Pic of the Day: American Pixels


Jörg Colberg, a self-taught photographer whose images of unpopulated schools and desolate towns on the Cape show a cool sensibility for nostalgia, has recently turned to a more conceptual fabrication for his photography. Trying to invent a new way for computers to produce images, he pixellates and compresses each photo using a tricky algorithm that we can’t be trusted to explain. Regardless, the verdict is in, and the series “American Pixels” is mesmerizing.

Since we’re laypeople and didn’t quite pick up on Colberg’s technical notes, we asked him to clarify his pixellation and compression process. Straight from the source:

Essentially, the idea was to create a hierarchical compression algorithm, where the compression — in effect the pixel size — depends on the information in each uncompressed pixel and its neighbours. So adaptive compression (“acomp”) is a new image algorithm where the focus is not on making its compression efficient but, rather, on making its result interesting. One could use acomp as a compression method (just like jpeg, gif, or any of the other file formats that people know), but for me, it was more about the image content. So unlike people who develop compression algorithms to save disk space while trying to mostly keepthe original image information, I was interested in transforming the images, and the fact that it’s also a compression is actually just secondary.

View more of Colberg’s pixellation experimentation here.