[Art_beyond_sight_educators] photo exhibition, blog, Descriptive camera

fnugg at online.no fnugg at online.no
Fri May 4 09:25:22 UTC 2012


  A new way of focusing on photography

    U of A exhibit features work of the visually impaired

EDMONTON - More than seeing, photography is about communication.

The In Focus group art show opening at University of Alberta's 
Rutherford South Library on Thursday could not express this more 
clearly: its 10 artists are partially sighted and in some cases fully blind.

But the context of their images --- the stories affixed to them --- goes 
well beyond the fact that many of these unusually sourced photos have 
artistic validity on their own. While art is often about the creative 
process, this exhibition pulls process from physical realities that some 
might call limitations --- here conveyed as a set of stories most of us 
have never encountered.

The curator became interested in blind photography while working in 
Belgium at a school for visually impaired children a few years ago. The 
kids wanted to engage the camera, and started taking fascinating 
pictures of their environment. "The idea of this exhibit was to engage 
anyone who was blind or partially sighted and get them thinking about 
how they could use a camera."

The show, hosted by the U of A's cross-disciplinary Material Culture 
Institute, runs through May 30. In Focus opens up an academic symposium 
Friday called Materiality and Independence, which explores relationships 
between disabilities and our constructed world with various speakers and 

website, blog

Photos from the visually impaired at the Norfolk and Norwich Association 
for the Blind (NNAB)
Getting up close...early days for new group of visually impaired 
This is the first post for a new group of visually impaired 
photographers based at the Norfolk & Norwich Association for the Blind. 
As a new group we are keen to connect with people in a similar situation 
round the world and share ideas, photographs and friendship.


This Camera Doesn't Take Pictures. It Describes Them

The "Descriptive Camera <http://mattrichardson.com/Descriptive-Camera/>" 
doesn't work like your normal point-and-shoot camera. Instead, this 
contraption prints out a description of the photo you take, rather than 
an image itself.

The camera, which is just a prototype, was developed by Matt Richardson 
<http://mattrichardson.com/>, a photographer and programmer, for a 
Computational Cameras class at New York University 
<http://www.nyu.edu/>'s Interactive Telecommunications Program 

On his blog, Mr. Richardson explains that the camera snaps a picture, 
then sends it to Amazon's Mechanical Turk 
<https://www.mturk.com/mturk/welcome>, a service in which humans are 
paid a small sum to do jobs that computers cannot solve, like describing 
the contents of a picture.

"After the shutter button is pressed, the photo is sent to Mechanical 
Turk for processing and the camera waits for the results," Mr. 
Richardson writes. "Results are returned typically within 6 minutes and 
sometimes as fast as 3 minutes. The thermal printer outputs the 
resulting text in the style of a Polaroid print."

In a phone interview Mr. Richardson said, "A lot of people suggested 
that this could be a good product for someone who is visually impaired, 
or I could build text-to-speech into the camera for a blind or deaf person."


Descriptive Camera, 2012

The Descriptive Camera works a lot like a regular camera---point it at 
subject and press the shutter button to capture the scene. However, 
instead of producing an image, this prototype outputs a text description 
of the scene. Modern digital cameras capture gobs of parsable metadata 
about photos such as the camera's settings, the location of the photo, 
the date, and time, but they don't output any information about the 
content of the photo. The Descriptive Camera /only/ outputs the metadata 
about the content.

As we amass an incredible amount of photos, it becomes increasingly 
difficult to manage our collections. Imagine if descriptive metadata 
about each photo could be appended to the image on the fly---information 
about who is in each photo, what they're doing, and their environment 
could become incredibly useful in being able to search, filter, and 
cross-reference our photo collections. Of course, we don't yet have the 
technology that makes this a practical proposition, but the Descriptive 
Camera explores these possibilities.


Mechanical Turk


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