With the advent of advanced picture-taking computers, aka digital cameras, part of the craft of photography was automated. Photography has always been a combination of craft and creativity. In the old days, the act of making and printing a well exposed photograph was more challenging. Digital has simplified this tremendously to the chagrin of old-time photographers. But how about other creative pursuits, like drawing? What if the craft of drawing can also be mostly automated?
I have little skill in drawing beyond what I did in the 3rd grade. But I recently found this fun little app that runs on the iPhone. It takes a photograph and magically transforms it into a watercolor, one of many styles, that you get to choose with a push of a finger. My apologies to true artists but for a hack like me, this tool is fantastic and amazing. In a sense, it takes the craft of drawing and automates it with a set of canned computer algorithms. Certainly rudimentary for anyone with true ability, but for me, it looks pretty damned good. I’ll be happy if I can draw like this.
So what if we automate the craft of drawing or photography with modern tools. We, as human beings, still own the creativity. Perhaps this is just the Instagraming of drawing but technology will inevitably improve. The competitive angst that photographers feel will move to other creative professions. Do you know that there are computer programs that write technical documents that are now indistinguishable from the human created documents?
As you may know, I’ve always had an interest in architecture. That interest has naturally bubbled up in my photography, something I didn’t even realize until a couple of people pointed it out. The thing is, I don’t have the ability to draw those neat looking illustrations like an architect. Perhaps I like this $1 application so much because it sort of creates instantaneous architectural renderings.
Take a look at these. I shot the originals on my iPhone at the Singapore and Dallas-Fort Worth Airports. I captured the images, post-processed them (originally for Instagram) and then used the Waterlogue app to transform them into these illustrations, all on my phone. I picked these styles because they look like architectural renderings.
Waterlogue in not limited to photos shot on the iPhone. I took these with my Fujifilm X100S at the Drink and Click event and transferred them to the iPhone. I used the app to transform these too, using a more impressionistic setting, one of a dozen available styles.
Even in my widest dreams, I know this isn’t real art. Art requires creativity and originality, not just executing an algorithm. But I find it compelling nevertheless. The illustration at the top, a watercolor conversion of a snapshot I took with my iPhone is a little memento from one my recent business trips. The comforting glow of warm light makes even a business hotel look inviting.
I can imagine, not too long ago, an artist hired for a Hilton Hotels ad by some Mad Men. The copy would read “All the comforts of home, away from home” and would feature this image. Now the entire art department fits in a pocket, technology trying to supplant craft. Until the singularity is achieved however, I feel comfortable that the real creativity and art still remains with us. If predictions hold, we can maintain human creative edge for at least 25 more years.