Computational photography - approaches to a new field of art
Hello everyone. I'm responsible for curating the computational photography theme for next Pixelache in Helsinki. This artistic field is new and hence we have taken a rather explorative approach to it. We're aiming to present the topic of computational photography in a way that not only brings it toward the general consciousness in media art and photography but also helps to figure out what this area is as an artistic field. With this ambitious mindset let's see what can be done!

The term computational photography has its roots in visual media technology and camera industry, and indeed this is the context where most references to it are made. Many functions in today's cameras are made with software, not only hardware. Programming is a way to bypass many of the limitations of sensor technology and optics, and as a result we have in-built camera functions such as panorama stiching, and high dynamic range (HDR) photography. Cameras have also become to some extent intelligent in how they understand the content and purposes of use of images - they recognise faces and smiles, and some are even able to frame pictures themselves. Even though this line of development is in its early phase, it is easy to see how the whole concept of camera will be eventually changed.

It is typical that artistic fields arise and bloom from the misuse of technology intended for other purposes, and I can see a similar pattern here. Some artists approach the field of computational photography with playful experimentation. Others have pointed out the potential risks related to giving control of our visual environment to algorithms that gradually shape our understanding of reality. (It has been noticed, for instance that not all face detection algorithms work equally well with people of different ethnic origin.) Some artists use computational methods as tools to produce images that are simply surprising or impossible to produce otherwise. Futhermore, a redifinition of the concepts of camera and picture-taking can be starting points for artistic projects. The algorithmic nature of visual technology also opens it up for modification, questioning, and hacking.

All in all, I don't see a well-defined artistic area but rather a collection of approaches. I would say this moment is fruitful for examining the concept of computational photography, and seeing what are its artistic potentials.

I will be posting some thoughts here during the next months as we devise the Pixelache programme. Right now we still have the Open Call for projects running until November 8th. I warmly welcome project proposals in this area. If you have questions or feedback in mind please send me email at markku dot nousiainen (at) gmail dot com.


Markku Nousiainen