Tag Archives: digital camera

Go to print with Canon ClipChip

Canon ClipChip

It is well known that since the proliferation of digital photography the amount of images being printed has decreased substantially. This should no longer surprise anyone, especially if you shoot a lot of film and get those stacks of prints back, when all you needed was a decent contact sheet (not an “index print”).

So here comes Canon with an interesting attempt to get people printing something: ClipChip. The site is in Japanese, but on the front page runs a flash movie which should give you an idea how it works.

Canon has been maintaining an interactive website called Image Gateway for quite a while. I remember registering for it when buying my PowerShot G2 way back in 2001. You can upload your images and produce the usual array of prints, calendars, books and of course the obligatory Japanese greeting cards for all occasions like summer and new year. Once ordered results will arrive in the mail a few days later.

Canon ClipChipClipChip has its own dedicated website. The output is a deck of business card sized prints that can be inserted into a small plastic holder (the supplied clip) holding around two dozens of cards. Here is a PDF which explains it, again in Japanese but with lots of photos and diagrams. It is delivered in two flat sheets with the cards pre-cut for easy removal. The cost is Â¥430 for a set plus postage (within Japan only, obviously). Print quality is good printed on Canon’s own imagePRESS C7000VP/C6000 on-demand line (and so it should be at that size, consequently even mobile phone photos should look good). As you know in Japan there is a bit of obsession around cards of all kinds: the businessmen with their obligatory ID, errr, business cards, teenage girls producing photo labels in the ubiquitous pericula machines and kids (mostly boys it seems) with all sorts of collectible character cards (you will recall the Pokemon craze).

But let us also remember that cards and photography are very old companions indeed; in the early days of the medium one major practical application was to produce cartes de visite, visiting cards, that would bear your likeness and would be handed whenever visiting someone’s house. I think the photographic print physically presented to someone still holds a lot of power today.

Apart from the photograph itself with a caption the ClipChip cards also contain a unique URL and a barcoded link for mobile phones to access the image online. There it can be viewed and used for blogging purposes. This makes a nice connection between the physical and the virtual in an interactive way.

Canon ClipChipI am not sure whether ClipChip will be a massive commercial success, but let’s bear in mind that Canon’s main objective is to add more applications and fun to the digital cameras they are selling, so it may well be heavily subsidized. No matter its uptake or how long it will be around for, I think we should applaud anyone putting their efforts into exploring new ways of a physical presentation of photographs, especially in the consumer area. Perhaps I will try to produce one or two decks with some interesting images, they might even be usable as a kind of business card (even if you are not a businessperson a card is always good in this society, and everybody will have one). Perhaps others will think of more creative uses for this product.

In case you are curious to try out ClipChip for yourself we could act as a proxy for you for a small fee. Please contact us if interested.

Is there a large format aesthetic?

Reading the odd commentary I have come across the term large format or even 8×10 aesthetic. Is there really such a thing?

The answer seems yes and no. Similar to perhaps Leica [35mm] aesthetic there are photographs that exhibit a certain common characteristic. However, it seems implausible that this can be attributed alone to the choice of format or camera used, although there is an undeniable influence simply due to the practicalities involved.

Obviously, certain cameras, format or technology lends itself to a certain kind of picture-taking because it practically facilitates the capture to take place with the properties desired by the photographer. For large format this could be fine detail or extended gradation of grays, the lack of converging verticals or an arbitrary positioning of the plane of sharpness that only a view camera can do. In the case of a small format handheld camera, again the properties could be use in locations where the use of a tripod would be impractical or a generally “looser” style of picture taking.

But it seems wrong to then reconnect the result with the method of how the image was produced. While you may certainly find a lot of large format photographs that look like they have been taken with such a camera, it is not necessarily the case that they look the way they do because they were taken using large format equipment. It just may be the case that a lot of practitioners happen to arrive at the same end result, either by intention or by having seen other large format works subscribing to such an aesthetic and then trodding down the same path and producing derivatives assuming that this is what such work is supposed to look like.

Technical constraints or obvious artefacts aside, there is nothing imperative about a format or method of capture defining the end result. This connection is made afterwards resulting in what is in my view an undesirable self-affirming feedback loop. A lot of images made with a particular camera or format could also be created with another format and the viewer would never know the difference, neither should that be obvious from the photograph at the first place. Then again, is it desirable to pursue images that could be made with any tool rather than making the most of a format’s inherent advantages?

These influences and properties are not limited to technical factors. Imagine the time and effort needed to set up a large format portrait photograph where the photographer needs to perform many steps until the picture can be taken. This procedure or act in itself will impact the relationship between the parties involved and shape the appearance of subject in the photograph later on, simply by going through the process and time passing until the shutter is fired. While this could of course be replicated with, say, a digital camera, it seems a strange objective to do so and I for one would certainly feel a little silly to disappear under a darkcloth when using a Canon DSLR.

The overall lesson here is that we need to be aware of an established aesthetic, no matter how tighly or loosely it may be bound to the properties of the equipment we use, and manoeuvre our way through the conventions and images that have come before us to express our work in our own personal way rather than paraphrasing others.

Photobook: Merry House

Merry House Cover

This book was not planned to happen. It was created somewhat accidentally, without a concrete result in mind. In spring 2006 I went out with a then new digital camera and came up with the idea to a flash project, essentially a fancy term for a collection of photographs on a specific topic to be created within a short period of time. Evaluating the appearance and other formal qualities of digital images, I set out to emulate Japanese photography or at least what was my impression of it. Seemingly arbitrary photos of environment and people, high in colour saturation, film grain and often out of focus, low in formality and overall a highly subjective and personal assessment of the immediate and trivial.

 The shallow mystery of the Japanese photobook has been revealed and it is time to move on.”

The results somewhat surprised me. Perhaps an overall disrespect towards the photography style I had in mind and the consequent effect to not take the subject matter and even the image-making process itself too seriously helped producing the imagery involved. Looking at the results as a series of photographs, it appeared that in a particular way the aggregate result was greater than the sum of its parts. Once again, a surprise. The Japanese photobook, a small format book with the images printed in full bleed i.e. without image borders or explanatory captions seemed the natural way forward. The result to which you see here.

While it is perhaps not breaking new ground photographically, the book is an attractive artefact and is pleasant to read through and enjoy the images. At the same time it feels that the shallow mystery of the Japanese photobook has been revealed and it is time to move on.

Photobook, soft cover, 8 inch x 6 inch, 54 pages, 52 colour images.

Click to purchase book SOLD OUT

Second edition available on Blurb

By Dirk Rösler

The instrument versus the recorder

A lot people all over the place keep talking about the digital photography revolution and the fact that we are in the middle of a major shift, at the beginning of something grand and new. I have been thinking long and hard and I have come to a different conclusion. I have a number of friends who are professional musicians, mostly classical. And when looking at their art and their way of working, I find a lot of parallels to photography. First and foremost, there are instruments and there are ways to record, store and reproduce music.

In this post by Digital Photography I am mainly referring to digital cameras, mostly because digital photography in the sense of digitally manipulating images has been around for a quite long time (Adobe Photoshop was first released in 1990).

Most importantly, with the advent of digital cameras there is no new instrument producing images. There is just a new way of recording images using a light-sensitive sensor and magnetic storage media instead of film. However if you think about it a little more, the way of recording something has limited impact on the end product, the photograph.

If you compare the rise of 35mm photography about 70-80 years ago, enabling handheld picture taking, or the emergence of colour photography to the change to digital you will find that those were truly new instruments and enabled a new visual language that simply was not available before. Digital photography does not have that property at all. We are still photographing the way we did before, we are just recording, storing and reproducing differently. Like variable contrast paper in the darkroom (as opposed to graded paper) or the use of film instead of glass plates, this new tool facilitates producing the result and does this in a very versatile manner, but fundamentally does not go beyond what was achievable before, even though it took more effort to achieve it.

Thinking about it more the actual revolutionary aspect of digital photography lies predominantly in the network. The emergence of the Internet coincided with development of digital cameras and for me is the real catalyst behind digital photography. However, the network is the result of the “internet revolution”, and not due to the emergence of digital photography. This timing is coincidental and an enormous promoter of digital photography. Digital photography exploits the network, and does so very well, which is justified and an exciting step forward. The network is to photography (and naturally the written word) a repeat of the invention of the printing press, which -to go back to the initial thought of the instrument vs. the recorder- did not produce better literature. Record, store and reproduce.

Which leads to another interesting observation: the benefits of digital photography without the network are surprisingly few. On a high level they are instant review, ease of editing/manipulation and perhaps selective printing. All of these aspects were already available, albeit requiring more effort and included limitations. The major change lies in distribution and communication which are all owed to the network and the overall “digital revolution”, which as we said above occurred independently. At the moment I do not believe that digital photography has ground-breakingly changed photography, even though many seem to think differently. It is mainly make believe. There is no reason to feel that one is missing out on opportunities to create images when not using a digital camera. All that’s different is how the image is created in the box.

Life’s short – and keeps getting shorter

Broken toys of small and big boys

My matey Gary is a pretty sharp guy and always knows when there’s a bargain available. He sees things long term and seeks value for money. So I was quite surprised when he told me that his Sony digital camera broke after three years and he bought the follow-on model, an exact lookalike, but with updated innards.

Personally I find three years not a very long time. My Canon G2 is also starting to get a little funny after three years (original cost 75.000 yen). Me, I would have reservations buying the same manufacturer again after only three years. Then Gary says:

you’re right about the memory stick lock-in. Not sure about ‘only’ 3 years. I think that most consumer electronics are built for a shorter span than that. I was pretty happy to get 3 years use out of it, really…

Another surprise: low expectations! Then it dawned on me: digital cameras are no longer cameras, they are consumer electronics. Wow. So a whole generation of snappers, who probably never experienced a traditional, and usually well-built, camera may feel completely different about their digital kit.

No, this is not going to be another Red L reference; just think about other, relatively contemporary cameras. I bought my Canon EOS 5 in 1996 for around 400 pounds – used. It still works the same today. And isn’t it ironic that in the much praised age of “no moving parts” such a device breaks down even faster?

Puzzled I am!

Our Day 1960 – 2004

Tomiyama Haruo - Our Day

An analog photograph and a digital photograph cannot be compared. It is because their images are completely different. I like to call the photographic image of the digital camera an “optical picture.” It is not easy to recognise that an analog photograph and a digital photograph are completely different images.

The above words and the photo are those of Haruo Tomiyama, another lucky find at my local library who always seem to be able to surprise with photo books. But maybe it is also just me making an extra effort looking at Japanese books right now and learning from this country’s visual artists. This book is called Our Day and features the photos of a series of the same name conceived in 1964 by the Asahi Journal.

When first flicking through the book, I was a bit mystified by the titles of the pictures, such as Overcrowding, Independence, Fixation or Allowance. It is suggested in the good foreword of the book, that Tomiyama is a socially critical photographer, but since most of the time is rather difficult to associate the content of the pictures with the titles, one feels a bit left out like when being confronted with a very long series of inside jokes. Later, in the epilogue it is revealed that the words were made up combinations of a series of Japanese characters (Chinese of you want to be really precise) by established writers and the like, and the intention was to parody society using those expressions. For me, this is a rather risky way of starting out, and there is a discreet underlying sense of disconnection due to the permanent fear of not getting the joke. Strangely I found this rather distracting from the photographs. Page for page one wonders whether one can decipher the next Sphinx-like riddle and I had a hard time focussing on the images first time round.

It is not easy to recognise that an analog photograph and a digital photograph are completely different images.”

Looking at the photos, however, there is some really exquisite material featured in the book, a witness to the great timing and general mastery of the craft that Tomiyama is capable of. On his website you can run a commentated slide show of some of the featured images. There are many pictures that are a joy to look at many times over, and given enough sensitivity on part of the viewer, the critical or tongue-in-cheek message will reach its destination without the repeated imaginary subtitle these are critical photos from and about Japan. In other circumstances of life in Japan I learnt that while the Japanese don’t like directness and are masters of subtlety, they just often need seem to need obviousness. This may be one of those occasions.

I think there is a strong need for portraying Japan in the way it is being done here. In my opinion the population of this country seems to be accepting to suffer too many disadvantages all too willingly in exchange for the well-being of the Japanese collective or the elite classes. Examples are crowded and often outdated housing, ruined landscapes and cityscapes, and a completely hopeless work-life-balance resulting in a drastically inferior quality of life when compared to other industrial nations. Photographs like Tomiyama’s can help bringing these conditions into our consciousness, provided there is an audience out there that wants or at least is ready to hear it. This is doubtful and could explain the cynic undertone that I feel I have detected here.

Could Tomiyama be an outsider? Some anecdotal stories in the preface of the book about his biography seem to indicate that this is the case. It is emphasised as a virtue, but as we all know, there is a delicate line to tread between the detached outsider (that we also often are as non-Japanese) and the uncritical and immersed insider. Pronouncing the outside view may make you more relevant and to the point elsewhere, but may alienate the subject of criticism back home where it is most needed. I am not saying this is the case here, and I am certainly not the one to judge, it is merely and observation and lesson for at least myself.