An artist working with electronics and electronic media, based in Brooklyn, NY

Photography

Announcing Glitch Tapestries



Glitch Tapestries: Year of the Glitch Edition

Three all new weavings just came back from the mill: 36″ x 24″ tapestries.  Source images came from camera glitches featured in the Year of the Glitch posts 211, 198, and 192.

I’m offering these as rewards on the Glitch Textiles kickstarter campaign at the $225 level.


Inside the FujiFilm FinePix s9000

I was approached by Adam Ferriss, a Los Angeles based artist (check out his tumblr!), about some tips and tricks for circuit bending digital cameras.  His work with algorithmic image processing produces images that bear a striking resemblance to those produced by my prepared digital cameras.  The photography lab he runs at a college in LA was downsizing their inventory and getting rid of some antiquated FujiFilm FinePix s9000 cameras, and rather than throw them out, Adam decided to hang on to the lot and experiment with circuit bending them.

These things are beasts: fixed zoom point and shoot cameras with the look and feel of a DLSR but without any of the manual controls and flexibility.  No wonder they were getting rid of these things!

In exchange for  a couple of the less functional cameras, I agreed to help Adam by documenting my deconstruction process.  Bonus for you since, now I’m publishing the documentation for public consumption.

Disclaimer: If you’re going to attempt to prepare/modify/circuit bend/disassemble any electronic device, be aware that you are placing yourself at risk of serious injury or death from electric shock; electronic devices may be irreversibly damaged or destroyed (for what it’s worth, it goes without saying that all warranties will be void); if any loss of property or injury occurs, it will be solely your responsibility.

Getting Started:

Before opening up the camera, there are a few items we need to have on hand.

  • Precision Screwdrivers
  • Spare batteries or external power supply (the s9000 uses a 5V supply or 4x AA batteries)
  • A bag or containers to place screws and other bits in
  • A note book and camera for documenting
  • Anti-static wrist band

You’ll also need to do the following to prepare your camera.

  • Remove batteries
  • Remove the memory card(s)
  • Put on and ground the anti static wristband

Now we can begin.

Removing the Screws:

Remove all exterior screws.  Like all devices, there are screws in places you wouldn’t think to look.  Start with the bottoms, then move to the sides, open all compartments and look for those hidden ones.

remove the bottom screws

remove screws hidden in the flash assembly

Once these are out of the way, you should be able to remove the assembly with the shutter release button and the power and other operation mode switches.  Be careful not to pull too hard, like I did, and pull the ribbon connector out of its socket.  Fortunately, mine didn’t tear, but you may not be so lucky!

removing the shutter release assembly

There are still a few screws to be removed before you can open the back panel of the camera.  Both of these were revealed by removing the shutter release assembly.  One is right next to the strap loop, and the other is just below the flash assembly.

screw next to strap loop

screw next to flash fitting

With these two screws out of the way, you should be able to gently coax the back panel off until you encounter some resistance from a couple of pairs of wires. The red and black wires running from the hot shoe attach to a board on the main body via a connector. There’s a speaker on two black wires that attaches to another part of the circuit board via a similar connector. Disconnect these two and the back panel should open like an oven door.

the speaker and hot shoe wires and connectors

wohoo! we’re in!

Now that we’ve partially disassembled the camera, and exposed some nice looking innards, we need to figure out if it still works. You can either use the AA batteries or a 5V power supply with a 4.0mm x 1.7mm connector. I used to do a lot of testing for Voltaic Systems and have one of their solar rechargeable V60 batteries around for powering my small electronics projects. Make sure that the main ribbon connectors from the back panel and the shutter release assembly are in place (the speaker and hot shoe wires don’t matter), then power up your camera and turn it on. (hint: check that the battery and memory card doors are closed!)

Yay it works!

What’s Inside: Poking About

Now that we have the camera partially disassembled and still working, we can have a look at some of the components inside to see where a good place to start bending would be. Upon first glance, you’ll notice that all the parts are SUPER tiny smd. This is quite a let down, but exactly what you can expect with more contemporary devices. In fact, if you’re opening up cameras released today, you’ll probably find that most all the connections on the integrated circuits are actually underneath the chips and not via pins as with older style ICs!

So what can we mess with? There’s an Analog Devices chip (AD9996) that I can’t seem to locate the datasheet for. There’s something similar to it, the AD9995, which is a 12-bit CCD signal processor. You’ll notice too that there’s a thick connector with lots of contacts. This is the CCD connection (go figure it’s so close to the signal processor).

The AD9996 12 bit CCD signal processor is in the center with the CCD connector directly below.

I actually went a few steps further in deconstructing this camera and found that further disassembling made the system unstable. So, for now, you shouldn’t have to take the camera apart any further to tweek its brains.

How do I mess with it?

Since the pins and connections on this board are so tiny, I am hesitant to solder anything to it. One technique I always go to first is using a saliva moistened finger to poke the sensitive parts and see if anything happens. For capturing, you have two choices: movie or still. You can set the quality settings however you like. If you haven’t already inserted a memory card, now would be a good time.

Other strategies for altering the image is to use a small probe to short circuit adjacent pins on the CCD connector. I found that the right hand side of the connector worked best, and that the series of little smd ICs to the left of the AD9996 gave similar results. When I get in there with a soldering iron to draw out some of those points, I’ll be starting with the ICs and using very fine magnet wire.

So here are a few preliminary images.

I’ll be sharing more of my findings on my year-long glitch-a-day project,Year of the Glitch.


DCP Series Update

An animation created using a collection of still produced during a session of circuit bending a Kodak DC215 1 megapixel digital camera.

Just uploaded 100+ new images to the DCP Series. This series is still well underway and is branching out into other cameras. Updates to the Olympus PIC series will be ready soon.

Be sure to check out the new additions to the Glitch Textiles project as well. There are currently nine blankets in the collection so far, each featuring a pattern woven directly from an image generated with the prepared cameras of the DCP Series and Year of the Glitch project.


Glitch Textiles Update: Available At Eyebeam + New Arrivals

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Glitch Textiles are now available at Eyebeam Art and Technology Center’s Bookstore. They’re selling at a 25% discount from my online store prices.

Plus, three new blankets just arrived! The images DCP 02802 and DCP 02803 are from Year of the Glitch post #66 from March 7th.  The third was created from an image made with a prepared Olympus C-840L digital camera, a gift from artist notendo (Jeff Donaldson).


Artists Wanted – Entry

Phillip Stearns. Click “Collect Me” to help me win $10,000 and a show in the most immense exhibition of art in New York City : Art Takes Times Square.


Cameras of Year of the Glitch

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Images and information about three cameras used in recent Year of the Glitch posts and the DCP Series are now public.  The Kodak DC280, DC215, and DC200/210, have played a key role in my exploration of hardware and software based image generation/corruption.  In the near future, these pages will be updated with more detailed information about specific techniques and circuits involved in creating the variety of images found in both the YOTG project and DCP Series.

Cameras Featured


Kodak DC 280

Kodak DC 200/210

Kodak DC 215

New Glitch Textiles

DCP02673 DCP_0190

Two new additions to the Glitch Textiles series just arrived, are pictured above. To celebrate Leap Day, I’ve created a store where they can be purchased directly from me.

Going forward, I’ll be looking into patterning some textiles from my own Dither Study series of works inspired by Daniel Temkin’s Dither Studies and featured on Year of the Glitch. If you’re not already following Year of the Glitch, do so today! The project is only 4 followers shy of 1000 and it would be really awesome to make the 1000 follower milestone on Leap Day.


Gallery

Glitch Textiles

Experimenting with making woven blankets out of images from Year of the Glitch.  Here are some photos of tests.  #32 is featured in there!

There are 4 blankets in this collection.  The first four images are two blankets made with a mechanized knitting process.  The last two images are two different blankets made using a Jacquard loom.

More on Glitch Textiles.


SOPA and PIPA Protests: Photos

Protesters outside the offices of Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand

Protesters outside the offices of Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand

[ Images from the Protest against PIPA and SOPA in NYC]

On Thursday January 18th, a crowd of roughly 2400 people amassed before the offices of NY Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand in protest of the PROTECT IP Act (AKA PIPA, the Senate version of SOPA). The protests were organized by The New York Tech Meetup, a community that gathers monthly, where 9 or 10 companies get 3 to 5 minutes each to demo something cool to New York’s tech community (geeks, investors, entrepreneurs, hackers, etc).

The two controversial bills, SOPA and PIPA, seek to eliminate internet piracy, but technologists are opposed to them on the grounds that certain provisions within will enable corporate interests to require search engines and other sites to effectively censor content.  Additional concerns regarding the cost of monitoring content, to comply with regulations proposed in the bills, are a major factor contributing to the broad opposition coming from technology startups and tech workers.


Year of the Glitch: A 366 Day Project for 2012

yearoftheglitch.tumblr.com

“56. What makes good glitch art good is that, amidst a seemingly endless flood of images, it maintains a sense of the wilderness within the computer ” — Hugh S. Manon and Daniel Temkin, “Notes on Glitch”

Year of the Glitch is a 366 day project aimed at exploring various manifestations of glitches (intentional and unintentional) produced by electronic systems.

Each day will bring a new image, video or sound file from a range of sources: prepared digital cameras, video capture devices, electronic displays, scanners, manipulated or corrupted files, skipping CDs, disrupted digital transmissions, etc.

These images are not of broken things, but the unlocking of other worlds latent in the technologies with which we surround ourselves.


DCP Series as Textile Art – Glitch Textiles

DCP 0216

On Vision Machines:

We are surrounded by digital images. The digital camera is the reigning tool of inscription of our time. We frame, capture, edit, enhance, upload/download, re-imagine and re-shape our world by the digital image. The window, the frame, the stage, the screen, and the monitor are, today, superfluous objects marking a historical trajectory: of vision and its transparent boundaries—our minds have been conditioned to see the world as a flat glowing plane filled with images, the world seen through a lens, beamed directly to the retinas.

The Glitch is a signifier, a flag, indicating the interruption of this flow of data underscoring daily routines.

The End of Photography?

There is still a question as to the legitimacy of the digital image in the realm of photography, at least in my mind. The knowledge, skill, and craft that goes into the photochemical images produced by pre-digital photography is perhaps mirrored in the digital domain through the utilization of algorithms and processing tricks; however, it’s clear the cultures of both practices are vastly different. There is no need to lament, simply to observe that the hand has been supplanted by the algorithm, by mathematics. The great benefit is now that the image is free of a definite physical manifestation (the negative), it can be mapped onto any surface and manifest myriad physical forms.

The print no longer holds the power it once did. It is seen merely as a fixed (and rather boring) screen. The best an artist can hope for is to create ambiguity which holds attention for more than a single glance. If we are lucky, a second glance, but a considered gaze is a rarity.

Everything is being digitized and presented on a glowing screen, smudged by greasy fingers. That doesn’t prevent us from using film, from continuing to learn from the practice of pre-digital photographic techniques. Although now the effects can be reproduced using a clever combination of digital filters, perhaps the difference is that we still have not found the right equations to capture the individual nuances of expression, the hand.

Though I do not have a preference for analog works over digital works (each is equally problematic), I can see the appeal of the former from the traditionalist’s perspective: the hand of the artist is evidenced, remains as the invisible referent. Beyond the image acting as an arrow pointing inwards through the lens to the person standing behind the camera, there is still something of Walter Benjamin’s idea of the “essence” of the creator embedded within the object as a consequence of its making.

The Digital Dark Age

We are still in the digital dark age, groping around for something new, beyond the scope of re-combination. Digital technologies offer a new way of formalizing information, one that is directly amenable to mathematics, and yet common knowledge of mathematics has not progressed much (one may say that it has been in retrograde). The dependence upon mathematics for innovation in the digital era requires us to out think mathematics in a system where mathematics is the absolute rule. Over-formalization of the problem is in essence part of the problem. Mathematics is but a veil which glosses over complexities until they can be resolved, and as they are, the veil becomes increasingly transparent and revealing, yet it will always fail in striving to become the object it enshrouds.

Everything up until now has been the reproduction of old forms within the digital domain. We are no longer surrounded by an array of specialized electronic objects; the computer is everywhere and not even a phone is a simply a phone anymore but also a camera, a calculator, a planner, an entertainment center. It has only been a matter of formalizing and encoding behavior. Software may be that new site of innovation, and there is strong evidence that we do have some very compelling and truly new software, but the barriers of its underlying system are still to be overcome.

Re-thinking Noise

Glitch Art has popularized the surface features of algorithmic interpretations of what a system designer would typically call noise, interference. There remains the issue of output. If a file format is corrupted, how is it to be presented? A disc image can easily be played back as audio, the zeros and ones translated directly into the force pushing a speaker cone, setting the air in motion. Does the image necessitate output on a screen, or a print? To weave a tapestry of a fragmented image allows us to do literally what we are doing symbolically: wrapping ourselves in images, accepting the faults of technology as an integrated part of day-to-day life. Whatever the forms may symbolize, the respect of file formats is preserved and an image becomes another image mapped to an object, a mosaic. What would it look like opened into a 3D modeling environment? Could these forms be constructed?

Are we approaching the moment of a new line of thinking in architecture? Could Glitch escape the realm of surfaces and obtain real depth? As an architectural manifesto, Glitch could provide a new way of approaching behavioral design through scripted space by throwing away the script altogether.


Interpolation Studies

A pixel level study of RAW format interpolation algorithms on noise introduced by manually short circuiting a digital camera. Specific models used in this group of images include the Canon G5 and Canon EOS Digital Rebel.


Prepared Olympus C-840L

A collection of images generated using a prepared Olympus C-840L 1.3 MP digital camera. The camera was a gift from Jeff Donaldson, purchase in Japan for 300 Yen ($3 USD).


Swedish Energies @ ISSUE Project Room

Photos of Swedish Energies at ISSUE Project Room by Phillip Stearns

This two-night Swedish Invasion is an ultimate melange of Sweden’s top experimental music performers. Night one featured surreal delay washed neo-psychedelia by The Magic State; technical and intellectual audio-visual pursuits by Kathy Hinde & Daniel Skoglund; a powerful spoken word piece by Leif Elggren; raw, harsh noise from Alter of Flies and Sewer Election reminiscent of the Japanese noise scene; and a delicate performance from Hanna Hartman that evoked the crunching of powdered snow underfoot in the dead of the cold and dark Swedish winter.

Night two was a worthy follow up to the first night of performances. Mats Lindström and Anna Koch opened with a hypnotic performance, using fluorescent tubes to produce the sonic material for a stark music and dance piece. CM von Hausswolff countered Lindström’s frenetic flickering of light sound with a slow crescendo of drones and voice. The following set by Ikue Mori and Ida Lundén pitted laptop performance against homebrew and wearable handmade electronics. Mats Gustafsson opened his scintillating set with gasping and disjointed extended melodic lines on the sax and closed with an earth moving onslaught of distorted drones. The night ended on a trance induced high following the theatrics of Daniel Higgs leading The Skull Defekts with special guest C. Spenser Yeh.

“The two-night program, presented by Issue Project Room, iDEAL, EMS, WELD and the Consulate General of Sweden NYC, will feature a huge lineup of some of Sweden’s most exciting experimental musicians. Performances will include collaborations between U.S. and Swedish artists as well as a cross-section of Swedish groups, such as the prolific The Skull Defekts (joined by C. Spencer Yeh), and saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, one of the most important free jazz and improv musicians working today. Leif Elggren will open the event with a reading of his “The North is Protected.”” — ISSUE Project Room


Incomplete Darkness

Inspired by the recent appearance of lenscapped work by Jeff Donaldson, Incomplete Darkness is a new series of digital photographs utilizing the sensor noise as image source.


Vote for DCP Series

Please show your support by voting for my portfolio in 3rd Ward’s Solo Show Competition by clicking HERE.  You can vote once a day.  The works are selected images from the DCP Series and are created using various circuit bent Kodak DC series cameras.


Motion Blur Photographs

A new collection of long exposure digital photographs taken from moving vehicles.  This set, Bulb, was shot from a train heading into NYC.  Developing different sets of images from the DCP Series, has inspired me to re-create some of the effects of digital artifacts using different techniques, favoring the manipulation of light and exposure time rather than directly manipulating the circuitry of the digital imaging devices.  The next step in for this series will be to switch over to film or direct exposure of photographic paper.


Photogenesis

Meditations on chemical and digital photographic processes

DCP_0022

In non-digital photography—the “capture” of images through exposure—a moment in time is sublimated into a successive process of chemical mediations.  These translations are obscured in the resulting photographic image except to the skilled who can recognize certain chemical techniques for enhancement or manipulation. The deception of the photographic image lies in the obfuscation of technique—texture is an illusion resulting from light playing off surfaces or through objects.  In painting, the technique, because it always produces a certain texture, becomes integral to the perception of the work and its content.  Perhaps it is because painting must transcend or reconcile with its deception, and that it is not simply an image, that distinguishes it from photographic image making—the subject or referent is simulated through the illusion of light created through the application of paint on a surface, where in photography it is a photo-chemical impression upon physical material, a literal play of light upon surfaces.  The digital images from the DCP Series complicate this issue of texture and technique.  They exhibit a richness in detail, where the technique of manipulating the electronics of the camera asserts itself as simulated texture within the image, not in such a way as to reclaim that domain of texture occupied by painting but to draw attention to the fact that it—the digital image itself—is almost pure simulation, that there are many imperceptible layers of mediation involved in the production of the digital image which remove it from its referent.

DCP_Series - Modified Kodak DC280

DCP_Series - Modified Kodak DC280

The referent in the DCP Series images is the process of digital photography revealed through intervening with the physical hardware during image capture. Here the illusion of texture arises from the play of data through algorithms; light, and therefore exposure, is amputated from the digital photographic process.  Where the mediations separating the real from the simulated within non-digital photography involve photo-chemical transformations of materials via exposure and development, the mediations involved in the creation of the digital images in the DCP Series involve complicated algorithms which are made visible through the intervention of wires intersecting processes by connecting points on the circuit boards which were never intended to meet.  Though the specifics of the tools and methods involved in both practices are radically different, because digital photography evolved from non-digital photography, there exists not only an overlap but a discontinuity between the two.  By scrutinizing work produced at the limits of each practice, and attempting to locate the essence of one within the other, the possibility of creating new forms arises.

Locating the analog of the physical process of manipulating the circuits of digital cameras in the photographic process poses an interesting set of problems.  That the image of film based photography exists in a physical domain and the image of the digital era exists as a data set corresponding to the charges stored in vast arrays of microscopic capacitors already complicates any attempt to unite the domains of digital and photo-chemical image making.  The translation of light to a data set makes the digital camera an all in one image making machine; you don’t need to have a photo lab to produce images.  Data acquisition and storage; data read back and software interpretation of data; and output to the monitor replace the processes of exposing and developing film and then exposing and developing photographic paper.  Algorithms and silicon replace film, paper and chemical baths.

Parallels to the process of intervening in the electronics of the camera can be found in chemically processing unexposed film.  Created completely in the darkroom through the application of different chemicals directly on the film emulsion, the resulting images circumvent the need to expose film to light.  This raises the question of whether a photographic image requires the exposure of film at all, or whether its development takes precedence in the creation of photographic images.

Man Ray’s photograms alter our perception of the processes that define photography by discarding not only film, but the lens and the camera altogether.  By inserting physical objects between light and photographic paper to create images, the mechanism of the camera—the voyeur’s perspective onto the world—is circumvented.  In the digital domain, instead of adding objects to photographic paper, the addition of objects to the circuitry—alligator clips and wires—circumvents the cameras inherent image capturing capabilities.  However, because the process of modifying the cameras used in the DCP Series overrides the process of exposure, the Rayogram still falls short as a suitable analogy with which to locate the resultant digital images within the context of traditional photography.

Is it still possible to have a photograph without any of the mediums being exposed to light?

If images produced by developing unexposed, but chemically manipulated positive film or photographic paper (chemigram) can still fall under the umbrella of photography, then we have shifted the emphasis of photography from the subject, light, and exposure, to the chemical process of development which may not even involve light (except in the mediation of the electromagnetic forces responsible for chemical reactions).  To develop a single frame of unexposed (positive) film and/or an unexposed sheet of photographic paper would exemplify this process.  The question is now: where can we locate the notion of development within the practice of digital photography?

Inside the prepared digital camera, the element typically exposed to light in the production of an image, the CCD, is bypassed and the electronics responsible for interpreting its signals and writing them to a digital storage medium are manipulated to produce the image.  The process of data acquisition, processing and storage is akin to exposing film to light, and developing its negative.  When the data is read back, it is interpreted by decompression algorithms and presented on a screen.  With this software, the data set that describes the image can be manipulated using any number of mathematical operations.  This whole process of generating data and interpreting it as an image could of course be emulated within software, but the result would involve neither the mechanisms of exposure nor development in any traditional sense and thus the result could not be considered photographic.  Digital images produced within the camera occupy this interstitial zone between photography and algorithmically generated imagery, because the tools involved are designed to focus light, expose a surface and record the resulting data.  Perhaps by circumventing the process of exposure, the images produced by these prepared cameras cannot be considered photographic in any traditional sense.

DCP_0055

It is still tempting to identify the process of creating these images with photography.  The shutter release is still involved; however, the act of initiating an exposure is abstracted, initiating a Rube Goldbergesque chain of pre-programmed instructions, where photons generate electrical signals which are quantized and stored as data points.  After the intervening processes employed in the production of the DCP Series, the digital camera thinks it’s taking an exposure but the paths from the CCD to the recording device have been severely compromised.  By bypassing the CCD electronics, we intercept the digital processes of “development”—analog to digital conversion, compression algorithms, etc.— and dump our redirected electrons onto what would in film photography been the exposed and developed negative: the flash memory card.  It’s like taking a picture with the shutter mechanism disabled and afterwards bathing the film in a cocktail of different chemicals; you trigger the mechanics of an exposure but what happens in the treatment of the “film” is what we’re concerned with.  You could almost discard the camera altogether, except that in the digital camera the translation of the image from CCD to storage medium—what would otherwise be from film to developed negative and then to photograph paper etc.—is dependent upon the system of components and short-circuits that have no algorithmic equivalent, they escape the type of emulation that would allow us to forget about the physical object altogether.

No doubt, this whole process is, in the end, digital, but perhaps there is hope that it is actually a possibility to contextualize it within the domain of photography and not simply relegate it to the domain of digital image production.  It may be that by preparing poloroid cameras so that the film is physically damaged while it is being pulled through the mechanisms, we find the closest parallels to these images in the DCP Series.

As a final note, this whole exercise of attempting locating this work within the tradition of photography is necessary because it is not based in emulation.  The act of using a digital camera locates the resulting image within the practice of photography. The question then is if altering the electronics of the camera is a photographic process, does it have a precedent from previous photographic traditions and if so in which specific stage of the whole process can we find the closest similarities? Of course, I’m also interested in how this obscures the definition of photography—whether digital or film-based—and also whether there are other practices that have touched upon this problem of “what is photography?”. So that the traditionalists may understand the images and the process in terms of what they already know, we can refer back to those artists who are chemically manipulating unexposed film and developing the results. Though the analogy is not a perfect match, the form of photography discovered and exploited in the production of the DCP Series is the digital age’s answer to those artists.

See Also

Artists:
Pierre Cordier
Polli Marriner
Francoise André

Reading list:

Luis Nadeau, Encyclopedia of Printing, Photographic and Photomechanical Processes New Brunswick, NJ (Atelier Luis Nadeau), 1989, and the related website, photoconservation.com

Gordon Baldwin, Looking at Photographs: A Guide to Technical Terms Los Angeles and London (J. Paul Getty Museum in association with the British Museum Press), 1991


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