Prisma is an app, available for iphone and android, that enables you to convert photos into artwork. It is almost scary how easy it is to use and transform ordinary phone photographs into pictures that look like paintings or prints. I first tried it on our trip to Santa Barbara over Thanksgiving, and was pleased with what it did with a gnarled tree.
More recently, for the Mundane Monday Challenge #93, I took a picture of a ship from Pier 39 in San Francisco, and ran it through several of the Prisma filters:
There’s also the Pier 39 Christmas Tree:
And another view of the branches and leaves that inspired a previous Mundane Monday posting (this is the same filter as the last one I used for the ship, above):
Another filter used on another part of the same wall gets me a photo that brings to mind pressed flowers and almost-forgotten memories. The end of an era, and the coming of the winter.
My eye seems to be most fascinated by the shapes and color and compositions that the app reveals. I agree with the author of this article, that “This mind-blowing photo app makes Instagram’s filters look so lame,” but I’m surprised that virtually every article about Prisma that I’ve read on the internet has showcased transformed photographs of people, rather than photographs of landscapes, still-lifes, or other abstract forms.
Take this article from The Guardian, for example: “Why everyone is crazy for Prisma, the app that turns photos into works of art“. The photos shown are iconic photos of celebrities everyone knows–Serena Williams, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Mike Pence, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian–transformed by Prisma filters into something else.
I don’t personally find most of the pictures in this article to be an improvement on the originals. Actual photographs of Serena Williams–for example, as seen in her Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year photo shoot–capture her unique blend of strength, power, grace, and femininity better than the Prisma one does. I’d also encourage those who are concerned with the possibility that Prisma is going to put human painters of athletes out of business to check out Leroy Neiman’s work, including this painting of Venus and Serena. Paintings, unlike Prisma, have the advantage of being freed from photographic constraints.
The political Prismas aren’t much better. The filter chosen for Clinton makes her look like an awkward insertion into the stained glass window of a 1960s church. And the filter chosen for the President and Vice-President-Elect makes them look like dopey dorks with big chins. As was the case with Williams, actual professional photographs, such as those from the photo shoot for Trump’s Time Person of the Year cover, are much better art than this.
So I am not overly concerned that Prisma will put artists, photographers, cartoonists, and portrait makers out of business. Prisma is just another tool. What I think Prisma does especially well is enables amateurs like me to see the world, and our own attempts at capturing it, in a different and more creative light. It gives us possibilities that we might not have seen before. I put that ship photo through 9 different Prisma filters: some of the results were better than others, and some will probably never see the light of day again because, as complete compositions, they just didn’t work.
Some of these failed attempts contained elements, like the surprise wisp of blue sky, or the clouds that look like seagulls, or the extra contrast between the ship and the water, that might make a painting say what I need it to say.
Prisma can bring out hidden gems that you might not have even realized were there.