If 5mb image files choke up your email, consider Jeffrey Martin’s photograph of the 868-year-old Strahov monastery library in Prague.
At 283 gigabytes and 40 gigapixels, Martin’s image, actually 2,947 images stitched together, it is just the latest in a series of information-loaded, barrier-breaking pictures. Back in 2003 a lunchtime bet prompted goaded researchers at Dutch research and technology laboratory TNO to make the biggest photo at the time a 2.5 gigapixel image of the Dutch town of Delft. They had to upgrade existing Windows viewers to be able to load the image.
More recently in 2010 Alfred Zhao posted an estimated 112 gigapixel image of Shanghai (using Gigapan EPIC Pro technology). Consisting of 12,000 images, post-processing and uploading took him three months. Unlike Martin, Zhao had the weather to contend with in constructing his picture.
There’s no doubting the professional dedication, the impressive scale and the engrossing detail of such projects. But the question is, what are they for? Why do we need it? Is it a case, like the iPad, of build it and they will come? Evan Rail in Wired magazine says viewers of Martin’s image would have a better view of the Al Fresco ceiling than actual visitors to the library, though they would miss the hidden doors disguised with fake book spines.
There are potential educational usages and one can imagine luxury brands who place a premium on detailing, finding a use for such an ‘experiential’ image, giving an ambient sense of their product in a perfectly curated space. Perhaps when it comes to detail, size really does matter.