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Creative Links

Photographers and Photo Editors on the passion that drives their work

The people who make up today’s thriving photographic community are our eyes to the world. Whether established artists and journalists or passionate emerging voices, they inform us, they inspire us, they amaze us, they put our world in the broader context of history.

Kathy Ryan, Director of Photography, The New York Times Magazine: “Photographers teach us to look again, look harder. Look through their eyes.”

Ruddy Roye, Photographer: “I shoot because I see. I shoot because if I don’t, I don’t know who will. Activism is seen as a dirty word. I shoot because I find peace in being especially active, and being a vigorous advocate for a cause.”

Stephanie Sinclair, Photographer: “I still believe in the power of journalism and photojournalism to spark positive change — in a world where the pursuit of self-interest is prioritized by so many, its role speaking truth to power when all other avenues fail is unparalleled.”

MaryAnne Golon, Director of Photography, Washington Post: “Photography speaks. When I discovered and later understood photographic visual language, I saw that this language could inform, educate and move audiences worldwide without the need for a shared spoken language.”

Aidan Sullivan, CEO and Founder, Verbatim: “This art, this madness, this compulsion to convey a story we know as photojournalism will not die, storytelling will not die, it will change and evolve but it is human nature to want to learn, to be educated and to understand our world through narratives.”

Alex Potter, Photographer: “For me, photography is something I’ll always come back to, having assignments or not, to process my reality, to document the world around me, and to remember small details in difficult times that may have otherwise been forgotten.”


Machine creativity beats some modern art

We can get some insight into progress in machine creativity thanks to the work of Ahmed Elgammal at the Art & AI Laboratory at Rutgers University in New Jersey, along with colleagues at Facebook’s AI labs and elsewhere.

These guys have trained a machine to generate images that are recognizably similar to human art and yet different in measurable ways.

There are plenty of hypotheses from art historians and psychologists about the creative process that leads to new art. For example, a well-known idea is that new artistic work has to be firmly rooted in an artistic tradition. In other words, it has to be different, but not too different.

In particular, theorists say that art must stimulate the viewer in specific ways. “The most significant arousal-raising properties for aesthetics are novelty, surprisingness, complexity, ambiguity, and puzzlingness,” say Elgammal and co.

The researchers say they have found a way to make their generative adversarial network do this. Having learned to reproduce certain artistic styles, the machine is set up to produce images that fall within accepted limits of art as a whole but maximize the difference from known styles. They call this machine a creative adversarial network.

The question is whether the process that Elgammal and co have used to make their images can truly be thought of as creative. Another interpretation is that it is a purely algorithmic process that has learned to exploit humanity’s emotional vulnerabilities.

This kind of work is set to push the boundaries of art and creativity just a little bit further.


Hong Kong builds itself into a hub of creativity

“The exchanges between young people from Hong Kong and those from the mainland have entered a new phase,” says Johnny Ng, chairman of Hong Kong United Youth Association and an entrepreneur himself.

Two decades ago, when Hong Kong had just returned to China from the British rule, most young people did not understand Mandarin, including himself, says Ng.
Now young people from Hong Kong not only seek business opportunities in the mainland, they start business together with their mainland friends.

The government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region set up its Innovation and Technology Bureau in 2015 aiming to develop Hong Kong into an innovation hub. In the first year that followed, the number of start-ups in Hong Kong grew 24 percent to 1,926. By the end of 2016, Hong Kong had 48 maker spaces, a substantial increase from only 5 of them in 2015.

Less than one-hour drive from the bustling city center, Hong Kong Science Park in Sha Tin District is home to some prominent research teams and laboratories.
Fanny Law, chair of Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks (HKSTP), says Hong Kong does not lack talent, but it needs to create more jobs for them.


The ethics of using AI in advertising

There are nearly 2 billion Facebook users globally. About 200 billion tweets are shared on Twitter every year. Google processes 40,000+ searches every second. We can now assess the entirety of an individual’s social activity: every word, every picture, every emoji.

Add to that location-based data from mobile phones, transactional data from credit cards and adjacent data sets like news and weather. When machine learning and advanced algorithms are applied to these oceans of digital information, we can intimately understand the motivations of almost every consumer.

These are undeniably powerful tools, and no one can blame the advertising industry for rapidly adopting them.
But AI also introduces troubling ethical considerations. Advertisers may soon know us better than we know ourselves. They’ll understand more than just our demographics. They’ll understand our most personal motivations and vulnerabilities. Worrisomely, they may elevate the art of persuasion to the science of behavior control.

Aside from these fears, there are more practical considerations around the use of AI in advertising: inherently biased data, algorithms that make flawed decisions and violations of personal privacy.
For these reasons, we need a code of ethics that will govern our use of AI in marketing applications, and ensure transparency and trust in our profession.


Apple announces winners of the 10th iPhone Photography Awards

To encourage smartphone photography on the iPhone, Apple has been hosting the Annual iPhone Photography Awards since 2007.

This year, the 10th Annual Awards were hosted in Italy and saw participation from 140 countries across the globe. With thousands of pictures carrying multiple stories from around the world, Apple chose some of the most distinguishing ones as the winners across multiple categories.

The Grand Prize Winner Photographer of the Year Award went to Sebastian Tomada of New York City, the USA for his entry Children of Qayyarah. First, second and third Place Photographers of the Year Awards were bagged by Brendan O Se of Cork, Ireland for his image Dock Worker, Yeow-Kwang Yeo of Singapore for his entry of The Performer and Kuanglong Zhang of Shenzhen, China for his Image The City Palace.

Apart from the primary titles, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd places in 19 categories were awarded to photographers who represented countries around the world including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Ecuador, France, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Myanmar, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States.

If you missed this year’s entry or couldn’t find luck for any recognition at this year’s awards, then you can register on their website for the next year’s awards. Do note that all the entries are paid ones and the deadline for submission is March of 2018.


Photo-Sharing Phenom VSCO is teaching computers to interpret art like a human

“It’s really about that creative journey of becoming a better creator, and a place to find inspiration … and education,” says Joel Flory, cofounder and CEO of VSCO.

That goal led the company to its newest addition, Ava, a piece of machine-learning software that looks at every photo on the platform, identifies key attributes, and then uses that information to connect users with other creators who work in a similar style or often capture the same emotions. This tagging was previously done by humans at VSCO. Now Ava will handle the heavy lifting, using data from all the entire body of work on the service.

“What really makes it unique is how we married it with four years of human curation data, and how it will continue to be powered and trained by our curation team here VSCO,” says Flory. “So instead of just object recognition, we’re looking at it in the way that a human would be looking at a photo and trying to understand the quality and subtlety of it–not literally based exactly on what’s in the photo, but what you also might be inspired by if you’re inspired by that image.”


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