Darin Boville – Computational Photography

com_photog_coverReview by Paul Anderson •

This photobook is full of mystery and angst, encompassing a very eclectic mix of ideas and images. Its essays and associated images address societal disconnect, fatal flaws, personal fears, wonder and mystery, and alternative or imagined views. Boville has gathered some very personal bodies of work and presented them in one tome. His motives for doing so are summarized in the following quote:

“I have dedicated my photographs and videos to the private amusement of my relatives and friends, so that when they have lost me (as soon they must), they may recover here some features of my habit and temperament, and by this means keep the knowledge they have of me more complete and alive.”

The book is divided into three broad subject categories: war, art, and technology. There are five to six projects per category. Each opens with an introductory image, an extensive essay written by Boville, and then the remaining images.

This is not an easy book to fathom or digest, and it takes a good bit of reading before one begins to appreciate his style. Some of the essays in the war section just did not work for this reader. Others, such as those in portfolio three_(red_circles), geological_exploration_of_the_moon, surveillance, and 12_moons were delightful.

Most of the essays appear at first glance to be disconnected from the associated images, and the reader must work to find a connection. The essays can seem random in nature. They can combine what appear to be unrelated stories. They can include relatively minor historical references that beg for research.

As an example, the essay for the project category_3 contrasts three events: the October 31, 1941 sinking of the warship USS Reuben James by the German navy at the outbreak of WWII, the contemporaneous photographing by Ansel Adams of his famous Moonrise image, and Hurricane Katrina from 2005. The images in category_3 are swirling disks of color, which Boville made by violently spinning his camera in Pinnacles National Monument. As Boville states, “…I spun the camera violently as I triggered the shutter, whether purposely or not mimicking the whirling winds of Hurricane Katrina…” The connection between them is not obvious. One interpretation, given the colorful swirling photographs, would be a yin yang dynamic of beauty coexisting with violence.

The images in the book are primarily constructed from various sources. These sources vary widely, and common themes start to appear. Some of his favorite sources are television screen captures, surveillance camera footage, computer generated imagery, text strings, and real or imagined views of celestial objects.

The images vary greatly in quality and effectiveness. Some of the images convey a direct or uncomfortable message in stark terms. Others are beautifully composed, with colorful abstract patterns or striking monochromatic tones. Yet others appear too static or not very visually compelling.

One of the most effective uses of images is in the geological_exploration_of_the_moon project in the art section. The project has 7 beautiful monochromatic images that form a tight group. Other projects, however, have 12 or more images. Too often these additional variations become repetitive, and the book would have benefited from stronger editing.

Throughout the book there is a strong hint of computer software language, terminology, and process. Project titles use an underscore in place of the space between words. Encrypted computer code appears across an entire page. The book title itself suggests computerization. Now, it is certainly true that computer control, software algorithms, and computerized processes are a major part of photography. Processors are to be found in virtually all cameras, from smart phones to digital SLRs and mirrorless cameras. Raster graphics editors like Adobe® Photoshop® software and the like are routinely used to process and transform images. In this sense most of photography today could be called computational photography.

Occasionally, however, photographers or digital artists write customized image processing algorithms in some general-purpose programming language to further their artistic goals. Boville has written such algorithms, and these become apparent in the technology section.

A good example can be found in the rgb project in the technology section. The ‘images’ here are lines of very fine text, and the text consists of three-integer tuples. These three integers represent the red, green, and blue (RGB) color values of pixels in an unknown reference image. He even adjusts the font color of each tuple to match the RGB color being represented. The overall effect suggests wind patterns on a calm lake. The accompanying essay, which is rather fun, discusses various motivations for skipping rocks on bodies of water.

The book is printed on good quality paper using a stochastic screen process at 600 lines-per-inch. Many pages have a patterned gloss overlay, and the gloss pattern changes to match the local content. This is a very nice touch and quite effective. However, the essays are printed in what appears to be seven-point font, making the essays more difficult to read in anything but strong light.

The book covers a wide range of topics and photographic approaches to building images. This book should appeal to photographers and artists who appreciate experimentation with the image making process, including the use of computational tools.

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Computational Photography, Darin Boville

Artist: Darin Boville, based in Montara, California

Collection of sixteen projects in three main themes (war, art, technology)

Essays: one per project, by Darin Boville, edited by Amanda Glesmann

Self-published: Darin Boville, copyright 2019

Text: English

Hardcover, 240 pages with printed endpapers and dustcover; high quality coated paper, some with an overlying patterned gloss, printing & binding, Artron Printing America, China

Book Design: Bob Aufuldish, Aufuldish & Warinner

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Articles & photographs published on PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s).

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