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The Cosy Web 
Greetings from the shed...
As I sit in sandals and shorts to write and curate for this dispatch, the rain is hammering on the roof. It’s still summer, I’m still Christian Payne, and you are getting this email because you are still voluntarily subscribed. In fact there are over 2000 of you now. Thanks for joining in.
(Especially you Lizzy (no. 2000) Ping me a message if you’d like a free gift.)
I jumped headlong back into my travel journals this week. Time almost ground to a halt. The last seven days felt fourteen long and I like it. No idea if it’s because I’ve been both present and back in 1996, but I feel every second has counted itself twice.
And things really slowed down when I had to head out on a photo shoot that nearly went horribly wrong. That was not so much fun. Those seconds dragged by as, with my heart in my mouth, I soon realised the brightly lit outdoor shot of 56 kids was now going to happen indoors. In a dark room with nothing but one window and a USB disco ball for light.
The emergency low powered external fill-in flash was not going to work. So with the oscillating group high on E-numbers and full fat coke, I upped the ISO, put the flash on full and hoped my Fuji X-Pro3 could produce something usable.
Nothing but blurry or under exposed rubbish. It appeared I could not cheat physics. The crowd dispersed and I left disheartened and, to be honest, feeling a little sick to my stomach.
Once home I still offloaded the card and double checked what I had. Dropping the images into Pixelmator Pro there were two desperately underexposed shots that appeared to be a little sharp. I hit the ‘ML Enhance’ button and then the ‘ML Denoise’ button and if machine learning was something I could kiss, I would have. The recovery from the raw files was amazing. But then when I borrowed a log-in for Adobe Photoshop and tried the same with auto levels plus Adobe’s AI denoise… it was astounding.
I won’t bore you any more and apologise for not having permission to share the images of the school kids. If only so your jaw could drop like mine. But this was a very real face-saving moment for me.
When I got a job as a press photographer 23 years ago, I was winging it. I’d secretly use Photoshop to fix images I struggled to catch. I thought the app gave me super powers back then. It certainly enabled me to stand shoulder to shoulder with other more experienced snappers. But now we have ML on our side, anything really is possible.
But when does it stop being photography? (More on that below).
An open water video from with Jude Palmer via the wonderful Feasts and Fables.
A trailer for a film my friend Adrian shot.
If you live in Portland you can watch it at Cinema 21 August the 20th.
The tools appearing that claim to spot real captured moments over A.I. generated ones still have a long way to go, with lots of well produced images avoiding detection. Now with Adobe offering AI sharpening, neural filters, sky replacement and generative fill, who knows if we’ll ever see authentic scenes captured in a digital image again. Or at least if we’ll be able to tell fake from real.
Image manipulation in photography is nothing new but at least you had a physical negative to prove provenance. If Adobe embedded some kind of ‘made with AI’ code in each image this might help historians and journalists flesh out real from fake. Otherwise I recommend any photographers, especially journalists, diligently ensure they keep their raw images and (if you still use them) negatives on file.
And what of the future of photo or video journalism? The proliferation of sophisticated editing tools and deepfake technology will mean an ongoing race between those creating deceptive visual content and those developing methods to detect and verify authenticity.
As forensic photography stands today, it already has some catching up to do if we are ever to distinguish the decisive moments from the delusive ones.
…On a human evolution level, perhaps this quest for perfection, manipulation and the continued warping of subjective reality will transfer to our mixed and augmented reality headsets. Maybe we’ll just choose to view others in realtime with the filters we prefer to be portrayed with. I guess it’s the natural first step on the way to us plugging into fully rendered alternate consensual realities where a shared generated illusion will feel as real as anything that came before it.
A strong, compelling desire to escape to the wilderness or forested areas and live a simple life in harmony with nature, often characterised by solitude, self-sufficiency, and minimal technology.
An adventurous or daring act of seeking refuge in the wilderness, forsaking modern conveniences and embracing a rustic lifestyle.
After years of urban living, Ben yearned for a sylvancapade, prompting him to leave behind the bustling city and seek solace in the tranquility of the woods.
Carolyn’s sylvancapade led her to build a modest cabin in the mountains, where she could live self-reliantly, surrounded by the beauty of nature.
[I found this word in an old journal. I made it up when trying to define what I was doing at the time. It never caught on because I never shared it. Please use it freely in the hope it might one day become an official part of the English language. It might also inspire others to go on their own Sylvancapade. Should you manage to squeeze it into a sentence, social post, article, radio show, podcast, TV slot, art piece or novel, let me know and i’ll either mention your great work or offer you some free supporting subscription time.]
Been copying up a journal from 1996 and sometimes a few words in a diary entry has me remembering quite a lot of what I was thinking and feeling back then.
If you are a supporting subscriber and would like to chat in some of the backchannels search for Documentally on the free version of Wire and let me know which of these groups you’d like to join.
Or if there is enough interest I guess we could start a Discord.
Conan O’Brian chatting with Harrison ford was fun.
Exit by Jean-Michel Jarre feat. Edward Snowden, (Via Wojtek)
Savour your coffee; someone probably lost sleep over it.
Sad to hear another brewery have to close. Especially the ‘Grandfather of American craft brewing’. Anchor Brewing is closing after 127 years. I have drank a few of their beers but only appear to have logged a couple with their porter rating the highest for me. But at 127 years is still relatively youthful compared to the UK’s longest surviving brewery Shepherd Neame. (Their India Pale ale is ok.) That’s been operating officially for 300 years but it most likely older. But both are nothing compared to Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan which has evidence suggesting it has continually produced beer for 1255 years. I quite liked their Vitus. Back then it might be all the beers had latin names. Vitus means lively but the beer might have been names after Saint Vitus.
I was really pleased to receive this photo book in the post today from the chemist Andrew (real name Zbigniew) Szydło.
A wonderful collection of images taken over four decades in Highgate School. It was released in 2015 on the school’s 450th anniversary. For me, someone who went to school in the 70’s and 80’s, this is a lovely flashback. Although at my school it was the kids blowing up the classroom and not the teacher.
I love the selfie from 1979 and the portrait of the three ‘heavies’ on sport’s day. The one on the right might be a young Jack Black. If you would like a copy of this for your photo book collection, I did see a second copy for sale online.
I think someone who reads this told me they had a spare Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop licence. If this is the case please let me know. I only used it on rare occasions and would gladly offer a trade.
I’m seeing more and more being built on Nostr. An open protocol, enabling global, decentralised, social media tools. I’m still on the app Damus but not doing much there. There was a lot of crypto chat when I joined due to the platform facilitating micro payments. I’d be a fool to not enable receiving tips through these means and linked my Alby account but as I have no network and few posts that is still unused.
Thank you to the supporting subscribers. You are very much appreciated.
Please consider upgrading with a subscription. Or if you prefer PayAsYouGo you can do that via PayPal or Sats. If you do tip i’ll give the same value (plus some) in full membership. Either way… Thank you for reading.
This email is dedicated to Lawnchair Larry.
I still think Elk is one of the prettier ways of using Mastodon on desktop.
While stars can licence their likeness for use in A.I. on a job by job basis, producers have been trying to buy the likeness of extras for $200 to be used for ever. More on this. Back when I was on the set of Dumbo I remember some fellow supporting artists being taken away (for extra money) to be scanned so crowds could look bigger. I opted out. If I were them I’d be scanning the background of everything I saw. Just in case.
The Documentally community map is still a thing.
A global realtime air quality index.
Some think counterculture is hard to identify and find in the digital age. But we know it still exists. It’s just in alternative spaces. Those less-than-mainstream places.
Thank you for your patience. Substack suffered an outage and I was unable to send this till now.
In other news it was my daughter’s last day at primary school today. I am both very proud and simultaneously terrified.
I’m off out to get fish and chips and a bottle of wine. Have a great weekend whatever you get up to. It’s still chucking down here.
“A good local pub has much in common with a church, except that a pub is warmer, and there's more conversation. ” ~ William Blake
See you out there.