noise

noise
1. a sound, specially one that is loud or unpleasant or that causes disturbance
2. technical irregular fluctuations that accompany a transmitted electrical signal but are not part of it and tend to obscure it
- random fluctuations that obscure or do not contain meaningful data or other information

Midde English from Old French from Latin to digital photography. We all heard that, seen that. When photographed with film, a photograph acquires a quality, a look, that distinguishes it from the digital photography, and that is the grain.

Random combination of chemicals in a rectangular gelatin support do not look the same as mathematically square divided area in a digital sensor, so what we were used to appreciate in film photography no longer suits the taste of the old school eye.

Well, things change. At least for me, once I laid my eyes upon the image above. A digitally captured image, a photograph made with a digital camera, hand held, ISO 1600, five seconds holding that plastic camera on the top of that sand dune in La Moza beach, Uruguay, almost two in the morning. The moon was not full but I just love sun and moon pictures, so I made one more.

When I was on the lab, developing the "films", I instantly eyed that photograph and a revolution started on my acquired taste, a change in my judgement and a whole new perspective and possibilities ahead enlighted my photographic sense and will. Why not? If one thinks back, a lot of people didn't like grain in the film photography era. One of my most dear master, Edward Weston (http://andre-cavalheiro.blogspot.com/2008/11/tava-ventando-muito-e-caindo-uma-chuva.html), liked and produced only sharp, perfect photographs and did not appreciate grain, but on the other hand, for a man like Robert Capa, the ISO did't matter, I suppose. So thinking about all that, developing those pictures, making an analysis of that noise, I found out that sometimes it may even look good. It may suit the photograph, at least sometimes, just as the grain did in film photography.

It is quite good to change one's mind about something, sometimes. I feel better knowing that noise is not always bad. You just gotta dance according to the music.

The coincidence is that in that right moment when I made that photograph, there was a party going at that small sand beach, the season closing party, can't remember the name right now, but it was catchy. I don't quite like that kind of music, it sounds to me as noise, most of the time, and in that moment some Parliament Funkadellic or Incognito would be a better call, but sometimes, an exception must be given, is just how life is, I guess.

cyanotype

Julia Margaret Cameron was a British photographer, and one of her most famous photograph is a portrait of Sir John Frederick William Herschel, named only Sir John Herschel, April 1867, an albumen print that belongs to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts collection, a gift of Mrs. J. D. Cameron Bradley. The importance of this particular photograph is that it changed the conception of portrait photography because it was a very cropped image, showing just the head, unlike the classic portrait that shows the chest and shoulders also.

Herschel himself also made numerous important contribution to photography. He was a mathematician, astronomer, chemist, scientist and writer, whose studies and books had a strong influence on science, specially in the University of Cambridge, where inspired the student Charles Darwin, but that's another story.

Improvements in photographic processes, experiments with color reproduction, the terms negative and positive applied to photography, the discovery of the platinum process and the discovery of sodium thiosulfate to be a solvent of silver halides, in 1819. The man was a not only intelligent and workaholic, but he was also generous. He informed Talbot and Daguerre of his discovery that this "hyposulphite of soda" ("hypo") could be used as a photographic fixer, to "fix" pictures and make them permanent. History was being made and is to this people that we, photographers, must thank every time we make a photograph.

One of the ways that we photographers can thank and appreciate what those people have done for photography - and for us - is to get to know them. Is to know and acknowledge what they've done, who they were, and so forth and so on.

That being said, I thank Sir John Herschel particularly for the invention of the cyanotype process, the photographic printing process that gives a cyan-blue print. (By the way it was the precursors of the modern blueprint process, wich was popular in engineering and architectural circles well into the 20th century). The use of ammonium iron citrate and potassium ferricyanide somehow made this effect in prints.

I'm a great enthusiast of this type of print and I continue to use this process to this day. Of course the photography laboratory is now digital, which means that I no longer handle chemicals in the darkroom, but electronic information in the lightroom, or the computer, or the software, whatever. (actually I do, but not this process, and mostly film developing, although this semester I'll have access to the black and white lab in a class I'm having in the Visual Arts course ind the University.) What really matters is that every time one chooses the cyanotype process in the chemical or digital lab, he or she must thank Sir John Frederick William Herschel.

This photograph was taken last month, in Playa Grande, Uruguay.