Pictures Have No Meaning

(©1957 The Richard Avedon Foundation)

I have long admired this photo, made by Richard Avedon in 1957, and you should too.

Roland Barthes wrote in Camera Lucida that “great portrait photographers are great mythologists” and that’s certainly been true for most of the celebrated ones.

For all the deserved accolades, in this brief post I’d like to assert that this picture, and really nearly all pictures: photo, painting, AI or alabaster – are meaningless.

3 min read

Ghosts of Democracy, 2021

An image from around the time it was becoming clear that training generative graphics on personal PCs was no longer a practical choice, and that there would be cloud, server-side foundation models from here on out.

(Addenda a little over a month later: starting to think the tide is turning back a little again…)

Digital Alternative

There’s a long history of lens-less photography. Sad how quickly the bristles come up when the word “computer” is applied… does it remind me of the nonsense of 20 years ago, when the old guard against digital cameras were frothing that (commercially manufactured) film had “soul,” unlike those evil digital Nikons and their fickle lenses that somehow worked on both kinds of sensing technology, Tri-X or CCD? Were these declarations being made on the internet, while sharing digital copies of these supposed intrinsically-soulful images? Well, of course.

This post isn’t an invitation for argument, simply an observation that a picture is a picture. It carries possible connotations about its origins, but as we should know by now the true provenance of any picture is never the brow of mighty Zeus. More on this topic to come.

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