We find the work of Jason Salavon highly inspirational. At the intersection of art and visualization, his images are distinctive for their surface and immediate graphical language while also communicating significant stories of process and history.
By merging dozens or hundreds images that share some common theme, Salavon helps us extract high-level information about common form, texture, and color. The details are sacrificed, but we gain understanding of patterns inherent in the larger series.
In the Homes for Sale s images, aggregation is done by place and time. The photographs, all from 2002, were taken by realtors. We might expect different results in different cities, years, or seasons. As it is, we can see the green grass of Dallas contrasting with the yellow lawns in Chicago, and the blue skies of Miama and Los Angeles stand out against the gray atmospheres in Seattle and New York.
In the Playboy series, aggregation is achieved by limiting the kind of image (only centerfolds) and differentiating by decade. We see artifacts of culture in composition and colors, warm to cool, with lighter skin and hair emphasized in later decades.
We can think of Salavon’s photos as 2D films, where all frames are merged into one static image. Similar work has been done by the brilliant photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, who’s camera has captured the entirety of feature films with one long shutter (above). Sugimoto does not wish to tell us about the film itself—in fact, the film title is never announced—but rather about qualities of light, surface, shape, form, and so forth.
Most data visualization projects start with structured data, spreadsheets, XML, databases, APIs. We like Salavon’s projects that bridge data visualization with more traditional media, using a raster imagery as the data sources, extracting patterns and meaning from highly unstructured content. They are beautiful in their own right, and serve as an inspiration for future data visualization projects.