Apophysis Vs. Photoshop

Fractal Tiger by Richard Diggle (ricdiggle)

Yes, it’s finally come to this.  Apophysis, and all flame fractals have been replaced by a single Photoshop filter.

Of course this new photoshop filter, Fractalius, by Redfield Plugins undoubtedly owes it’s existence to that great inferno of flame fractals, Apophysis. Just as the name of the filter suggests, flame fractals have been the inspiration for this new digital wonder/abomination. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (unless you count theft).

But what an interesting world it opens up.  Or is it nothing more than a cheap imitation?  Knock-offs of what is really a much more sophisticated artform?  A trivialization of fractal flames by reducing the entire artform to nothing more than a mere fibrous outline and surface texture?

Hypno Tiger, by Richard Diggle, (the image from which Fractal Tiger was made)

Well actually, an awful lot of real, genuine, Apophysis-generated flame fractals would fit that cheap imitation/ knock-off description.  For many years now, the apex of flame fractals seems to have become nothing more than trying to weave realistic looking imagery out of long thread like feathers.

It’s ironic that a photoshop filter can capture the essence of that type of imagery and enable it to be used much more creatively.  Now anything can become a flame fractal!  Whereas in the past, most flame fractal artists were obsessed with trying to make flame fractals become something.

There’s a big lesson here for the genre of Digital Art: In the end it’s all just pixels.

Image by Peter De Rycke created with Fractalius

Does it matter if you cheat by using photoshop filters – those great genetic engineering laboratories of digital art?  What is the difference between real orange juice and artificially produced orange juice, made from chemically cloned natural flavors, if you can’t tell the difference?

Think of it as a variation of the Turing Test for artificial intelligence as applied to artificial anything: if you can’t tell whether or not you’re interacting with a computer or a real human being, then the computer and the person are categorically the same (i.e. intelligent).

Except of course that genuine Apophysis flame fractals will have parameter files while photoshopped, or Fractalius images will not.  And then again a good fractal artist will be able to tell which one is a real fractal flame, too.  Naturally.  You can’t fool the experts. Can you?

But that’s just the point: if you have to ask for a parameter file to verify that an image is a genuine flame fractal, or ask what program it was made in then you’ve been fooled already and you can’t really tell what it is without asking for its digital pedigree to sort out whether the image is from a noble family or just some imposter who’s walked in off the dirty digital street.

Image by Peter De Rycke created with Fractalius

I think it will be possible to make Fractalius flame fractals (although they’re not really flame fractals, you know) that look better than the real things.  Just like it’s possible to make fruit juices (the kind Mother Nature never intended…) that taste better than natural ones — Coca Cola for instance!

But Coca Cola isn’t a fruit juice!

Yes it is!  From a new kind of fruit!

Fruit grows on trees or vines and there’s no such thing as a Coca Cola tree!!!

Oh yes there is!  There certainly is!  It’s just a different tree, with tubes and steel leaves and hissing moving things hidden in buildings and tended by armies of strange new farmers wearing hair nets and watched by security cameras to make sure they don’t steal anything or spit in the formula.  Another marvel of the modern age – bigger, faster, sweeter.

There’s a big lesson there for the genre of Fruit Juices: In the end it’s all just taste buds.

His Master’s Voice? (Image by Peter De Rycke created with Fractalius)

When an art form becomes simple and repetitive then it’s ripe for being replaced by a machine.  A machine that will be much better at performing simple and repetitive tasks and greatly enlarge the current plateau the art form is “resting” on (resting as in Monty Python “just resting” sense).  Workers who do nothing but push buttons and turn dials have often been replaced by machines.  Mechanical functions are easily mechanized.  It’s been a good thing for them, too.  Now they’re free to find more intelligent and sophisticated work.  Creative stuff.  Not the brainless things that got them automated and out-sourced in the first place.

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One thought on “Apophysis Vs. Photoshop

  1. I agree with you to some extent. I think. there is a plethora of photoshop plugins that shortcut any amount of creativity and brain power that an artist should be using. I personally question art on a regular basis and, seeing a massive installation in the Tate in Liverpool, UK, queried the use of bludgeoned yeti (seriously) amidst sparkling crystalline displays. I was informed that the crystals contained the energy that all people were searching for. I answered, only if you believed in such things and if the artist originally meant that. Yes it was creative, but how many times do artists put things in place, organically and intuitively, not knowing why for some fool to come along and try to explain what it was all about.
    The same goes for photoshopping. A plugin will shortcut. However if the artist doesn’t know what they are looking for or else doesn’t have that spark required for true art they won’t be able to know when they have the result to convey the message they want, and the ‘fool’ will come along and try to give it reason without truly relating the root or seed. So, the plugin is useful for an artist who knows what they are trying to create. To leave it or outsource it to automaton will merely degrade it.
    The problem as you so eloquently have said though, is how might the viewer distinguish between the would be and the true artist.
    Many fractals are beautiful creations. The tiger appeals. But let us not see photoshop plugins being used to create commercial or gallery pieces lest the true nature and calling of the digital artist be put in jeopardy.

    Andrew Gray

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