Thursday, December 18, 2008

Art from a programmer: "Within the Stone"

withinthestone.jpgContrary to the popular image of computer nerds, I think that software development is one of the most creative, artistic fields of work.

Bill Atkinson is well known to followers of all things Apple as the developer of Hypercard. Bill is a scientist at whatever he does and now that he's retired from software he's applying his intellect to photography and in particular the accurate reproduction of images.

Bill was interviewed by Michael Reichmann in one of the excellent Luminous Landscape videos where he explained how he was unhappy with the colour gamut that is available with current commercial printing. He has been working with colour management of scanners, monitors and printers and understands how to profile and get the best match at home, but commercial printing seems to have stuck with a "lowest common denominator" approach to what can be reproduced.

Atkinson worked with the team at Japanese printers Vanfu to significantly increase the the gamut they could accurately reproduce, "using techniques including using extra-concentrated inks, optimized ink densities, advanced screening technology, high-quality paper, and custom CMYK separations made with accurate color management".

The Photographs

The subjects are slices of polished petrified wood. This is where wood has turned to stone over long periods of time, so what was a biological material has turned to stone.

The pictures are at once abstract and yet, presumably because of the selection of Atkinson, they often evoke other images. The colours are often strong but amazingly subtle and detailed.

You can see some of them here.

I have no idea how accurate the colours are as these are not objects I've seen myself. There's one with the colours of opal and it looks great. It would be great to see a book or portraits and landscapes reproduced with this setup to get a better feeling for the realism.

Getting the book...

Oddly the book is only available for shipment within the U.S. so I had to ask an old friend to order it for me and ship it on to me here. Thanks (different) Bill.

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