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robertogreco : humanfactors   2

Color Goes Electric - Triple Canopy
"Greener grass, bluer skies: How photography came to capture the world that we want to see, and how our memories have been fashioned by industry."

"Interviewers at polling stations in malls and other locations around the US and overseas would invite consumers to examine images in return for a modest fee or token gift. Certain predilections became clear: Almost all viewers preferred films with finer grain structures. Caucasians tended to prefer skin that appeared tanner in reproduction than in reality, although opinion varied slightly according to region; for example, those on the West Coast generally preferred rosier skin tones. At different times of year, test subjects often selected somewhat different balances of warm and cool colors. They were also picky about the hue of the sky at the horizon; when shown a pair of photographs, one with an accurately reproduced horizon—in which the color might be almost white, due to a high degree of light-scattering by the atmosphere—and one with a horizon nearly
as saturated with blue as the sky overhead, consumers reported that the latter “looked right.” The strongest, most consistent finding among all subjects was a strong preference for bright, snappy versions of well-known colors, with saturations far exceeding their actual colorimetric values.
None of this was any surprise to Kodak, where photographic researchers had been studying such preferences for a number of years. As Kodak researcher C. James Bartleson explained in 1960, in his foundational essay “Memory Colors of Familiar Objects,” skin, grass, sky, and other “objects with which we have frequent visual experience” are indelibly imprinted in our memory. Memory colors are hues that we can recall easily, and thus they would seem to provide the imaging industry with a straightforward heuristic for judging accuracy; for example, slight hue shifts toward green or purple in the familiar color of flesh are immediately detectable to the human eye. But Bartleson found that test subjects consistently remembered the saturation of familiar colors with exaggerated intensity, or to be “more characteristic of the dominant chromatic attribute

of the object in question.” In other words, “grass was more green, bricks more red.” Rather than increasing accuracy, our familiarity breeds a kind of mnemonic distortion. And because most people consider themselves quite capable of judging the colors in photographs “taken by people other than themselves, of objects that they have never seen, at times when they were not present,” as the scientist R. W. G. Hunt puts it, the crucial industrial mandate in photographic color reproduction is accordance with memory, not reality. Thus the technologies that record our memories have been materially imbued with memory’s subtle alterations."

"In 1981, five years after MoMA’s Eggleston show, New York’s International Center for Photography mounted a group show called “The New Color Photography.” In addition to Eggleston, the exhibition featured such artists as Stephen Shore, Jan Groover, Joel Sternfeld, and William Christenberry, all of whom had put on prominent solo shows in the previous decade. A movement was afoot, and it was time to gather its adherents and make a canon, under the informal rubric of “newness.”

In her catalogue essay, curator Sally Eauclaire attempted to account for some of the aesthetic issues that may have previously militated against the acceptance of color photography in the art world. Film’s “exaggeration of subject hue” was one problem, because it “gave the medium an aura of vulgarity.” Color photography had an unfortunate inclination “to alter rather than duplicate the world’s colors, producing extravagantly lush, festive hues from less flamboyant sources.” But Eauclaire believed that a decisive shift had occurred in the 1970s, after color photographers “modified their traditional naturalistic priorities . . . by careful framing of a selected section of the world,” and in so doing “learned to anticipate and enlist color film’s hue exaggerations.”

Others argued that the admission of color photography into the rarefied realm of fine art had more to do with the medium’s evolving capacity to depict the world accurately—that the removal of various technical obstacles led to images that seemed more acceptably natural. But, in fact, the attainable level of saturation in color films increased throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s; Kodak and Fuji battled for market dominance, with Kodak’s engineers amping up the chromatic effects and Fuji developing its own films that were popular for their hypersaturated, nearly psychedelic colors, which even entailed occasional “mistakes” in the rendering of memory colors. In the accounts of imaging scientists, during that time period, both consumers and professionals in preference testing always asked for as much (credible) saturation as the scientists could squeeze from the chemical medium—and scientists delivered. So if there was no quantum leap in color film development from the 1960s to the 1970s, just the same struggle to increase color as much as possible within the naturalness constraint, how did color come to seem more “natural” under the skeptical, unforgiving light of the white cube? As Malcolm wrote in her Eggleston review, the American visual environment was now full of “recently made structures, machines, and objects; by people dressed in clothes of the cheap, synthetic democratic sort; by the signs and the leavings of fast food, fast gas, fast obsolescence.” Fast, cheap—and bright.

What has been considered synthetic, exaggerated, or natural in color photography only reflects our preferences, our ideas about the desirability of a look. These received forms have become pure content, since classic analog-era looks can now be applied to any digital image at all. Numerous programs and apps have experimented with algorithmic simulations of specific film products that had so carefully mediated between preference and pleasingness, between the naturalness constraint and the constraint of chemical materials. Instagram’s early filters were designed to mimic degraded analog renderings as a means of masking the obvious errors of poor-quality first-generation phone cameras, but no longer: As one Instagram engineer says, their objective now is “just to figure out what’s pretty.”

In 1971, Stephen Shore, one of the “New Color” photographers, decided to shoot pictures of the decidedly unglamorous town of Amarillo, Texas, and produce postcards from the resulting urban landscapes. He sent his images to a professional postcard printer in upstate New York. Though the summer heat had yellowed the grass in front of the Amarillo courthouse, the postcard edition depicted it as green. And though Shore shot his image of a local barbecue joint on a cloudy day, the printed card showed a brilliant blue peeking out from behind the clouds. Rather than complain about the distortions that the printers had wrought on his work, Shore shrugged it off, explaining to a curator years later that the printers “never asked, they just did it. They’re the pros. They know how postcards should look.”
film  photography  filmprocessing  2016  clairelehmann  color  colors  colorphphotography  memory  history  williameggleston  kodak  agfa  vilemflusser  eastmankodak  ansco  art  jamesbartleson  humanfactors  vision  rwghunt  blue  green 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Call Me Fishmeal.: Pimp My Code, Part 16: On Heuristics and Human Factors
"Heuristics are the key to designing programs that work well with humans, that make humans smile. In college computer science classes, we learn all about b*trees and linked lists and sorting algorithms and a ton of crap that I honestly have never, ever used, in 25 years of professional programming. (Except hash tables. Learn those. You'll use them!)
wilshipley  humanfactors  heuristics  software  programming  usability  ui  userexperience  ux  coding 
august 2009 by robertogreco

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