sabrinaHello and welcome!  My name is Sabrina Caldwell and I am a researcher at The Australian National University.

My area of research is photography, specifically photo credibility. Key to my research is the important distinction between photographs (photos of real people, places and events) and photoART (images that were once photos but have now been changed by image manipulation software).

This site is a public forum to explore the art, technology and social implications of  photographs, photoart, and everything in between.

Should you care?

So who cares about photo credibility? A lot of people don’t.  But my research is suggesting that perhaps the main reason people don’t care is because they haven’t thought about it and what it means for them.

Once you understand the many insidious ways in which not valuing and safeguarding the real world in your images affects you, others and your posterity, you may find that you care also. I write about aspects and examples of these issues for you to consider.

This research as vital to all fields of endeavour, from the person taking photographs down a microscope or up a telescope, to professional photographers, to field researchers, to the family photographer whose casual pictures actually document whole genealogies of families.

Can we add value to each other’s lives?

I hope that I can connect with you as a photographer, and also as a member of the human family who wants our collective history and knowledge told in images in which we understand where the line between truth and fiction can be found. I hope we can help each other benefit from thinking more critically about the role our photographs play in the world and our individual lives.

I will be actively listening to your concerns and considering how they fit with my research and development. I normally post about once a month (subject to the volatile schedules of an academic), and I hope you will follow and share posts from my blog that resonate with you, and that you will respond and comment on this important topic.

Along the way, we can explore the beautiful, confronting, whimsical, illuminating, colourful, wonderful world of photography!

Dr Sabrina Caldwell


More about my research…

Since the introduction of the digital camera in the 1990’s, together with easy to use image manipulation software, people have been tinkering with photos, but there is no real mechanism by which tinkered and untinkered images can be delimited. I believe that as a result, the photograph has become a pseudo-endangered species.  Endangered, because we no longer know whether the images we view are photographs or photoart.  Pseudo, and thereby capable of remedy, because many of our images really are unmanipulated photographs, we just don’t know which ones to believe.

Unexpectedly, the plight of the pseudo-endangered photograph has become an important focus of my life’s work.  I first realised that we were losing photograph credibility while undertaking my first PhD in the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences. The research I conducted in that PhD was on the impact of technology on authors and artists, with Australian poet-artist Richard Kelly Tipping, an early adopter of technology in art, as my exemplar.

The challenging but logical next step was to closely research the issue of image credibility in the digital age, and so I went back to the PhD drawing board a second time in 2011. I received my second PhD in December 2017, undertaken in the Research School of Computer Science, which used eye gaze tracking and neural net analysis to understand how we see and interpret photographs, and which sets the groundwork for constructing a modern framework for photograph credibility that can operate in the technologically enhanced world we now inhabit.


22 responses to “About

  1. buildermaker

    January 3, 2014 at 11:45 am

    I thank the Lord for people like you…in our world the truth is often hidden in plain sight. I am glad that there is someone out there who is at the vanguard of technology. Keep up the great work, cant wait to find out more about how the truth is manipulated. …LRGII

    • sabrinacaldwell

      January 6, 2014 at 5:53 pm

      Hi buildermaker,
      Thanks a lot for your very kind words. It means a lot to me to know that there are people out there who understand how important it is for our world to be able to know whether the information we consume is good for us or not!

  2. dilettante

    January 6, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing your research online. I must admit I hadn’t thought about photographic credibility before, and look forward to reading more.

    • sabrinacaldwell

      January 6, 2014 at 4:33 pm

      Hi dilettante,
      Thanks for your comment and interest. I think that as time goes on this issue will become important (I’ll be describing why and what can be done about it in upcoming posts).

  3. Preeti

    January 15, 2014 at 12:47 am

    Wow! I read your open invitaion to photobloggers and thought to myself…whenever I say ‘reduce noise’ in my photograph or change a coloured photo into a B&W mode am I changing my photograph into ‘photoart’??!! It makes me feel…somehow a bit more amatuerish, a bit more ‘green’ if you will in my photography endeavors….What to do?!

    • sabrinacaldwell

      January 15, 2014 at 4:46 am

      Hi Preeti, Thanks for writing! I sympathise with your dilemma of how to think about the difference between photographs and photoart. It’s a problem I’ve been wrestling with for a while. I think ultimately that like many things in life, it isn’t an ‘either/or’ question, but a question of degree. IMHO, you certainly shouldn’t feel more amateurish for having considered this question, but rather more professional! Most people just don’t think about this question at all.

      • Preeti

        January 19, 2014 at 10:50 am

        Well you have certainly given me food for thought…..I’ll be educating myself more on the subject…the debate if you will…to add to my growth as a photography hobbyist and novice blogger.

      • sabrinacaldwell

        January 19, 2014 at 11:50 am

        Hi Preeti, Yes, photo credibility seems simple on the surface but it turns out to be a many-faceted field that involves technology, photographers’ intentions, viewers’ understanding and expectations, the medium of the image, and even the subject of the photo in the first place. All very complicated. But definitely worth understanding if we don’t want our photos to be short-lived.

  4. Marius Luther

    January 23, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    Hi Sabrina, sounds great.
    My first family picture was when I was 4 or 5. Granny, father, mother, sister on a bench. Pressing the button I shifted the focus. The only thing you could see: family feets in walking boots. Now fifty years later it’s still a good laugh talking about my “artistic” approach to photography.
    Why I tell you?
    First I think often the most interesting thing in a photo is what you can not see. I loved for years my family picture because I could complement the missing body and faces. I could phantasize which was and is my pleasure.
    Second I remember my mother saying “it’s a pitty you are not on the picture.” As a little boy I told her “Yes I am, mum. I’m in front of you all, because I took the photo. Don’t you see?” And I can hear my mother laughing in a loving and caring way.
    Will follow your blog with pleasure.

    • sabrinacaldwell

      January 23, 2014 at 10:29 pm

      Hi Luther, Great story about your family boots photo – goes to show how personal and precious photos can be to us.

  5. Beauty Along the Road

    November 2, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    A fascinating new field you’ve chosen, Sabrina.

  6. Capt Jill

    December 2, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    interesting project, I think alot about how to change my photos to improve how they look without changing them too much. I have been trying to break into ‘stock’ photography and I get rejected a lot for noise and things like that. I didn’t even know what that meant for a while. Now I just try to maybe crop a little, but do as little as possible. I never really thought about it as changing the reality of it before.

    • sabrinacaldwell

      December 2, 2015 at 3:36 pm

      Yes, the prevailing thought at the moment seems to value polish and aesthetics over meaning. It reminds me a bit of Shakespeare’s comment in Troilus and Cressida that we “…give to dust, that is a little gilt, more laud than gilt o’er-dusted.” I’d rather have my photos served up as reality with a little noise than perfection with uncertain reality.

      • Capt Jill

        December 2, 2015 at 4:15 pm

        I’m just trying to figure out how to sell mine. I like the ones I like OK without any fiddling.

      • sabrinacaldwell

        December 2, 2015 at 4:29 pm

        That is a very interesting question Capt Jill. I think it is one of those questions that must be mulled over for a while. I shall mull.

      • Capt Jill

        December 2, 2015 at 4:43 pm

        mull on, mull on 😉

  7. Ed GRUSE

    June 19, 2017 at 9:09 am

    Hi, is this the Sabrina Bleecker (Caldwell) I used to sing with in the Hollywood Singers?

  8. Colin Lee

    January 2, 2018 at 9:34 pm

    That sounds like a really fun job!

    • Sabrina Bleecker Caldwell

      January 3, 2018 at 2:30 pm

      Hi Colin, yes it is a great job. And I’m fortunate to have a lot of great people to work with too! -Sabrina-

  9. Bob Caldwell

    May 1, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    Hi Sabrina,
    I hope this finds you well. My name is Bob Caldwell. I have been intrigued by your photo analysis of Butch Cassidy, Harry Longabaugh, and others. My family has resided in Western Colorado since the 1800’s, and Butch Cassidy worked for and was friends with my Great Grand Father “Bob Caldwell” and great uncle “Harry Adsit” in the Norwood & Telluride, Colorado area. I also have a photo from a friend of mine whose family also associated with a young Butch Cassidy in that era. I was wondering if you would be interested in reviewing a photo and providing analysis.
    Your response would be greatly appreciated.
    Kind regards,

    • Sabrina Bleecker Caldwell

      May 2, 2018 at 3:45 pm

      Hello Bob,

      Thanks very much for your message. That’s an impressive Coloradan lineage! I’m glad you’ve been interested in my analyses of what I’m now referring to as ‘sparse historic photographs.’ The journey has been a fascinating one so far. I would certainly be happy to have a look at the photo you mention, however I am unlikely to have time to do any analysis work until this semester’s teaching duties are over in June. I had a look for your Great Uncle Harry Adsit and found several short mentions in the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection (where I do some transcribing) from 1898 to 1903. I wonder if that is the same person?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: