Smoke and Fog are two short experimental documentaries come audiovisual poems made from historical black & white photographs documenting early to mid-20th century air pollution. Whilst Smoke focuses on the cities of Pittsburgh and St Louis (courtesy of the Smoke Control Lantern Slide Collection, University of Pittsburgh), Fog uses images of the infamous London pea-soupers (sponsored by Getty Images).
Each soundtrack presents a digitally transmuted vocal response to these images, referencing the equally smokey jazz clubs of the time by fragmenting a popular jazz standard of the period, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach, as well as “A Foggy Day” by George and Ira Gershwin.
As a poetical documentary, both Smoke and Fog hover on the cusp between past and present, setting up a conversation between different technologies, between virtual experience and the imagination of another time and place that yet has a marked relevance to increasing, if now less visible urban air pollution.
The series was created as part of a JISC-funded (Research Data Spring) CREAM esearch project exploring the use of active metadata, or actively used metadata in research and creative processes. The idea here was to look at a new way of working creatively, and to that end the two pieces are less a definitive creative output, but more an expression of process, captured by a data collection of notes on Annalist, hat formed the basis of a semi-structured data model by expanding on Procedural Blending (Garrelfs 2015).