Sunday, 1 April 2012

For analogue eyes only

Southgate, London, 1/4/2012

A leading North London Photographic Society announced it was closing down after 74 years today, citing the redundancy of human involvement in the digital image-making process. “Computers can appreciate a photograph far better than even our most senior members“, said club Chairman Alf Ripool. “We’re just not digital enough”.

“I bought one of those new 50 megapixel “connected” cameras so that I would take better pictures”, said Margery Contrejour, chair of the club’s Automatic Settings Group. “I was taking a shot of the Taj Mahal but the shutter wouldn’t fire. On screen a message advised me to switch to the wide angle lens, take 5 paces to the left and try again. Curiously, when I did this the camera worked perfectly. Then back at the hotel I got a message on my mobile phone saying my Taj Mahal PDI would come second in the club’s next monthly competition. Of course I complained to the Competition Secretary on my return - our arrangement was for first place. These photo junkets aren’t cheap you know.”

“The Competition Secretary told me someone or something had been interfering with his management duties”, said Bonaparte O’Looneasa, the club’s Senior Lightroom Bore. “It was only when I threatened the club laptop with a reinstall of Windows Vista that I found out what was happening”, said the handsome software wrangler. O’Looneasa explained that Margery’s camera had not only countermanded her composition ideas, but had re-edited her picture in the field and sent it to the mobile in her handbag, which had forwarded it to the club laptop as a competition entry. From there it was accessed by a pirate copy of Adobe AutoJudge 1.0 installed on the club laptop by the granddaughter of a Member who borrowed it for the weekend. “Poor Margery was downgraded to a two legged tripod”, he noted.

AutoJudge consulted the club’s website to see who was judging the competition, raided past competition data to predict which Members would enter, and forecast the Judge’s likely marking by examining the online results of other competitions she had marked. “The mistake was awarding the prizes without waiting for the actual event or even the photos. It composed, edited, appreciated and judged with no human involvement”, said O’Looneasa, hands shaking as he disembowelled his iPad over a stiff G&T in the King’s Head. “It was like watching the Exhibition sub-committee in action.”  

At this point the PDI committee were merely bemused, but it was their next discovery that alerted them to the trouble they were in. The club received a refund of the Hall hire fee for the coming competition. They discovered that their online Calendar application had interfaced with AutoJudge and cancelled the competition, triggering the refund. This also raised eyebrows at the local Church Hall, as their computer hadn’t consulted them before transferring the money.

The Members fought back. Efforts to ensure members’ cameras did not go online failed, partly as the average camera manual now has 1097 pages. A drive for new members to foil the rogue software systems was effective until the software found their online photos and resumed predicting marks. An experiment where Judges assigned marks at random was tried, but no-one could tell the difference. Cancellation of competitions continued, alienating good Judges whose expense cheques were bouncing. When the PAGB called in search of a winning photographer named Pan Asonic from SPS who had won a PAGB competition, the Society finally knew it was time for radical measures.

“Don’t upload this article - software is everywhere”, whispere Peregrine SilverHalide, the club’s newly appointed Technology Tsar. “We announced our closure on something called Facebook and our problems suddenly stopped, although other local Camera Club standards rose suspiciously around the same time. We’ve developed a new concept without software - we call it “fillum” and it uses wonderful manual focus 35mm cameras our Members found in their attics. We’ve a darkroom in a bivouac in Grovelands Park, covered in tin foil. Members have to take the batteries out of their mobiles and can only enter and leave the club bivouac in darkness, when the International Space Station is not overhead. So far we’ve cracked the wind-powered slide projector, but dodging and burning on the new hand-cranked printing press is proving tricky.”

Photographers wishing to join the new society should slip a (hand-written) note to the man in the mud-stained Manfrotto vest in the corner of the Woodman. Keep out of range of the digital security cameras, and give the secret sign (an approving nod towards the laptop nailed to the wall over the fireplace). 

The New Southgate Photographic Society has a waiting list of 103.

[Today’s actual Society also welcomes new members – Happy April Fool’s Day]