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What We Learned This Week: Everybody Is Talking About "Deep Nostalgia"

By David Schonauer   Friday March 5, 2021


It’s a nice idea. In theory.

But, noted The Verge, the new “Deep Nostalgia” tool unveiled by ancestry site My Heritage produces images that are fairly creepy. The AI-powered feature lets you animate family photos, but the tech can take photos from any camera and bring them to “life.”  

“Using several reference videos around which static photos are mapped, the technology makes eyes dart around, blank expressions turn into smiles, and heads move as if looking back at the viewer, noted PhotoShelter’s Allen Murabayashi, who concluded that the effect, “like many previous deep fake examples, isn’t quite human.”

Nonetheless, noted Murabayashi, news outlets and social media accounts “have been overrun with old photos” animated with the new tool. “Because of its ease of use, and free trial, it soon took off on Twitter, where users [were] uploading animated versions of old family photos, celebrity pictures, and even drawings and illustrations,” added The Guardian.

An archaeologist, noted The Guardian, even animated photos of ancient statues, included some with the blank eyes. (Result: nightmarish.)

Deep Nostalgia uses AI licensed from Israeli company D-ID to turn still images into animated photos “like the Live Photos feature in iOS portraits in the 'Harry Potter' films,” added DP Review.

Deep Nostalgia can only handle single headshots and can only animate faces, so you’re not going to be able to reanimate mummies to make it look like they’re walking, The Verge assured its readers — noting, however, that if you’re going to try Deep Nostalgia, “brace yourself for a surreal experience. The AI is scarily good.”

Murabayashi notes that the tech isn’t foolproof — he tried uploading 19th-century images of an enslaved father and daughter, and the tool responded that it did not detect faces in the photos. It did animate a photo of his grandmother; the result, he said did “not appear like my grandmother at all.”

Here are some of the other photo stories we spotlighted this week.
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1. Photographing the People of North Korea

French photojournalist Stephan Gladieu documented conflicts for decades, but lately his focus has shifted in a new direction.  “It’s people that attract me,” he told It’s Nice That, “so more and more I turn to portrait.” Recently Gladieu traveled to North Korea and toured the country (with government guides) to photograph people there — precisely because he'd never heard much about them. “[It's] a kind of ghost of the modern world,” he said. “My wish was to create a portrait of North Korean society, to give it a face.”


2. Hugo Comte Debuts First Retrospective

Photographer Hugo Comte’s first retrospective shines the spotlight on all the women who have inspired him throughout his career, including Dua Lipa, Irina Shayk and Bella Hadid, and Kendall Jenner. “The book is a hybrid retrospective; putting into perspective archives and new work together, in order to create a new narrative and narrow my identity into a precise vision of attitudes, atmosphere and colors," Comte told Hypebae. He calls the collection a “style and design manifesto defining an era for the artist.” Vogue had more.

3. MoMA Receives Women-Focused Photography Gift to "Unfix the Canon"

The Museum of Modern Art in New York has received a donation of 100 photographs that it hopes will aid in canonizing under-recognized female artists. Helen Kornblum, a psychotherapist and collector who has sat on MoMA’s photography committee since 2014, has given the museum a group of works from her own holdings rich in art by women, noted Art News. An exhibition devoted to the gift, which includes work by 76 artists ranging from Dora Maar to Carrie Mae Weems, will go on view at MoMA in 2022.


4.  Photographer Captures Yellow Penguin

Belgian landscape and wildlife photographer Yves Adams was leading a two-month photo exhibition in the South Atlantic in December 2019 when the group made a stop on an island in South Georgia to photograph a colony of over 120,000 king penguins. That is when Adams saw something entirely new — a penguin with bright yellow plumage. The unique bird is believed to be the first yellow-and-white king penguin ever found, noted People magazine. "They all looked normal except for this one,” says Adams.


5. Keith Seaman's "Drivebys" Are Moving Panoramas

Some years ago, Fresno, California-based photographer Keith Seaman began acquainting himself with the technique of stitched panoramas and, as he puts it, became fascinated with the the phenomenon of parallax. "Although parallax was an issue for successful stitching, it dawned on me that parallax was our common visual experience while moving through the world in our cars, buses and trains: as we peer through the windows of our moving vehicles, objects nearest us blur by while those farther away remain more focused, seemingly moving more slowly," he said. We featured his series “Drivebys.”
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At top: from Stephan Gladieu

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