Project Space: Leigh Brodie

by Risa Puleo

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      “What the eye does is to find and focus on the particular subject within the mass of reality; what the camera does is simply to register upon film the decision made by the eye.”
      --Henri Cartier Bresson, The Decisive Moment, 1952

      The notion of the “decisive moment”—Cartier Bresson’s term to describe the moment when the astute photographer captures and records captures life as it arranges itself into a “rigorously organized” picture--posits that there is an optimal time to photograph an event. Assuming Cartier-Bresson’s assertion is a valid hypothesis, Leigh Brodie uses custom computer visualization software to quantify the qualitative. Brodie--who recently moved from Austin to Los Angles—establishes a set of criteria processed through a series of algorithms to identify such "decisive moments" from a stream of images. In her most recent work for this project, Brodie has staged and recorded actions with definitive outcomes: the roll of a pair of dice, the breaking of a wishbone and a game of rock, paper, scissors. Through the process of translating IRL images[1] into digital information Brodie begins to dismantle the romance surrounding the photographer-auteur and recognize the machine-eye for its part in image construction.

      [1] “In real life,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real_life.

      Risa Puleo is Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Blanton Museum of Art

      + 2 Comments
      Dan Dutton
      Jul 16, 2010 | 6:55am

      In what way is this set of criteria "established?" ~ and in what way can such moments be in any way decisive? Rather than dismantling romance, (what a project) or contributing anything to the appreciation of the photographer’s decision-making process, this strikes me as the romanticizing of computer doodling for a self-absorbed robot. "Assuming" ~ whew!  Maybe watching Hal in 2001 Space Odyssey, again, would help. Or really thinking about what makes these forgettable images different from an iconic Cartier-Bresson photograph. Dare I say something a little less literal?

      Leigh Brodie
      Jul 16, 2010 | 12:28pm

      Thanks for your comments.  I love a good photo discussion.  First, let me say that I do not think that a compter program is an alternate to human photographers or that a code could be created to take photographs better than we can, (Although camera companies are working on it: http://www.canada.com/edmonton/edmontonjournal/news/business/story.html?id=fd30bb72-a018-4967-a3c9-403e72e846c6 )

      So, I am not clamming that I have created a computer that will create better work than, or even comprable with Cartier-Bresson’s.  What I would like is for viewers to think about the history and technology that contributes to our expectations of photography.  If there is a right or best time to take a photo as the Decisive Moment suggests (and I would say this is a big if) then we should be able to define what separates this moment from all the others. If we could do that (again big if) what does that say about photography?  To me it implies that is a game that can be won by brute force.  The more frames you take the better chances you have of finding that one best photo. Theoretically if this machine had all the frames possible of a given event it would identify the best one. By definition that would be the best photo.

      This does not fit into my concept of photography and is what frustrates me about the Decisive Moment.  I do not believe that this ultimate-photo-machine is possible but I do think it is what happens if you take the idea of the Decisive Moment to its logical conclusion.  I think this idea further pushes photography to be seen as an objective medium when it has so many subjective elements within its very mechanisms, even without a human presence.  The lens, shutter, ISO, etc… all privilege certain elements when we create a photograph and this influences our perception of the world.  This may sound simplistic but I think its relevant since we are so inundated with photographic imagery.

      I do have to agree, this presentation of this project is quite litteral and does not hint toward its futility as much as it could.  Next up: Decisive channel surfing!

      Thanks again for the comments and if you would like to know more about the criteria or find further musings on this project and the Decisive Moment please visit:

      http://www.leighbrodie.com/projects/decisive_selection_method/text/

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