Rosenwald Hall is a spot I've not made many photographs of in the past. In fact, I don't know that I've much noticed it or it's neighboring Walker Museum until recent trips to campus. As I stitched together this massive panoramic image of it's facade, however, I realized that it's a stunningly beautiful building. I know that isn't saying much—after all, aren't most buildings on campus gorgeous (so long as you're a fan of gothic architecture)?
As I made this image, an unidentified student made his way out into the bluster and bombast of a February storm. I made sure to capture a frame that included him to add a sense of scale. I wonder who he is?
I've also been thinking a lot about what makes good photographs tick. What is it that all or most of them share? I think one answer is that they are all inhabitants of something like the photographic uncanny valley.
The uncanny valley is an idea in human perception that goes something like this: the closer something resembles a human without being human, the more disturbing and unfamiliar it will look until it is so similar in appearance that it can't be differentiated from a real human.
I think the same holds for photography, but instead of appearing disturbing or frightening, photographs that reside within the photographic uncanny valley are interesting and beautiful. The unfamiliar is fetishized in photography, we love to see images that have a palpable reality in most features (tonality, geometry, etc.) but also are surreal (the exposure distorts time, the depth of field forces perspective, etc.). Hit the processing too hard, push the image towards cartoonish and you start to climb back up the slope to familiarity and away from the sweet spot of the uncanny valley.
I think that's why I love large format panoramic images so much; they defy our preconceived notions of resolution and geometry. Photography (especially in the age of smartphone photography) is only supposed to be able to reproduce reality to a degree. Low resolution, filters, poor response to light, fast shutter speeds, there is an emerging set of standards we've created about how photographs look. The longer that holds and the farther we travel down the mobile phone photography curve, the more unusual these "large format" images will seem.