The Digital Cities images have been captured from drone footage using a pinhole attachment on a DSLR camera. The first set of images - Digital Cities are directly from the camera. The second set of images Mapping the Terrain, combines the first with a series of maps of the city where the drone footage was taken, while the third set, The Code that Made Me, combines the first with the data from the .xmp files to show how the pictures are recorded in code.
While drones do not, at the moment, offer access to live footage in the way that CCTV cameras do, they do offer a fresh perspective on the world. There was not as much drone footage available as I was expecting, but I found a selection through searching by city and settled on New York, Hong Kong and London.
I was interested in the concept of time and space and how through digital media these can lose their meaning. I wanted to try and capture this by compressing time into a single frame, capturing what I hoped would be the ‘essence’ of a city - while keeping a sense of movement and time - in a single frame. The pinhole attachment provided an infinite depth of field, adding to the sense of altering time and space. I wanted to demonstrate how the camera, as described by Vincent Miller: “alters how we perceive the object by transcending the physical and perceptual distance between the object and the viewer, and therefore obliterates the contextual situation of the subject”
Through experimentation with exposure time and the movement of the footage, I was able to produce a series of images that I was happy with. Interestingly the images of London did not work at all – neither the city centre nor the suburbs. The sky-scrapers and shiny buildings of New York and Hong Kong, contrasted with the surrounding district of parks and water produced the abstract/layered image I was hoping to achieve. London, with its familiar landmarks and low buildings just looked like poor shots of London.
When converting the RAW files to formats that can be worked on, there is always an .xmp file that contains the history of the image – the process it has gone through in its conversion. I thought it would be interesting to metaphorically scratch away the surface of the image to show the data that goes into creating it. This was partly inspired by children’s crayon pictures that layer black on top of colour to be revealed when the top layer is scratched.
The idea of using maps was very appealing – especially old maps that showed the foundations on which our cities are built – as these show the process of growth, development, redevelopment and reimaging that stretches back over centuries. Having found and cropped a series of maps of Hong Kong and New York, I used the same eraser tools but experimented with the layer – using the outline of the city in some cases, the streets and buildings of the map in others. Using the map as the top layer, particularly in the case of the grid layout of New York, produced some interesting, abstract results and a good basis for further experimentation.