4. Fire & water, artificial images, seasons
Adventures in the uncanny valley, in the gorges of the Tarn, and in a fire festival
I added the word “Seasons“ to the name of this journal, because they are en enduring theme in everything I do, it’s reflected in the photos I take, in my mood, in this newsletter, and it’s the title of this spellbinding song by Chris Cornell, which came out in the summer of 1992.
At the end of every summer I end up thinking about it at some point, and it reminds me of the autumn of that year, when I turned eighteen.
“Summer nights and long warm days
Are stolen as the old moon falls”
Last week I mentioned truth and photography. I starting thinking about it because a few weeks ago I discovered image-making using artificial intelligence with generators, which seemed only good at first to make funny and weird images, until I discovered Stable Diffusion, which was the one that impressed me the most.
“Dreams have never been the answer
And dreams have never made my bed”
I realized I could make fake photography, entirely artificial, in an appealing way, out of thin air, with nothing much more than words describing what my imagination could come up with, like summoning images with technical magic, and make them appear in seconds.
I tried to make images that look like frames from a lost Russian movie about Joan of Arc, and when I saw the results, I realized there was something striking to it: it was convincing enough.
Of course it’s a process of of trial and error, at least for me, but I like using words, and now I think I have a better understanding of what the machine gets and what it doesn’t.
I use AI to make the kind of images that would be difficult or impossible for me to craft in the real world.
I feel it’s exactly the opposite of photography, you only have to use words to make the images come true, the impossible buildings or scenery appears, you can make portraits of people who don’t actually exist, and the artificial neural network can even surprise you.
What does it means for photography ? I can only offer a personal answer.
“If I should be short on words
And long on things to say”
I started to take photography seriously when I realized it was an operative means for me to be creative and avoid the use of words, which was crucial for me at the time.
I fell in love with the silent mystery of photography.
It works with the simple magic of framing a point of view of reality, at a specific place and time. It summons a strange alchemy around what is true and what is not, what is obvious and what is hidden.
The very fact of actually being there is what makes it work.
Now that anything can easily and convincingly be visually faked, I feel there’s a future for a photography that centers around authenticity. It’s a relief actually. Look at the success of BeReal, the emergence of encrypted protocols to guarantee the integrity of the files for photojournalists, and the fall of Instagram, the symbol of the fake alter-ego era. I feel there is a way forward there for art photographers too.
If nothing else, AI generated images make me feel I want to concentrate more on the essential, thematic aspect of my photography.
“And I'm lost, behind
The words I'll never find
And I'm left behind
As seasons roll on by”
The more I’m writing these newsletters, the more I think I might have found a way to write texts accompanying my photos.
The following ones were taken recently. The water ones were taken at the end of August in the Gorges du Tarn, and the fire ones were taken last week in Figeac.
This last one was taken in the house of the three sisters, on the hidden hill, right after the autumn equinox.
Thanks you for reading ! I might post every Monday morning now. Please don’t hesitate to comment or email me if you have something to say about this post. Please subscribe if you haven’t yet, or share this post or the Journal to someone it might interest.
Talk soon !