ROBERT BOWEN






© Robert Bowen 2017

Digital formats can be distinguished from their historical antecedents by what may be called the essential intertranslatability of recorded still, motion and depth imagery. Photographic still images, digitally stitched panoramas, video, 3D computer graphics, and stereoscopic 3D for example, all produce homogenous data streams that can be reconfigured in virtually unlimited combinations. Additionally photogrammetry, multiperspective visualizations, plenoptic or lightfield photography, and computational photography in general, are all indelibly linked to the idea that through computation, many photographs can be combined into one. Add to this the strategies of translation outlined above, and the result is that we have at our disposal an unprecedented array of tools that when combined with a solid foundation in art and design, can be used not only to elegantly document, but also to look at a subject in a different way and possibly learn something new as a result.

While researching early visual media, I became aware of the work of Nineteenth century scientist, Michael Faraday, who is known primarily for contributions in the area of electromagnetism, but who also did the first controlled experiments in apparent motion, the foundation principal of cinema. Faraday emphasized that varying the modes of perception (in relation to scientific observation) was a key factor in many of his scientific discoveries. Unsurprisingly a close friend of Faraday's was William Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor of photography for the age of mechanical reproduction. Prior to this discovery, Talbot had made contributions to calculus, but immediately before he determined to concentrate on the problem of photography, no doubt influenced by his association with Faraday, he had also performed experiments in apparent motion. Later at the request of another colleague, Charles Wheatstone, Talbot also became the first individual to experiment with stereo photography. I tell this story to demonstrate that even in those moments when early recorded media was first being invented, conceptually it already existed in a state of intertranslatability. In this way, it was perhaps closer in spirit to our own time than the specialization that developed immediately thereafter. A final ironic twist in the story is that Faraday, Talbot and Wheatstone all socialized with Charles Babbage who invented the Difference Engine and is the father of computer science.