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From Magic to Science


My kids have been completely ensconced within Harry Potter for some time now.  They read and re-read each book multiple times.  I have not read the books, much to their dismay, but I have enjoyed watching the movies with them.  As a photographer, one detail in the movies (and I assume the books as well) can’t escape your eye.  Whenever a print image is shown (newspaper, flyer, framed print or poster on a wall) the image within it moves.  It’s not meant to be full video.  The motion is jerky and just like a radar loop on a weather map it constantly repeats itself.  In photos loved ones can wave, in the paper it can give a bit more information than a still image.  It’s a very striking effect and one that would seem to be confined to the author’s imagination. Well…

This fall Esquire magazine will be producing electronic covers using technology from E-Ink.  The covers will be black and white, just like Harry Potter.  The basic elements of the page are the same as traditional print with the addition of a thin film, I assume a chip of some sort and an extremely thin battery.

Recently, in the photo world there has been talk of convergence.  The convergence of cameras already here or soon to come, ones that will shoot high quality video and still imagery simultaneously.  The inferred belief that in the future commercial still photographers will have to learn video.  If this Esquire cover technology takes off, goes beyond being a novelty, what will that mean? Are we slated to have a moving image for all commercial work whether we like it or not?  Somehow that’s doubtful.  A magazine filled with only movable images will probably come off as too busy and too noisy (not sound noise but visual overload noise.)  But then again, if the norm is a movable image, will the client insist on both? “Just in case.” There’s also the green factor.  Is print embedded with moving images created via additional materials moving in the right direction?

As photographers do we want to go through another transition?  Can’t we rest, at least for a bit, having made the transition to digital?  In the end, we’ll probably have no choice in the matter.  The market and tools will determine how things progress.  No matter what happens though, having two infant technologies point in the same direction at the same time is interesting indeed…

NPR story on E-Ink and Esquire’s upcoming covers