#600. The Monday Post (29 May 2017) – “You’re hurting me, Dave”

By pascaljappy | Monday Post

May 29

Pascal commits …


After 600 episodes, you may wonder what keeps us going. And you may have that overwhelming feeling that our photography is so vastly superior to the rest of the world’s that it’s almost painful to step out of DS and into … well, anywhere else, really! You’re right, of course, and the two are intimately linked.


We used to share that uneasy feeling. Uneasy because we felt bad for others, sure. But uneasy mostly because would couldn’t prove it.


Well, stress no more. MIT has put us, you and us, our of our misery and unequivocally, scientifically, proved the fact. Phew, that feels better.


Meet LaMem (Large scale photographic memorability project). Fueled by the bestest in AI, LaMem evaluates the memorability of a photograph based on parameters that are really not interesting to debate but prove beyond doubt just how great we are. Input an image or image URL and get a grade.


So, never one, two or three, to shy away from utmost transparency, we graded random pictures of ours. Using Paul’s photographs from Episode #595, Philippe’s photographs from episode #599 and my photographs from episode #598, I went to work and got the following results.


Paul’s best and worst:


In use 24 hrs

Memorability : 0.755. TOPS !


Wet morning in Darlinghurst

Memorability : 0.368. RUBBISH !


Philippe’s best and worst:


Memorability : 0.783. TOPS !


Memorability : 0.268. RUBBISH !


Pascal’s best and worst:


Memorability : 0.793. TOPS !


Memorability : 0.345. RUBBISH !


This is so useful. We’ve learned that black and white street photography in square format is crap, the Taj Mahal is rubbish and that zigzags rule photographic memorability.


As ever, DearSusan providing valuable consumer advice, here!


But that’s not all. In order to make you realise just how much you are getting for your free money, we compared ourselves to a few other photographers. Turning for help to CNN’s 25 of the most iconic photographs, we evaluated 25 pictures from a bunch of people you may have heard of, Pulitzer prizes, you see the type (Capa, Lange, Karsh …)


Stuff like raising the flag at Iwo Jima, a South Vietnamese police general shooting a suspected Viet Cong rebel in the head,  a man jumping from a tower on 9/11, a vulture readying to feed on a dying African baby, a portrait of a bloke called Churchill, a Spanish soldier dying in front of the camera, still standing, Marylin’s legs and hiny, an olympic Black Salute, an Immigrant Mother, the explosion of the Hindenburg … You might call those photographs “memorable”, right?


Here’s what the AI declared best and worst:


Celebrated picture dated 18 march 1951, shows German-born Swiss-US physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955), awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921, sticking out his tongue at photographers on his 72nd birthday. (Photo credit  ARTHUR SASSE/AFP/Getty Images) Memorability : 0.867.


N 335227 026 (File Photo) Bill Clinton hugs Monica Lewinsky at the Democratic Fundraiser in Washington, DC, October 23, 1996. (Photo by Dirck Halstead/Liaison Agency). Memorability : 0.534


The lesson here is that you should not turn your back at the camera and that selfies rule. Pout or stick your tongue out. V fingers are a plus.


Also note that most of the 25 photographs were under our collective memorability average of 0.614. So yes, half a century of the world’s best photographer’s lives barely tops the quality of DearSusan’s last 3 posts. It’s a terrifying responsibility for us and a real blow to the others…


Just to end on a positive note for the less gifted, let me state that there is huge room for improvement for all of us you. And once more, LaMem provides guidance. Here are the most memorable photographs EVER recorded. They need no comment 😉


Click to access the rest of the database


I’m being deliberately obtuse (and super arogant 😉 … ), obviously. And this algorithm can have its uses. While “memorability” might not describe what it really measures, I do feel it gives a good sense of “clarity of composition”. Very often, we are not able to simplify our images enough and this provides an impartial judge of clarity. So maybe there is a use of AI in artistic endeavours after all 😉


Now, to your cameras with awe-stricken gratitude ! Here’s to the next humble 600 🙂


Philippe adds …



DearReader, DearSusan once more comes to your help. Now that we know from Pascal, with the invaluable help from LaMem, what a good picture really looks like, which is our equivalent of finding the Holy Grail wrapped in the Golden Fleece stored away in Ali Baba’s cave, here is something that will actually help you  produce such sterling, knee-buckling, earth-shattering, jaw-dropping pictures.


Meet https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2092430307/arsenal-the-intelligent-camera-assistant-0?lang=fr


It does have some really interesting features, like in-camera HDR, and/or focus-stacking, outputting to RAW if desired. At that point, I was really thinking that I was going to get myself one of these gizmos, because I could finally add “nal” to my level of competence when it came to multiple shots (I don’t do them, pure and simple, ’cause I can’t be… arsed). Now, I could be… Arsenaled!



That is when the presentation comes to the juicy part. Based on a library of “perfect shots”, selected by LaMem no doubt, Arsenal lets you enjoy the “perfectest” version of whatever shot you wanted to take. Cool, right? Well, quite few people seem to think so, because the Kickstater project was over-funded from day one, and now stands to be funded almost 10x more than requested. So Arsenal is a happening thing! All these perfectest shots are about to be unleashed on an admiring world. Photography will be great again, and Arsenal will be its Grand Vizir!



Of course, with such a terrific instrument, who needs DearSusan any more? Who needs books, videos and workshops to become better photographers when perfection is just one Arsenal away?



All hail Perfectest Photography!



PS. I include just a few seriously un-perfect pics. Let’s enjoy them while we may, before they get outlawed.



Paul adds …


Last in line and the two other Ps now want something original from me. Sage advice? I think not.


Instead, a simple quotation.


Alf Garnet (famous motor mouth from the BBC’s ’til death us do part) driving when drunk and stopped for speeding, tries to convince the policeman that it was the car’s fault; “It’s an automatic, but you do have to be here.”


Testing the AI waters? It’s advice worth bearing in mind.

Email: subscribed: 4
  • pascaljappy says:

    Call me a scab, paint me yeller …

    After criticizing the coming landslide of AI applications in the creative world, I have just bought into the Arsenal kickstarter described by Philippe. Yup. Why ? Because it (potentially) is a great remote control, a great replacement for many unfathomable Sony apps and a way to use your phone to pilot your camera and share your pics. It simply baffles me that we are still forced to use lousy rear screens on 4 grand cameras when they could be made a shitload cheaper and two shitloads better via a phone. Judging by the success of the kicstarted (which has amasses 10 x the goal in just 20% of the duration) I’m not alone thinking that. Possibly a wake up call for those hermetic C-suites ???

    Oh, and yeah, the Arsenal does AI. So long as that doesn’t get in the way of all the other goodness, I’ll be a super happy camper.

    So I’m buying into this idea in the same way as I bought into mirorless a long long time ago. It’s a great idea and needs to be supported. These days, you votes with your moneys ! Buying one of these is pushing change and sending a clear message to those who otherwise refuse to listen.

    Go Arsene.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    The promo makes it sound as though you can chimp in advance of pressing the shutter button. ARRRRGGGHHH !!!!!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Yeah! Kind of beats why this treasure-laden tool would be marketed as an AI gimmick, to be honest … I certainly hope it proves up to snuff and will review it when it reaches those shores. Cheers.

  • Scott Edwards says:

    Sorry guys – but I’m longing a bit, just right now, for what seems to be your leisurely, we-shoot-what-we-like pace. I just shot a chamber of commerce staff on Thursday, a full high school graduation on Saturday, a church service on Sunday with a baptism, and a Memorial Day parade and ceremony today (Monday) here in the states. Ugh… and of course, one has to deliver and deliver good shots. So, naturally, one shoots good and bad as one shoots in volume in such times to survive. Choke, cough, and now I can return to doing some portraits (which I most enjoy) and reviewig your columns which I always enjoy.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thanks Scott. I promise some of those articles are coming shortly 🙂

      Yes, we understand what a tough life it must be as a pro these days. Philippe and I are both consultants and we know what it is to face whims and have to deliver time after time. Good job there are some creative pros to counterbalance the repetitive cons.

      Portraits is something I love too, but am not very good at. Do you have a gallery or website we can take a look at ? 🙂

      • Scott Edwards says:

        Hi Pascal – website is http://www.efgimage.com and sorry as not sure what info you guys get via visitor posts. To add to the list, I photographed a Holocaust survivor yesterday (photographed her in three ways… 1) trying to accent her 90-year-old completely beautiful self, 2) photographing her in a stark, sad manner that accented the deep lines in her face, and then 3) photographing her in natural light (with strobe light support) at the Holocaust Museum here in Chicago. (I’ll post those in very near future.) I always find DearSusan an inspiration. It aids in my lens, art, travel, life and knowledge lustings… so thanks always for this site.

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      You have my heartfelt sympathy, Scott. I spent most of my working life as a hot shot corporate adviser, and the clients included egomaniacs who hated the advice I had to give, because it didn’t just tell them they could go ahead and do whatever they felt like doing. When I tripped one of them up and explained very clearly that my role was to provide advice, his role was to make decisions – if he didn’t like the advice, it was then his choice if he went ahead anyway – or as a line of fall back, we could try changing his choices, and see if he could come up with one where he wasn’t totally pissed off by the consequences – he literally turned purple and I swear to this day that that man levitated! So angry that he floated in midair, momentarily.

      Now that I am retired, I do whatever I want to do – whenever I want to do it. It’s a great relief, after years of advising ungrateful ignorant people, trying to help them become obscenely rich, and at the same time, keeping them out of jail, despite their obvious death wishes. And it’s not even as hard as squeezing a stress ball.

      • Scott Edwards says:

        Ah ha! Jean-Pierre, with your post, I must confess my past. I am a 28-year marcom professional/adviser, who spent the last 12 years of my career w a certain very large Paris-based environmental company (hint: the world’s largest!) and where I headed communications for North America. So, very interesting parallels. I decided to not move again (a restructuring was the trigger) but to do what I longed to do. I had been shooting off and on since college (film, of course) and began my professional climb last summer (just posted my website higher in the chain to Pascal and encourage you to take a peek). I have a ways to go and moved retirement back another 10 years with this decision. :))

    • paulperton says:

      Aaaah Scott, you twanged a long-stilled string there.

      Nikon F2, motor drive, 28mm f2.8 Nikkor, f5.6 and zone focussed, large Metz flash on a camera/flash bracket and off I used to go to shoot meet and greets, flesh pressers, launches and all the other trite photography that made (probably still does, except people use their phones now) up corporate PR.

      Managing Directors with as little sense of value as a house fly. PR people – not always dolly-birds as this was usually industrial work – with the sole mandate of making the boss look good. Managers who en masse couldn’t find their collective arses with a mirror on a stick…

      Oh dear. I’m ranting. It’s your fault, Scott.

      • Scott Edwards says:

        Rant on, Paul! I TOTALLY GET THIS now having experienced it from two ends… see, I just posted my past life above (to JP) and my present life (in the original chain). hahahaha! The comments in your post are certainly embedded in my DNA. So rant away and go deep!

  • Peter O says:

    Arsenal looks like a fun product…..just about as much fun as a driverless car!

    One has to admire the technology but there is so much more to life than instant gratification.

    As a hobbyist who has lots to learn after nearly 70 years of taking pictures, I’ll pass. I have too much fun experimenting and learning more literally every time I take my ancient (by DSLR standards) camera out and then coming home to try to make something out of my efforts.

  • Adrian says:

    I feel almost ashamed to admit it, but I think they might genuinely have a meaningful rating for “memorability”. If you look at their page, all the top ranking images are very simple, bold, graphic and often quirky or unusual (a chair with women’s legs etc). Without any disrespect, the picture of the Taj Mahal will fade into a blur of obscurity with all the other images of the Taj Mahal we have seen, and won’t be specifically memorable (we remember the Taj Mahal, but not an individual photograph of it). The same is true for many of the “low ranking” images shown here – perfectly nice, good, but…. Not really memorable. If this AI can teach us anything, perhaps it is that to create memorable photographs we need to create striking imagery that is bold and graphic. We need to simplify. I’ve often felt that complicated pictures that need narrative, explanations, have lots going on, are busy or cluttered, often don’t have impact with the general public. As photographers we may look at them and “coo” over them for lots of esoteric technical or aesthetic reasons… But the general public don’t view photographs in that way. It’s why celebrity portraits get big shows in galleries and pictures of people that nobody knows don’t, I’m afraid. I’m not condoning it, just commenting. Much as I don’t think the type of thing should be talen too seriously, and certainly is no judge of “art”, it may be a useful tool to understand what will stick in the minds of Joe Public, and what won’t. I despair that a poor quality camera phone snap gets enormous social media attention,where a fancy high quality photograph of sometbing similar taken with an expensive camera doesn’t. Maybe this is the start of understanding why (it’s not just about “memorability”, but that must be a factor).

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