January 28, 2012


The line between photographs and digitised imagery has been getting increasingly blurred for some time now, and the demise (to all practical purpose) of analog photography simply hastened the process; once the initial stage in the creation of an image depends upon the ordering of digitised pixels, it becomes very difficult if not impossible to draw an arbitrary distinction between pixels produced by different methods. Photographs taken with a digital camera are now routinely processed through Photoshop – not, usually, with the intention to deceive, but just because the kind of ‘tidying up’ that used to be done in the darkroom, laboriously and not always skilfully, can now be done in seconds on the screen. At the same time, some photographers have long combined ‘real’ and entirely invented imagery, producing what to even the most expert eye appear to be ‘normal’ photographic prints; the practice is so common in the world of art photography as to hardly be worth remarking on.

Manipulated photographic images of the kind to be seen in galleries and museums are nevertheless still complicated to produce, requiring, perversely enough, a fair amount of skill and manual dexterity. What is disconcerting, on the other hand, is the facility with which certain highly sophisticated kinds of software can now produce entirely virtual imagery which is getting very close to the real thing. That software is routinely found running computer games.

Of the two images, above, the first one is a photograph taken by John Cantlie of snipers from 2/12 Infantry Division looking for insurgents in the Pech Valley, Afghanistan; the one beneath it was produced by computer game Arma 2. How long would it take the average viewer to tell which is the real image? Could he, in fact, do so? OK, once you study the computer-generated image, you start finding the give-away details: the odd knobbly protuberances on the second soldier’s hands, the overly square set of the nearer soldier’s shoulder and the not-quite-convincing stretching of the trouser material at his groin. But you have to look for them.  And on the other hand, note the convincing depth-of-field blurring of the background and the apparently accurate rendering of the plant in the left foreground. How long before the increasing sophistication of the software and the corresponding increase in the processing power of home computers levels the field completely? What price reportorial accuracy then?

These images were included, with other similar ones, in a recent online article by the BBC’s picture editor, Phil Coomes. In it, he refers to “a recent Ofcom ruling that ITV misled viewers by airing footage claimed to have been shot by the IRA. Labelled ‘IRA Film 1988’, it was described as film shot by the IRA of its members attempting to down a British Army helicopter in June 1988. However, the pictures were actually taken from a game called”, yes, Arma 2.

January 18, 2012

CHANGE 18.01.12

18 January 2012, 7.20 am

January 5, 2012


The usual view of photography in Greece under the Axis occupation is that it was limited to clandestine or semi-clandestine activity. However, it seems as though at least into 1942, or as long as their stocks of film, paper and chemicals held out, Athens’ ubiquitous street photographers continued to ply their trade, apparently without overmuch interference.

These two examples, discarded by their owner, are small (8.5x6 cm uncropped), deckle-edged prints, of poor quality and in worse condition. External evidence suggests that they were taken in one of the older and poorer neighbourhoods of Athens (or possibly Piraeus). The first one is neatly captioned in ink on the back, “Souvenir of Childhood Memories. Stamatios, Evangelia, Alekos”, and is signed “A. Protopapas 1942”. The second bears a typewritten caption over a scrawled original in pencil: “Souvenir of Friendship / Presented to our friend Alexandros P. Protopapas. So that he will always remember us. / In Friendship / Your friends, Emmanouil Monas & Dionysios Goumas”, and is dated 1942 in ink.

The subjects in both photos look appropriately serious, but both the young boy in the foreground and the man sitting by the wall in the second image seem to be enjoying a laugh.


Συνήθως εικάζεται ότι η φωτογράφιση κατά τη διάρκεια της Κατοχής ήταν ως επί το πλείστον λαθραία ή κρυφή δραστηριότητα. Φαίνεται όμως ότι τουλάχιστον μέχρι το 1942, ή για όσο διάστημα διέθεταν ακόμα τα απαραίτητα υλικά, οι πλανόδιοι φωτογράφοι των Αθηνών συνέχισαν να εργάζονται χωρίς μεγάλη δυσκολία.

Τα δύο αυτά δείγματα, παραπεταμένα από τον ιδιοκτήτη τους, είναι μικρά τυπώματα (8.5x6 εκ. στο πρωτότυπο), χαμηλής ποιότητας και σε κακή κατάσταση. Το πρώτο φέρει αφιέρωση με μελάνι στην πίσω πλευρά, «Ενθύμιον Παιδικών Αναμνήσεων. Σταμάτιος, Ευαγγελία, Αλέκος» καθώς και την υπογραφή «Α. Πρωτόπαπας 1942». Η δεύτερη φέρει δακτυλογραφημένη αφιέρωση: «Ενθύμιον Φιλλίας / Προς τον φίλλον μας Αλέξανδρον Π. Προτοπαπά. Δια να μας θυμάται πάντα. / Με Φιλλίαν / Οι Φίλλοι σου. / Εμμανουήλ Μονάς & Διονύσιος Γκούμας», και την χρονολογία 1942 με μελάνι.

Τα κεντρικά πρόσωπα και των δύο φωτογραφιών επιδεικνύουν την απαραίτητη για την εποχή σοβαροφάνεια, αλλά τόσο ο κύριος που κάθεται στη διπλανή καρέκλα όσο και το αγόρι στο πρώτο πλάνο της δεύτερης μοιάζουν να το διασκεδάζουν.

January 1, 2012


“It is also the custom on New Year’s Day to bring a stone or sand into the house. The heaviness of the stone, the number of moss-patches on it, the number of grains in the sand, are all so many guarantees that the crops will be good during the coming year. Thus in the island of Lemnos, when visiting a neighbour or relative on New Year’s Day, one must bring a mossy stone into the house and throw it down saying: “May the purse of the master of the house grow as heavy as this stone.” All stones brought into the house by visiting friends and relations are gathered into a heap and thrown away after eight days. Sometimes the stone is so large that the guest has to carry it on his back; this is considered good luck for the master of the house.”

G. A. Megas, Greek Calendar Customs, Athens 1982, p.46