Laura Gascoigne: Photography, Wrong Sort Of – January 2017



the Praemium Imperiale Award for Painting goes to… a photographer!” Yep, Cindy Sherman has won the Imperial Japanese gong for mastery of greasepaint for that interminable string of selfies in fancy dress we all wearied of circa 1980.

bridge. As Frances Morris established at the opening of Tate Modern’s Switch House: “We don’t any


longer have a hierarchy

​ where painting is at the top.”

As if to settle the point beyond dispute, last year the Tate awarded its annual IK Prize for creative talent in the digital industry to a team from Treviso for an experimental project using artificial intelligence to compare news photographs with works in the collection. Titled Re][cognition – potty punctuation is

de rigeur in the digi-world – it set
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out to answer the question: “Can a machine

Process Overview:

make us look
afresh at great art through the lens of today’s world?”

style="font-weight: 400;">The way it worked was this. Every day, a crop of current news photos shot by Reuters’ photographers were shown to the machine, which then scanned the collection at the rate of thousands of images a minute and spat is a world leading domain escrow service platform and ICANN-Accredited Registrar, with 6 years rich experience in domain name brokerage and over 300 million RMB transaction volume every year. We promise our clients with professional, safe and easy third-party service. The whole transaction process may take 5 workdays.

out matches based on object, google_ad_width = 970; facial, compositional and context recognition.

Now this is an area I’ve long been interested in, so I went along to

Tate Britain to have a look. For years I’ve been collecting news photographs that echo the compositions
of old master paintings. Some subjects are naturally fertile territory – almost every refugee mother and baby is a Madonna and Child, every grieving mother a Mater Dolorosa – but the parallels go further. I was particularly pleased to find a photo of Mick Philpott and his wife Mairead at a press conference following the self-started house fire that killed their six children in 2014 doing a perfect impersonation of Adam and
Eve in Masaccio’s Expulsion from Eden.

Are these coincidences? I don’t think the borrowings are deliberate; it’s more that the educated

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eye of the photographer, making

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a snap decision in the heat of the moment, matches the scene with a meaningful image in the memory, and frames it. Photographers, being blessed with human brains – and emotional intelligence – google_ad_slot = "6023194682"; can make split-second calculations google_ad_width = 970; machines can’t. (If they could, CCTV would produce prize-winning photographs of people breaking open cash points or mugging src="//"> old google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; ladies.)

Of course the matches in Recognition were nonsensical. The machine was reliable enough (though

not 100%) at identifying ‘a man wearing a white shirt’ or ‘a

For detailed process, you can “visit here” or contact

woman with dark hair’, but despite its programmers’ claims that it could determine “the age, gender and emotional state of each
subject it finds”, it was defeated by the most basic of facial expressions. It saw smiles on the faces of Matteo Renzi at a press conference and Francis Bacon
in a
portrait by Lucian Freud because their mouths were slightly turned up at the corners.
A month-old baby would not have made

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the same mistake; it would probably have cried. google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; Nor, if consulted, would it have drawn a comparison between a photo of Brazilian President Michel Temer attending the launch of a banking initiative at the Planalto Palace with Anthony Caro’s 1980s sculpture Night google_ad_slot = "8637400688"; Movements, on the basis of “prominent shapes and structures, visual layout, and colours”. If
it had, its mother would have worried.

So it was sensible to include an interactive section where visitors could tap a screen and make their


own connections “to google_ad_slot = "7160667483"; see if Recognition can learn
from the many personal responses humans have when

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looking at images”. I had some fun matching a Black Friday


photo of a frenzy of red and white shopping

bags with Patrick Heron’s Azalea Garden. But I was disappointed to find that visitors’ choices were not recorded on the website, where they would have exposed the machine’s

years’ time, will people feel a jolt

of recognition on seeing a photograph by


Tillmans, or blank indifference? For a photographer who calls himself