Plenoptic Photography

First image out of my Lytro

I just received my Lytro lightfield camera. It’s the first commercialized plenoptic camera, which is an optical device with an array of lenses to capture a scene at multiple focal points. There’s a lot of terrible rhetoric in the tech and electronics communities about this camera, claiming that it will allow you to take a photograph and “worry about focusing… read more

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The Clumsiest Way to Exercise Imagination

or, Garry Winogrand was wrong

Some time ago, I posted this fantastic quote about the difference between photography and other kinds of creativity, by the famous street photographer Garry Winogrand: Still photography is the clumsiest way to exercise imagination, to illustrate literary ideas. Anybody with a pencil beats you. Period. To take a simple illustration of the point: if you wanted a melted watch, how… read more

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Shaka, When the Walls Fell

In one fascinating episode, Star Trek: The Next Generation traced the limits of human communication as we know it—and suggested a new, truer way of talking about the universe.

On stardate 45047.2, Jean-Luc Picard leads the crew of the Enterprise in pursuit of a transmission beacon from the El-Adrel system, where a Tamarian vessel has been broadcasting a mathematical signal for weeks. The aliens, also known as the Children of Tama, are an apparently peaceable and technologically advanced race with which the Federation nevertheless has failed to forge diplomatic relations.… read more

“Science”

Response to the 2014 Edge Question: What Scientific Idea is ready for retirement?

“No topic is left unexplored,” reads the jacket blurb of The Science of Orgasm, a 2006 book by an endocrinologist, a neuroscientist, and a “sexologist.” A list of topics covered includes the genital-brain connection and how the brain produces orgasms. The result, promises the jacket blurb, “illuminates the hows, whats, and wherefores of orgasm.” Its virtues or faults notwithstanding, The… read more

A Machine That Makes Cameras: The Aesthetics of the Lytro

An image taken with a Lytro camera is not really an image, but a machine capable of producing many possible renditions.

The Lytro Light Field Camera Let's think about photography as people live it. A posed family picture might be taken once, then again, and again until the right combination of open eyes, smiles, and light and shadow produce an acceptable portrait. An action, performance, or sports shot that could speed by too fast for human judgement partakes of a surrogate: the… read more

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Simony

A game art installation at MOCA Jacksonville and on the Apple App Store

Is glory and achievement something you earn, or something you buy? Is it more right (or more righteous) to ascend to a rank or office on the merits of your actions than on the influence of your connections, or the sway of your bank account? For that matter, which offices are worth earning (or buying) in the first place? Read… read more

Robert Jackson’s DSCOOOO1.jpg Project

At the O-Zone Journal

The new O-Zone journal has a section called OO Frequency, for content that takes a form other than writing. A while ago they posted my short video for OOOIII, Seeing Things, which deals with the photographer Garry Winogrand and the website Dear Photography. More recently, they’ve posted a lovely new video from Robert Jackson, who is a doctoral candidate at the… read more

What’s in a Medium?

A response to Mike Thomsen

The New Inquiry published a review by Michael Thomsen of my latest book How to Do Things With Videogames. It’s just the kind of review an author hopes for: fair, thoughtful, based on a thorough reading, and full of new ideas and observations. I’m grateful to Thomsen for writing it. Thomsen raises an objection that I’ve been waiting for and… read more

The Illusion of a Literal Description

Garry Winogrand, circa 1974

Tod Papageorge shared with me a talk Garry Winogrand gave at MIT in 1974, which he (Papageorge) introduced. An audio recording from the University of California Riverside’s archive captures much of the lively question and answer period, which included a wealth of fantastic material. Here are two of my favorites: A photograph has to be rational. It has to be… read more

A Photograph is a Photograph

Tod Papagorge on the Ontology of Photography

Apropos of two of Levi’s recent posts about materialism and fictions, I thought I’d share this excerpt from an interview with photographer Tod Papageorge. He’s responding to a question about the need for photography to have a moral responsibility, something Susan Sontag had suggested. It’s always been puzzling to me that capacious minds like Sontag’s, to say nothing of those… read more