Tuesday, 7 February 2017

The idea of "The Pixel" as a subject of enquiry. - Thoughts and notes from a lecture by Stella Baraklianou, Friday 3rd February, 2017.

Following on from the lecture by Stella Baraklianou on Friday, 27 January, a subsequent speech on Friday, 3 February was given, in which Stella described her White Paper published in the Philosophy of Photography, volume 3 number two, 2012. The title of her paper that was subsequently published was "Pixel". In a review of the document, while Stella provides a detailed explanation of the term pixel is an element or cell, it seems that the majority of her work, and being a photographer herself, resides in the field of analogue film technology. In this context, she talks about the relationship between the pixel in digital media and the idea that traditional film is made up of small crystals of silver halide. She goes on to explain how in the classic film capturing techniques, the light-sensitive silver halide changes its properties to create a permanent reaction based on the light falling upon it. Whereas in digital technology, a charged coupled device (CCD) sensor is used which is made up of millions of junctions (the charge couple device itself) connected together in the form of a matrix. When light falls upon one of those junctions the electrical properties of the CCD changes depending upon the intensity of light that is falling upon it. In this sense, the output of the CCD matrix is then mediated by further computing technology to then reassemble the 'array' electronically into an identifiable picture. There is, therefore, a consideration that in digital technology there is a lack of permanence and any image made up from a reflection of the properties of light falling on an electronic sensor are therefore mediated.

In my own view, I think that there has been some confusion by Stella in where the term pixel has evolved from. While she briefly mentions Alfred Dinsdale referring to television in the late 1920s, there appears a very little investigation that could have been documented to show its emergence. Stella's paper focuses purely on analogue photography versus digital photography.
However, in reality, there were three technologies emerging at different times in history, each with their own independent language specifically and to some degree esoteric play within each of the fields of photography, television and later digital image processing. I believe it is essential to look at analogue television and video recording techniques in much more detail and consider those together with the silver oxide-based photography described in the article before digital technology and image processing is given centre stage about the term "pixel".

Nevertheless, the document is an interesting and well-written sojourn into a viewpoint of images being mediated through, and in between an arguably liminal, step. This idea of liminality is of interest to me in my own expression through Speculative Realism, and my drive to remove observation from the anthropocentric relationship.

As a further subject for discourse, Stella explained ideas behind workflows. A good reference point for photographic workflows, which are critical to digital photography, image capture, and manipulation can be found at the open eye Gallery under the exhibitions.

Examples by Fabien Giraud and Rafael Siboni provide abstract film images of sunspots and moreover, pictures of the Sun itself.

Stella went on to explain how as practitioners it is important for us to understand how we chart our process and methodology through workflows and a practical demonstration was given thus;

Fig. 1 - Example of a typical Workflow, modeled on an interview of a Photography / DM Student, by Graham Hadfield.
References:
These notes were made during and following a lecture at the University of Huddersfield (2017), by Stella Baraklianou, on Friday 3rd February 2017 and are recorded here by the blog author.

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