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Photo vs video

April 24th 2014 11:31
More compositions work for photo than for video.

Consider something as simple as a level horizon. If you had a video full of Dutch tilts, it would look amateur. If you had a photo album full of tilts, it might look arty.

Unlevel horizons add to naturalness in photos, to the relaxedness of an image, to the sense of this photo being an accident, a moment you just happened or were lucky enough to catch, and to the feeling of being there.


Video doesn’t often give you time to think.

Say there’s a bright area in a video. Well, your eye is going to be drawn to it, distracted by it, and then suddenly it’s cut to the next shot.

With photos, you’ve got time to look around, so that overexposed area isn’t as much of a death kiss -- you’ve got time to study the rest of the image.


Static shots are more interesting in photos than in film/video.

Consider: a basic shot of a house.

In a photo, you start to think about what information that shot gives you and the type of people who live there.

But with the conventions of video, a plain shot of a house feels more like just an establishing shot (especially if it’s just a second or two long), and you’re already looking forward to the next shot, expecting more information to be spoonfed to you.

Not only that, but the mind is processing in a different way -- you’re thinking about story, character, soundtrack -- you’re preoccupied with questions of plot and character. You’re not there, so much, to focus on decoding the meanings of and information in an image, or to see how an image sits with you, how it feels.


A still image of motion -- of a person, say. One thing we’ve forgotten consciously about photos, but never unconsciously, is that they're fundamentally unnatural. Time is frozen. In our everyday experience of the world, we don’t see things like that.

So, there is that initial fascination. And then there’s the fascination of trying to reconstruct the moment, expand the slice -- why are they smiling, laughing? When time is frozen, what do you see?

In video: you have much more information, so don’t need to work as hard; and your mind isn’t working in the same way anyway.

Even something as simple as a photograph of hand holding flowers as a person walks -- in the photo, you don’t even have information about how they’re walking or how fast, and you’re more inclined to reflect on the act of walking in itself. (The video equivalent is slow motion.)


Contemplation of beauty. A beautiful face -- well, photography can even feel a little dirty. You can take time to study, reflect. You're given this bit of porn, this opportunity to stare your heart out.

Video, in contrast, is either wham-bam -- “Here’s a face for three seconds; isn’t it beautiful?” -- or, if it spends time on an image, it’s intrusive or indulgent or presumptuous, because it tells you for how long you should be looking.


Balance and meaning of elements. Shapes matter much more in photos, and stray elements in the background matter. This is even more true, of course, for paintings -- where you know that someone has sat there and thought about every little thing.

Consider a shot of shoes on a chair. In photos: potentially the geometry is interesting, and might start to take on a psychological character, like a still life.

Or: the groom has a groomsman on one side of him and nothing on the other. Well, that space can start to be meaningful in photography, can feel intentional, given time to contemplate it.

In video, everything is less precious. If a shot is short, you can get away with rubbish in the background. You're less likely to contemplate geometry unless a camera move emphasises it. And "negative space" can be simply bad composition.

By the same token, video can be more Hollywood plot, more Michael Bay, less subtle. If you’ve only got a few seconds, then the viewer has to get it within that time; the point of the shot has to be clearer.

On the other hand, video has the added complexity of shapes made by movement.


Photos read God’s mind. For just that moment, the light was shining on this person in that way with that expression on her face. Or: for just a moment the arrangement of geometry of this room pointed towards that person.

A bride looking through a car window with a bright reflection making some of her face indistinct. Frozen in time like that, it seems to mean something, to announce something -- about what she's thinking, about what the photographer feels looking at her, etc. It's poetry -- apparent meaning in the universe, that things happened to be just so; the human world coincided with the world of light and material forms. Or: the world arranged itself so that it coincided with the mind of the photographer.

In video... well, one can do similar things, but the effect is less easily achieved. The audience doesn’t have time to digest the perfection of the moment; and the moment is less perfect when it's extended over seconds, minutes.


The way photos freeze a moment -- it's like a jewel stolen from time.

Photos of the human world – preservation of something fleeting, something we’ve managed to save.

Video doesn't feel the same. Either it’s too polished, so that it’s not a real record, or else the screen is a barrier, or else it's dirty and too real and too ordinary.



March 18th 2014 17:57
Some sketchy thoughts…

What is offence? An answer might start with the idea that if I take offence, I'm angry and perhaps want to hurt you. This wouldn't mean that “taking offence” is identical with “getting angry”, but clearly the two are related.

To define and distinguish further, one might consider instances of offence without anger, and instances of anger without offence.

For my own part, I suspect offence often has either a values/beliefs dimension or a social/power dimension, whereas anger can be "just anger". I think a cat or a dog or even a swarm of bees can be said to get angry, but can't really take offence.


Can you be “offended and humiliated” without being angry? Not sure…


In terms of what triggers offence, it seems that people can be offended at mere suggestions. For instance, if you suggest to me that I enjoy sex with men, that might inspire me to violence. But it's not just anger -- there is a values/beliefs dimension, and there is a social/power dimension (if in some social contexts I fail to retaliate to an imputation of homosexuality, my status is diminished).

Social standing and pride – how does “offended” relate to “insulted”? Well, I suspect that insult is a type of offence. I can be offended at Australia’s treatment of cows / refugees / East Timor, etc – but this doesn’t mean I’m insulted. There is no personal attack.

Unless I take it personally. Unless I view Australia as part of me, or her actions as redounding to me.


All the varied situations that people take offence. For instance:

-- offended at imputations -- can be true or untrue -- that I'm gay, that my mother is a goat, that my country is weak, that my religion is false
-- offended at behaviour (rude manners, insensitivity, racism, bad driving) -- eg road rage -- apparently connected with a desire to "teach them a lesson", an urge to educate, to bring them into line, and everyone else watching into line, with my view of how people ought to behave, and to establish for my own piece of mind that I was behaving correctly
-- offended when someone shoves me (personal insult, attack)
-- offended offended when people use certain words, like "nigger" -- either through conditioned reaction to the word, or linked to urge to educate.

In response to the variety of situations, you could either:

-- (1) try to find what they all have in common, which is what I've been limping towards in the first part of this post; or

-- (2) give up, and say that there's nothing that all the various usages have in common -- or that a better analysis would discard the word in favour of finer distinctions.

People of course play the same games with many philosophical terms -- like suggesting that the "pleasure" of a concert is quite different from the "pleasure" of a marriage, so that you can't compare them directly or quantify the comparison. Or suggesting that words for mental states are "folk psychology" that should be replaced with scientific categorisation.


The two elves

March 18th 2014 17:23
The youngest spoke first.

“Saint Nicholas,” he said, keen to please, “let me tell you of the things I’ve seen. I return to you from a far-off land. You have not been there for many years. You would find it much changed. The whole country is a forest of buildings, and for so long have the buildings blocked out the sky that many no longer believe in it. They instead regard talk of sun and stars as charming fictions, and few care to see for themselves.

“I perched high up in the city, and for 100 years watched it without blinking. In the first decade, I saw a boy steal a book of astronomy from his father’s library. He gave it to girl to impress her at Christmas. In the second decade I saw the boy marry the girl. And in the third decade I saw the boy weeping over her, that she’d passed away and had never with her own eyes seen the sky.

“The book lay long forgotten in a drawer. So, years later, when the boy himself had faded from memory, I took it and brought it here.”

The eldest spoke next.

“Ah, Saint Nicholas, my legs are too frail to carry me, but my eyes grow clearer. I need only to sit here and gaze in the fire to see the forms of past and present dancing -- born and reborn and reborn again.

“The truth is that that boy has known that girl many times before, and will know her many times to come, pursuing endlessly. In some lives he marries her. In others she rejects him. But in no lifetime is his happiness with her more than fleeting.

“And all because, one winter long ago, a Christmas before there were Christmases, she smiled at him across the snow, and he never forgot it.”


Loch Ness and skiing

March 17th 2014 00:09
I was watching a Fox Sports program on extreme skiing recently.

At a particular point, a character noted that an unski’d slope is a very rare thing these days

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Dan O'Day and the Art of the Accidental

September 2nd 2013 20:19
A quick thought...

There are many image conventions -- the rule of thirds; having foreground, middle-ground, background in a picture; directing perspective lines towards subjects of interest; having the brighter in the background and the darker in the foreground; framing subjects with other objects, and so forth

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I'm often a little ticked when people hold up "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" as the answer to all our moral problems. I'm ticked because it just seems to me glib and simplistic.

For one problem, consider something like the US and UK government spying on their citizens, where the government justification involves an appeal to utilitarianism and the greatest good. Well, how does the golden rule resolve the conflict of values -- security on the one hand vs privacy and freedom from domination on the other

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Three quick thoughts.

Firstly, is outsourcing labour obviously a bad thing for Australian happiness

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God in a photograph

May 8th 2013 00:04
I'm not a religious person, but I used to approach art with veneration. So, the equivalent of a church for me was a movie theatre or an art gallery.

But I don't know now that there's anything spiritual, ultimately, about art. I reason: the spiritual is timeless and universal, but art is about the "human, all-too-human" -- about pressing buttons to elicit emotions, about culturally specific patterns. And rather than being grand and mysterious, art's effects often seem explicable in terms of psychology, biology, evolutionary theory, etc

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Quick note on madness

March 19th 2013 20:00
Best way into this whole can of worms is to look at some debatable "mental illnesses". Homosexuality, pedophilia. Are these, or are these not, mental illnesses?

And once you ask that question, you're led on to further questions, one of which is trifling, but troubling. Are "mental illnesses" misnamed in the first place? A bodily illness is usually (but not always) something like a virus getting into your body and replicating. You can classify the illness by its cause, it has defined phases, and you can relate it to biology -- you can see it under a microscope. Many (but not all) mental illnesses, in contrast -- you don't classify by cause, but by symptoms; there aren't defined phases; and you can't relate purely to biology, but have to also talk about behaviour, society, environment and even things like feelings and thoughts

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Genetic guilt

January 23rd 2013 09:19
Last year of high school, and qualification for any university course depended on what mark you got from a set of final exams; the previous 12 years didn't matter.

An acquaintance said, with just a hint of bitterness, "You guys --" meaning you guys who score well -- "are lucky. You can easily get the marks you need

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