Just a few thoughts on photography.
In music we deal with a relatively young discipline called psychoaccoustics, and while this "sounds a bit weired" if you never heard about it before, it is a serious aspect of music science.
Applied psychoaccoustics, audiokinetics etc. has has implications on disciplines such as music psychology or music therapy. There are obvious upper and lower limits in our perception of sound based on physical principles.
Back to photography, the same ideas could be applied here as well in something like "applied psyoptics". While this term does not exists to my knowledge, it is used already in a wide range of applications.
In short, our vision has limitations as well, defined by the visible spectrum of light availble to us in the very narrow band of 400 to 700 nm inbetween ultraviolett and infrared. Three cranial nervs control six bands of muscles that control the functions of our eye.
Informations about the visual field, right left, color etc. travels via the visual pathway from the receptors of the eye over the optical nerve to the brain.
(Image courtesy National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland.
So, in a nutshell, this is what we all have in common when it comes to vision.
As we know, we all perceive pictures in different ways, and this of course is based on our individual background.
Kai-Uwe Grundlach, one of the top photographers in Germany, shot the photographs for the Mercedes G series.
(Courtesy of Studiuo Gundlach, Kai-Uwe Gundlach)
Now, I think we can assume that Mercedes was looking for the most powerful photographs for their advertising campaign.
Kai-Uwe utilised computer generated images, CGI techniques to create these stunning pictures. This means, the cars in the shots were rendered, while he photographed the background landscapes in a traditional way, and in addition used a special camera to shoot the cubic sphere of the landscape, so all these infomations will be mirrored on the cars surface, and is later combined in 3D software when the car is projected into the landscape.
As a result, the reflections on the cars surface are as real as it gets.
These techniques have a variety of advantages for the client and the photographer at the same time. Locations can be shot much more relaxed, no security is needed, transportation of cars for the shooting etc., the whole logistic chain becomes a much easier exercise, and I would assume CGI to be an attractive proposition for both, photographer and client.
Looking at the endresults, personally I find them stunning, I would go a step further and call CGI a style tool available to photographers today. Recent Photoshop Versions from CS3 on started to implement basic fundtionality of CGI, and while this still has a long way to go in my opinion, it is a trend that can be seen as part of our photographic future.
I think we can say that Executives in the advertisment world choose the special look of such pictures for their very impact on the viewer in the first place.
So what defines this impact on a variety of observers from different cultural backgrounds? This is exactly were a discipline such as psyoptics would come in and help us in the process to understand the correlation between the visual reference and emotional reflex of any given observer.
My very own reaction when I saw Kai's work for the first time was best to be described such that I had to look twice. - I would think, this in it's own is of great value for any advertisement shots. -
I showed his work to a few people who have no background in photography, and never heard of CGI in the first place.
The result was that every single observer found them stunning and fantastic piutures, but at the same time they were insecure as to wether they are real or not. Some even said "They look too real to be true."
Ok, this was not a valid field test environment to draw conclusions from, I also do not have printable files and could not show large format versions in a print hence only on the screen versions, but I assume the results would have been no different.
My own reaction is similiar, something striking that I would call hyper-reality is jumping out of these shots, and of course it is the result of tasteful use of cutting edge CGI tools.
Try to look at the shots again and imagine the car would not be in there, now imagine them to be produced in a more traditional and technically flawless landscape technique. I am certain that there would be a great difference in visual appearance left, and we could easily find out what shots were made in a traditional way and what shots utilised CGI.
We are used to see traditionally shot pictures more than CGI created pictures, our eyes are trained on the traditional versions. This might change in future generations, and probably already has started.
So, the executives in mercedes decided that Kai's work gives them the most powerfull emotional impact for thier campaign for a wide audience, and I guess they were right, however, I wonder, do they even know why?
Defining a discpline such as Psyoptics could help us understanding more about the impact of pictures and why they work in a certain way.
May be such particular research exists already, and a I am just not aware about it. Certainly it exists in a variety of different disciplines, but probably not as a specialised subset.
The most powerful picture database that exists on the planet is certainly our brain. We do not shoot frames per second, but our perception is based on a flicker fusion treshold and persistance of vision, the frequency of an intermittend light stimulus that appears to be steady to us.
We know that 25-30 frames per second give us the impression of a steady moevement, but this does not mean that this is our limitation. Persistance of vision accounts for the illusion of movement, we all know the flippin pages effect of a cartoon figure that appears to move when we flip the pages quickly.
Our eyes can be fooled in various ways, M.C. Esher’s work is good example.
Courtesy of M.C. Esher Gallery,
Relativity 1953 Lithograph
At the same time, our eye/brain funtions have access to every picture we ever perceived and it interprets new informations on the basis of our already perceived images. Now that’s what I call a database!
Even the “photographic untrained eye”, and this is an oxymorone in deed, perceives Kai Uwe’s pictures as too good to be true by referencing them to the database of a liftime experience of pictures stored in our brain. The notion that we as photographers have a trained eye compared to non photographers is something that I would dispute in that context.
The eye is not a camera, does not have a frame rate or a scan rate but the system eye/brain combines motion, detail and pattern detectors, the output of all are combined into our visual experience.
What works and what works less for powerful images, and most of all why, a fascinating field to explore.....