Artificial intelligence seems to be everywhere these days—it’s even creeping into Adirondack history. Doug Smith, a software engineer who lives in Vermont, has begun playing with this modern tool to explore characters and lore from the region’s past.
For his Instagram-based ADK Legends project, Smith uses historical images—some sourced from his subject’s descendants—as well as descriptions from texts and his own imaginings to seed generative software, which then composes an image. From there Smith can tweak the result to his liking with “old-fashioned” digital art tools or modify his input until the result jibes with the tone and scene he’s envisioning.
Smith says he’s always daydreamed about those who’ve come before when he’s exploring the Adirondacks, “like heading into Cedar Lakes and thinking French Louie might’ve been right there, or being on Little Tupper Lake and wondering what bay Nessmuk was on when he harvested a deer.” A.I. is helping bring those daydreams to life.
One of Smith’s favorite subjects is French Louie, pictured above getting his salt pork snatched by a hedgehog (or, more likely, porcupine) as referenced in Harvey L. Dunham’s Adirondack French Louie. The state-of-the-art software Smith uses isn’t such a smartypants in Adirondacks 101, though—he says he had to spend some time “teaching” it what a pack basket should look like.
Follow Smith’s work on Instagram @adklegends.