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News from the world of maths: Eliminating the photographer

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Eliminating the photographer

Photographing artwork is a subjective business. The photographer has to make aesthetic decisions on lighting and the angle from which the picture is taken, based on his or her aesthetic instincts. But accurate representations of paintings and sculptures are important for scholars, collectors and other art lovers who view them in books, museum archives and on websites.

To get around the problem of subjective photography, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a grant of $855,000 to the Rochester Institute of Technology and the colour scientist Roy Berns. The scientists will use maths to build a system that photographers can use in situ to eliminate subjective decisions.

The main part of the project will be to build an instrument that can capture information about an object's geometry and colour and measure how these depend on lighting. This involves reducing the painting or sculpture to its most basic optical blueprint, and stripping it of any attributes that are down to subjective perception. Additional instruments that can gather information on the gallery's shape will also be developed later on in the project. Using mathematical models from computer graphics software, the piece of art can then be rendered as it is when viewed in real life, bypassing any input of the photographer.

You can find out more in the RIT press release.

posted by Plus @ 1:29 PM



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