-011©

Whitney trail

oct75-014 Stitch

Approaching the Sierra crest after a night at Trail Camp: a series of switchbacks pass beneath the needles, or aiguilles, that line the crest south from Whitney summit to Mt. Muir, the 14,025′ peak immediately above the trail.

needles-labeled

Looking back

Looking back from Trail Crest down into the Owens Valley through Whitney Portal: The Owens River winds through the valley beyond the Alabama Hills and the trees of Lone Pine. Across lie the Inyo Mtns, with 10,668′ New York Butte. On the distant horizon, the Last Chance and Cottonwood mountain ranges disappear in dust blown up from the intervening Saline and Death valleys.

Looking west from the Whitney Trail Crest: The Hitchcock Lakes and 13,188' Mt. Hitchcock. In the distance, Mt. Kaweah and the peaks of the Great Western Divide.

Looking west from the Whitney Trail Crest: The Hitchcock Lakes and 13,188′ Mt. Hitchcock. In the distance, Mt. Kaweah and the peaks of the Great Western Divide.

[http://www.flickr.com/photos/wattifoto/6179965484/in/photostream/ for a labeled view of the above peaks]
From the top

Looking east atop 14,495′ (then) Mt. Whitney (14,505′ now). Mt. Williamson, 5.5 miles distant, is at my elbow.

North from Whitney

Looking north from Mt. Whitney:14,384′ Mt. Williamson (center) 5. 5 miles away. In the right foreground is 14,190′ Mt. Russell.

After climbing Mt. Whitney, then returning to Trail Crest, we hiked west, down to the John Muir Trail, then north across the Bighorn Plateau, over Shepherd Pass and back home to Independence, California.

After climbing Mt. Whitney, then returning to Trail Crest, we hiked west, down to the John Muir Trail, then north across the Bighorn Plateau, over Shepherd Pass and back home to Independence, California.

Map-Whitney-ShepherdPass

Home in sight

Home in sight: Looking down Shepherd Creek from the pass, Independence straight ahead.

Isaac Newton an Alchemist?!

Sir Isaac Newton at 46

Sir Isaac Newton at 46 in Godfrey Kneller’s 1689 portrait.

Sir Isaac Newton, the fellow who invented calculus, quantified the force of gravity and showed how it makes the solar system work, was heavy into alchemy—or “chymistry,” as it was being rebranded in his day. The practice of alchemy was outlawed over concern that gold production in the wrong hands would devalue the royal holdings.

While camping on the north fork of the Big Wood River recently, I read Ancient Echoes by Joanne Pence, a local author my wife knows. The novel’s Idaho setting in wilderness not far from our camp caught my attention. The story centers on the search for an ancient alchemical text, and in passing mentions Newton’s study of alchemy. How the ancient text comes to be lost in Idaho’s Salmon River country is no more far-fetched, I guess, than angels burying in an upstate New York hillside gold plates bearing the secrets of eternal family life.

Pence’s story line compelled me through all 324 pages although 250 probably would have sufficed. It could make a great adventure film of the Harrison Ford ilk, with lots of special effects and Dan Brown-type mystical/sci-fi twists.

I have to thank Ms. Pence for introducing me to a side of Sir Isaac I had not considered. I wrote my honors thesis at Yale analyzing Newton’s Principia Mathematica & Milton’s “Paradise Lost” as epic works of theodicy, justifying the ways of God. The Principia is where Newton mathematically proves his theories of gravity, the motions of bodies and how the solar system works. I was aware of Newton’s as well as Milton’s prodigious biblical & theological knowledge. Newton wrote and studied more about Biblical scripture and Christian belief than about gravity, mathematics and his System of the World, much of the former, like his alchemical writing,  unpublished during his lifetime.

So, I went searching for information about Newton the Alchemist. The Internet did not disappoint. Apparently Sir Isaac researched and wrote about chymistry as deeply and voraciously as his religious studies:

Putrifaction, Congelation & Hunting the Green Lyon

Looking at some of Newton’s alchemical notes is fascinating, really yanks me back to what it was like to be out there on the edge of 17th-century knowledge, as both Milton and Newton were. The King’s College Library, Cambridge, has a lot of Newton’s chymistry papers that economist John Maynard Keynes had collected, hundreds of which were auctioned in 1936. Indiana Univ. has a Chymistry of Newton project, even a Unicode font based on Newton’s alchemical symbols.

Photo showing some symbols from the Newton Font

The Newton Font,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Alchemist, Brueghel

Brueghel the Elder, Pieter, The Alchemist, c. 1558 [detail]

I have a new image of young Isaac at his workbench mixing what would later be known as chemicals, to see what would happen with the various combinations—as I recall experimenting with my own AC Gilbert chemistry set, mixing chemicals in my attic room, careful not to set the house on fire. It wasn’t too long after that when I discovered Newton’s formulation of the law of gravity and how you can use mathematics to understand the way the universe works.

I never quite figured out how to make gold—or the secret of eternal family life—but, then, neither did Sir Isaac.