'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Memory Lane 

Mentioning "War President" in the post below led to me taking a nostalgic look at the original post and consequently realizing how out of date it is, which isn't surprising given that the post is from early last April. Anyway, I decided to add an update which makes publicly available for the first time two newer better versions of the image that I made later in 2004.

The original mosaic, the only one I've ever had up for download, was done using images from CNN not the Washington Post, despite what Michael Moore's site said at the time, and had a number of problems. The images were really small and cropped to rectangles, weren't exclusively American, and there wasn't terribly many of them -- I think, about 700 were dead at that point but CNN only had 600 pictures -- and, thus, I was using each picture up to three times, which is very noticeable. This is the version that has been printed in the most places, all the European newspapers, the Korean protest AP photo, etc. -- anywhere that used the mosaic without contacting me -- and that fact never ceases to annoy me because I think it is flawed.

In, I think, early July I tried to address some of the criticism of the original and also address my personal pet peeves with it. I used the Washington Post's photos which were higher resolution with portrait-style aspect ratios and exclusively American. I wrote a little application that allowed me to go through each picture and crop it to a square. I wanted square cells for aesthetic reasons and also to get rid of pixels in the photos that weren't flesh tones, especially the white military hats; lots of uniform and hat in the images caused artifacts when input into the digital collage software. The result was an image of substantially higher resolution composed of 700 photos, each photo used exactly twice. This version of "War President" is the one that was on the cover of Common Ground and Clamor among other places.

Last October I did the whole thing again from scratch. Ronald Feldman Gallery in New York City wanted to exhibit "War President" as part of a group show, but they were only interested if I could print out a version that was huge, at least 3 feet across or so, and such that each cell was of photographic quality. At this point 1000 were dead and the New York Times' site had a memorial page up with pictures that were even higher resolution than the Post's. As is always the case, the Times only had pictures of 85% of the thousand, but this time around I really needed more pictures in order to render the mosaic at the quality the people in New York wanted. I ended up doing Google News searches for every single person that the Times didn't have a photo of and managed to come up with about a hundred more pictures from hometown newspapers and so forth. It took a week of almost fulltime work, of tracking down pictures, cleaning up and cropping pictures etc., but the result was "War President", version 3.0 -- composed of 960 images each used exactly twice, with high enough resolution to be rendered 40" by 48.5" with photographic quality.

Anyway, the two new versions are available as an addendum on the original post (use the link on the right). I'm not sure what the demand will be like, and these files are huge, so my image host might go down -- but we'll see.

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