From the early 1960’s to the present day, the evolution of the computer generated image (CGI) has progressed from the earliest line drawing computers (Ivan Sutherland’s Sketchpad (Fig. 1)(Wikipedia) to the hyper real computer game. Since then advancements in vector graphics and computer algorithms (Cartesian co-ordinates, Bezier curves, shading, ray tracing, texture mapping and light source modelling) brought computer image making to the present day where a computer generated image could momentarily be mistaken for the real thing (fig. 2 and 10).
It could be argued that this is driven more by technological advancement and audience expectation than by specialists in cultural heritage. This blog will look at the history of photorealism followed by an exploration of the debate around the effect of using photorealism in the field of Archaeology.
2. History of Photorealism:
From circa 1787 to 1890 artists such as Robert Barker and Karl Hagen Becks experimented with the use of large format painted landscape illusions. Barker’s were displayed in purpose built rotunda with a near 360° view described in the first use of the word ‘panorama (fig. 5). Becks created a popular polar panorama, complete with stuffed seals and polar bears against a painted photorealistic backdrop. It was Louis J.M. Daguerre who patented this, now familiar photorealistic tableau, called the ‘diorama’ which is still used for the display of natural history and sometimes as a backdrop for zoo enclosures.(Cipolla-Ficarra et al. p93) (fig. 6)
3. Archaeology and Interpretative Illustrations:
3. Computer generated Images:
‘The trend for images to represent ‘entire’ interpretations, to be pictorial compressions of time, ensuring that all activities and artefacts are represented, has given the entire genre a vulnerability to attack.’ (Bateman 1).
Roussou, Drettakis and Bateman discuss how the software for these visualisations is often technically designed for other fields (1 ;4). Their purpose is to create photorealistic, accurate and unambiguous visuals, coming as they do from backgrounds where there is a need for quantifiable accuracy such as engineering, architecture and cartography. Huggett and Harley (85; qtd. in Bateman 4) describe ‘this coteries of technophiles’ with ‘fetishes’ for accuracy and technology as features of those in charge of these tools. Huggett, Harty and Emele suggest further that the fetish for accuracy is fed by a sort of validation that comes from the assumption that accuracy can be mistakenly equated with authority (85; qtd. in Bateman 300; qtd. in Eiteljorg 3)
‘If anything, the perception of the magical mysticism of information and communication technologies is increasing as the number of layers of abstraction between human user and machine multiply’(Huggett 85).
In support to these arguments Buczynska-Garewicz adds, in relation to the 3D visualisations of ‘Cerveteri Reborn, ‘There is no ground to believe that the new construction is the real thing, while it is only ‘as if’ real. So, there is a dangerous illusion created by 3D visualisation’ (paragraph 7). Eiteljorg warns against being misinformed by ‘A good image’ which he describes as ‘truly a double edged sword’(4). All of these arguments urge caution on the part of the viewer/interpreter as better illustration is not necessarily a better argument (Ibid.).
4. The problem with ‘Empty Space’:
5. The London Charter(Fig. 9):
‘That is why, at the heart of The London Charter is the principle that heritage visualizations: ‘should accurately convey to users the status of the knowledge that they represent, such as distinctions between evidence and hypothesis, and between different levels of probability.’’(Denard.)
The London Charter is composed of a set of paradata guidelines for heritage visualisation. Since its launch in 2006 the London Charter has been renamed and is now presenting itself as version 2.1. A separate Charter for Virtual Archaeology, the Seville Charter, is at a ‘preliminary draft stage’ which could indicate that changes to the original Charter is seen as necessary for this field.(Ibid.)
List of Figures
Fig. 1 – The Sketchpad by Ivan Sutherland, 1963. Source: Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sketchpad
Fig. 2 – “Forest Path” by Alex Alvarez in Watterson, Alice. 2012.“Hyper-Realism, Photo-Realism and Learning to Be Realistic.” Digital Dirt Virtual Pasts. 17 Aug. 2012. Web 14 October 2015.
Fig. 3 – A Roemer, an Overturned Pewter Jug, Olives and a Half Peeled Lemon on Pewter Plates by Pieter Claesz. (Berchem 1597/8 – 1660/1 Haarlem), Photo Sotheby’s. web 15 Oct 2015. Source:https://alaintruong2014.wordpress.com/tag/pieter-claesz/
Fig.4 – Vertumnus, a portrait depicting Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor painted as Vertumnus, the Roman God of the seasons, c. 1590-1. by Giuseppe_Arcimboldo Skokloster Castle, Sweden. web 14 Oct 2015. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giuseppe_Arcimboldo
Fig. 5 – Postcard of Robert Barker’s London Panorama, exhibited circa 1792. web 13 Oct 2015. Source:http://www.janeausten.co.uk/the-barker-family-panorama-painters/
Fig. 6 – Diorama with Alaskan Brown Bears. Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals. The American Museum of Natural History. New York, U.S.A. web 14 Oct 2015.
Fig.7 – Image of the entrance to the Athenian Acropolis restored portions lightened and outlined in white, after repairs in the middle of the fifth century BC (Fig 8c page 5). Source: http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue8/eiteljorg/eit5.html
Fig. 8 – Digital Karnak Project 2006-2008: A. Visualisation of the possible location of the sphinx statues at the temple’s western gateway during the tenure of the ‘High Priest of Amun’ Pinedjem (21st Dynasty). B. Interior of the visualisation of the ‘red chapel’ of Hatshepsut (18th Dynasty). © UCLA.
Fig. 9 – London Charter: Homepage. 15 October 2015
Fig. 10 – “Coffee Table” by Dusan Kovic.2015.“ I tried to make it as realistic as possible. Modeled in Maya, render in Arnold, composited in Photoshop”(Kovic).
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Denard, H. 2012. A New Introduction to the London Charter. Web 11 Oct 2015 http://www.londoncharter.org/introduction.html
Benjamin, W. 1936 (1968). “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.“ Illuminations, 217-51. New York: Schocken Books.
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Cipolla-Ficarra, F., Veltman, K., Chih-Fang, L. , Cipolla-Ficarra, M., Kratsky, A (eds) 2011 Human Computer Interaction, Tourism and Cultural Heritage: Second International Workshop HCITOCH 2011, Córdoba, Argentina, Sept 2011, Revised Selected Papers.
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Eiteljorg, H. 2000. ”The Compelling Computer Image – A Double-Edged Sword.” Internet Archaeology 8. Web 7 Oct 2015. http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue8/eiteljorg_toc.html
Frankland, T. 2012. “A CG Artists Impression: Depicting Virtual Reconstructions Using Non-photorealistic Rendering Techniques.” Chapter 2 in Thinking beyond the Tool Archaeological computing and the interpretive process, Chrysanthi, A., Murrieta Flores, P., Papadopoulos, C. (eds) 2012 BAR International Series 2344.
Forte, M., Dell’Unto, N., Issavi, J., Onsurez, L., Lercari, N. 2012. “3D Archaeology at Çatalhöyük.” Web 11 Oct 2015. https://www.academia.edu/2205617/3D_Archaeology_at_Catalhoyuk
Gooding, David C. “Envisioning Explanations – The Art In Science.” Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 29.3 (2004): 278-294. Academic Search Complete. Web. 16 Oct. 2015.
Huggett, J. 2004. “Archaeology and the New Technological Fetishism.” Archeologia e Calcolatori XV. Web 5 Oct 2015. http://soi.cnr.it/archcalc/indice/PDF15/05_Hugget.pdf
Rahaman, H. and Tan, B-K. 2010” Interpreting Digital Heritage Considering the End-user’s Perspective.” Web 8 Oct 2015
Rahaman, H., Das, R. and Zahir, S. 2012. “Virtual Heritage: Exploring Photorealism.” Web 8 Oct 2015.
Molyneaux, B.L. (ed.) 1997 ”The Cultural Life of Images: Visual Representation in Archaeology.” London and New York: Routledge.
Roussou, M., Drettakis, G., Chalmers, A., Arnold, D., Niccolucci, F.(eds) 2003.”Photorealism and Non-Photorealism in Virtual Heritage Representation.” In: VAST 2003 and First Eurographics Workshop on Graphics and Cultural Heritage. Web 8 Oct 2015. https://hal.inria.fr/inria-00606745/document
Terras, Melissa. “Review of Beyond Illustration: 2D and 3D Digital Tools for Discovery in Archaeology [Book].” Internet Archaeology.28 (2010) Web 24 July 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.11141/ia.28.6
Watterson, Alice. 2012 “Hyper-Realism, Photo-Realism and Learning to Be Realistic.” Digital Dirt Virtual Pasts. 17 Aug. 2012. Web 14 Oct 2015. https://digitaldirtvirtualpasts.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/hyper-realism-photo-realism-and-learning-to-be-realistic/