In the earlier part of the coursework, we explored slicing and freezing a moment in time. The next part of the coursework deals with the exploration of movement blur within an image. This is an area that I haven’t explored much and therefore I am quite keen and interested to experiment. I am also quite fascinated by Harold Edgerton’s multiple exposures and that being something I have never attempted before, I am thinking of definitely exploring that too.
Having looked at several of Robert Capa’s images from that fateful day, even though all of them are more clearer and better quality than this, none is as impactful as the image above. The image, though shaken and blurred, passes on the moment, the happenings of the time onto the viewer and which is why it works so beautifully. One almost wants to reach out into the photograph to the soldier.
The same is with the below image by Robert Frank. It definitely shows the passing of time better than a frozen moment would have depicted in this case.
Having grappled with the question if there was a way to confirm reality all his life, Hiroshi Sugimoto attempted to answer it through his photography his entire life. He started photographing movie theatres in 1976 using a large format camera, with an open shutter throughout the movie running time and closed only once the movie ended. And the results are unexpectedly brilliant. The theatres are showcased in all their luminance with a bright screen illuminating the rest of the dark and empty theatre or as he he phrases it, “the excess of light illuminating the darkness of ignorance” (McGrath, 2020).
“I saw the world as an illusory subject. It was only when the world was captured in a photograph that it acquired reality”.(Sugimoto)
Sugimoto’s thought process, as explained in the preface to his book ‘Theaters’ said that to watch a two hour movie simply means that you have seen 172800 photographic afterimages. Moving images run at about 24 frames a second so this slicing of the film into these frames is impossible to recognise. However, what Sugimoto did was to capture these thousands of images intoone single frame of the entire film, that results in a luminescent white screen. Although the images of these theatres seem to be simplistic upon the first glance, the thought process is much more complex. Sugimoto’s explanation is thus, “I wanted to photograph a movie, with all its appearance of life and motion, in order to stop it again… I must use photography as a means to shut away the ghosts resurrected by the excess of photographic afterimages”(McGrath, 2020).
This series is really an interesting piece of work, one which can be passed off easily in ignorance but as Andrea advised to look at the context of the work if it does not sit with you, this whole idea is so brilliant that it blew me away. Photography basically freezes reality into a frame and films do the opposite by taking thousands of these images and combine them to create motion. Sugimoto’s images of these movies therefore captured that moving action or reality back into freezing reality into a frame. Paradoxical yet brilliant thought process. the long open shutter removes all traces of movement leaving an empty theatre in all its grandeur or not.
To further complicate it, these images existed in their own realm of what the camera sees: “The image was something that neither existed in the real world nor was it anything I had seen. So who had seen it then? My answer: it was what the camera saw”.
“Real knowing comes without you knowing that you know. The minute you know you know, you no longer know.”(Sugimoto)
The only thing I feel to question is – was it necessary to keep an open shutter to record these images? As an experiment I have understood the process which is absolutely brilliant but just as an inquisitive mind I wonder what would the end result be if it was simply a white lit screen and the photograph was made normally? Does the usage of a slower shutter speed justify the end result of the image? If anyone who is unaware of this work was to see it, would they be able to distinguish that these images were made with an open shutter of almost two hours? Well, these are just questions that emerged in my mind as an afterthought so am penning them down. The thought process and the reasoning here definitely becomes important and context helps put everything in perspective. Its an extremely creative and mind-blowing usage of shutter speed.
A German art photographer, having graduated from the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, Michael Wesely’s photographs are made with very long exposures, sometimes taking several months to finish one frame. He started experimenting with ultra-long exposures in the 1990’s, keeping how he does it a secret.
“Time is like a vehicle I use to arrive at my ultimate goals – images.”(Wesely)
He first tried this technique in 1997 when the Daimler-Chrysler building at the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin went through a massive reconstruction, by placing his camera with an open shutter for a period of 26 months. All the changing shapes due to the construction were recorded and preserved in a single frame, blurring the moving objects into a haze while the stationary objects wand covered each other in layers (Gramovich, 2015)
He then documented the reconstruction of the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2001, where he used a multiple camera set up involving eight different camera placed in four different spots s around the perimeter of the square under reconstruction. He shot for record 34 months this time – from August 2001 to June 2004. The events of those 34 months from the movement of the cranes, people moving around, the demolition of the old buildings and the construction of the new ones as well the trajectory of the moving sun was recorded onto a single frame. If you take a closer look, the old museum building and the new one can be seen in the layers. His work was exhibited in the newly renovated Museum of Modern Arts in 2004 in the “Open Shutter Project 2001-2004” exhibition (Gramovich, 2015)
Weseley constructs his own devices for each of his project, except for the wide angle lenses. Whereas the outer appearance of the camera is no secret, he does not share the important technical details of his design. According to him he can make the exposure for as long as he wants – 40 years if need be. His cameras are powerfully waterproofed and stays in one spot without moving a millimeter and he admits to making his cameras massive so that nobody can move them (Gramovich, 2015)
Besides construction, he also works in other areas like for example his project Still Lives about withering flowers which took about a week long exposure to document all the stages of the life of a cut flower.
By placing his cameras at strategic places where the fans gathered to watch the game, he documented the FIFA world cup in 2014, not only documenting the whole game in one frame but also the quintessential emotions of the fans.
Another artist that I came across while researching is Alexey Titarenko from St. Petersburg who also uses long exposures and urban scenes but focuses on people, his philosophy being how time flows, document changes, environment and still leave a lot of space for interpreting each frame, while focusing on a certain person, their story or character. With a long standing interest in making art with his camera, Titarenko was faced with a scene of an ocean of people at the entrance of a subway station desperate to get inside, when in his head he heard the somber music of his favourite composer Dmitri Shostakovich, inspiring him to make a photograph that reflected the slow-moving gravitas of the scene, using a shutter speed several minutes long.
I really like his work from the series ‘City of Shadows’ (1991-1994), some of which is shared below. I am particularly interested in the idea of how it emerged and how successfully that thought translated onto these images. The idea behind this series emerged during the collapse of the Soviet Union, and all the citizens being deprived of their individuality by a criminal regime, forcing them to become “signs” of wandering shadows from once happy-looking people. He has tried to document their misery and depression, people on the verge of insanity, just looking to find some food for themselves and their families to live a bit longer. To him they just appeared to be like undernourished and worn out shadows.
” I felt an intense desire to articulate these sufferings and grieving, to visualize them through my photographs, to awaken empathy and love for my native city’s inhabitants, people who have been constantly victimized and ruined during the course of the 20th Century.”(Titarenko, 2005)
Vanvolsem’s works represent a different story of time and space in photographic images, a story that leads to new expressions and experiences of time and movement with the strip technique. Questioning the emphasis on photography’s instantaneity where there were so many techniques that are used for scientific and other photographic purposes, he started make images that did more that just captured the moment, especially in dance photography where he feels that one can use the infinite time based possibilities of the photographic medium. Rather than focusing just on the dancers, through his images, Vanvolsem focuses on depicting the choreography instead in an attempt to reveal the “temporal dimension of dance,” in response to Pieter T’Jonck’s remark (Vanvolsem, 2008).
In comparison to other photographic techniques, the strip technique contains a fourth dimension, that of time and is mainly used for panoramic photography and the photofinish (a close finish of a race in which the winner is identifiable only from a photograph taken as the competitors cross the line) and is best conceived as a scanning technique. These photographs according to the author cannot simply be glanced once, they need to be read in order for the viewer to understand the movement, direction, and the passing of time. Not particularly a fan of the end images, I am intrigued by this fascinating technique nonetheless and will explore and experiment more on this at a later stage. It does seem quite complex to me at the moment.
“As we focus on the movement itself, rather than on the dancers, we might be able to communicate the essence of the dance, its flow of movement, instead of documenting it.”(Vanvolsem, 2008)
The site recommended by the coursework , https://www.tickpan.co.uk/, has some fascinating work, that I knew nothing of till today. The site itself is quite elaborate and has a lot of different works and projects by Gareth Davies and includes photofinish images, streak images and slitscan cameras in motion. Until now I had never heard of these terms and now I am not any wiser – its fascinating and I definitely want to learn more on all these techniques. Some of is images are below, some don’t do justice shared here as they just look very tiny, I recommend looking through his site thoroughly to go through his work.
Wong Kar Wai
Wong Kar Wai’s dynamic and unique way of making his films totally blew me away. His editing and cinematography, the brilliant usage of lighting and his usage of rains, colours – either hues of a shade dominating a frame or contrasting colours, reflective surfaces and the aesthetic quality of each and every frame is something that leaves the viewer completely mesmerised. I did some research into the technique of step-printing process that he uses in his films, a process which manipulates film speed, creating a fractured and distorted feel and its really unique and captures the passage of time so beautifully and effectively, with an innovative and unique out of the box way of thinking and creatively. From the research that I did and what I understood, step printing technique is where you shoot at 12 FPS and then project it at the normal 24 FPS. Below is the opening scene of his famous movie Chungking Express, shot by Christopher Doyle.
Watching a few videos and interviews about his techniques used within his movies, he has crafted a unique style to his work, where the movement of time within his scenes seem to make time elastic and stretch for eternity, in reality what is only a few seconds long. His style of shooting involves the central character moving or doing actions in slow motion with minimal movement and the surrounding scene moving about at normal pace. And with shooting at a slower FPS and then running it a normal pace, creates an imagery on the screen which makes it look surreal. It’s extremely fascinating and powerful way of of grabbing the viewer’s attention I feel.
An American photographer known for her B&W self portraits, Francesca Woodman produced over 800 untitled prints in her short career which ended with her suicide at the age of 22. Her work reflects the influences in of Surrealism and Conceptual Art, often featuring recurring symbolic motifs such as birds, mirrors, and skulls. Her work also uses long shutter speeds and double exposure creating a sense of movement and urgency in the resulting blurred images. She attended the Rhode Island School of Design in 1977 and while in Rome as a part of its honours program, she created some of her most poetic and provocative works (Artnet, 2020).
Her usage of empty rooms with crumbled and distressed walls, with minimalistic props, a mirror and a vitrine being the most important ones. Time exposure was the technique she used most frequently, effectively blurring and diffusing her figure.
This series of photographs using doors and mirrors as props, highlight her loneliness and vulnerability, and seems like an attempt at her journey of personal self-exploration. The unusually placed objects in hat seem to be desolate settings create a mysterious and transcendental qualities in the tradition of Surrealism. Upon being asked by her roommate and close friend Sloan Rankin as to why was she the subject of her own pictures so often, she replied: ‘It’s a matter of convenience, I’m always available’ (quoted in Rankin 1998, p.35) (Tate, 2020)
“Look at her. There she is. She is all there, but she’s always trying to make herself disappear – to become vapour, a spectre, a smudge, a blur, a subject that is erased yet recognisable. Sometimes she disappears into the wallpaper, or is pinned naked underneath a door that seems to have spectrally fallen from nowhere, or hides her mouth behind an upturned umbrella – sculpturally exposing its starfish shape, the geometry of its interior. Woodman knows we know she’s there and by constructing techniques to make herself vanish, she knows she makes herself bigger. She makes herself bigger because we are searching for her. The artist, Francesca Woodman, has given us something to find. It’s a dance, a theory (perhaps a Lacanian theory: ‘la femme n’existe pas’), a performance, a provocation, an experiment, a joke, a question” (Levy, 2018)
Key points and learnings in context of slow shutter speed:
- Unique documentation
- Unexpected brilliant results
- Taking a chance can create some great work
- Out of box thinking
- The moment of time can be shown effectively via usage of slower shutter speeds
- To find newer and creative aspects in an already well-explored technology of the medium.
- Creative ways of depicting perception of time
- Variety of effective methods to show movement of time by various different artists
Fig 1 Capa, R. (1944) D-Day And The Omaha Beach Landings • Robert Capa • Magnum Photos [Photograph]. At: https://www.magnumphotos.com/newsroom/conflict/robert-capa-d-day-omaha-beach/ (Accessed 16/07/2020).
Fig 2 Frank, R. (1955) ELEVATOR, MIAMI BEACH HOTEL, 1955 [Photograph]. At: https://www.sothebys.com/en/buy/auction/2019/photographies/robert-frank-elevator-miami-beach-hotel-1955 (Accessed 16/07/2020).
Fig 3 Sugimoto, H. (2015) ©Theaters By Hiroshi Sugimoto, Paramount Theater, Newark, 2015. [Photograph] At: https://museemagazine.com/culture/2016/9/27/review-theaters-by-hiroshi-sugimoto (Accessed 16/07/2020).
Fig 4 Sugimoto, H. (1980) ©Theaters by Hiroshi Sugimoto, Ohio Theater, Ohio, 1980. [Photograph] At: https://museemagazine.com/culture/2016/9/27/review-theaters-by-hiroshi-sugimoto (Accessed 16/07/2020).
Fig 5 Sugimoto, H. (2015) ©Theaters by Hiroshi Sugimoto, Everett Square Theater, Boston, 2015 [Photograph] At: https://museemagazine.com/culture/2016/9/27/review-theaters-by-hiroshi-sugimoto (Accessed 16/07/2020).
Fig 6 Wesely, M. (1997-99) Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, 1997-99. [Photograph] At: https://birdinflight.com/inspiration/experience/time-shows-ultra-long-exposure-in-works-of-michael-wesely.html (Accessed 17/07/2020).
Fig 7 Wesely, M. (2001-03) Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2001-03. [Photograph] At: https://birdinflight.com/inspiration/experience/time-shows-ultra-long-exposure-in-works-of-michael-wesely.html (Accessed 17/07/2020).
Fig 8-10 Wesely, M. (2020) Equipment & Illustrations [Photographs] At: https://birdinflight.com/inspiration/experience/time-shows-ultra-long-exposure-in-works-of-michael-wesely.html (Accessed 17/07/2020).
Fig 11 Wesely, M. (2013) Withering Flowers, Still Lives, 2013 [Photograph] At: https://birdinflight.com/inspiration/experience/time-shows-ultra-long-exposure-in-works-of-michael-wesely.html (Accessed 17/07/2020).
Fig 12 Wesely, M. (2014) FIFA World Cup, 2014 [Photograph] At: https://birdinflight.com/inspiration/experience/time-shows-ultra-long-exposure-in-works-of-michael-wesely.html (Accessed 17/07/2020).
Fig 13 Titarenko, A. (1992) Titarenko’s Saint Petersburg, 1992. [Photograph] At: http://www.alexeytitarenko.com/#/cityofshadows/ (Accessed 17/07/2020).
Fig 14 Titarenko, A. (1992) VASILEOSTROVSKAYA METRO STATION, 1992. [Photograph] At: http://www.alexeytitarenko.com/#/cityofshadows/ (Accessed 17/07/2020).
Fig 15 Titarenko, A. (1993) RAIN ON NEVSKY PROSPECT, 1993 [Photograph] At: http://www.alexeytitarenko.com/#/cityofshadows/ (Accessed 17/07/2020).
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Fig 18 Vanvolsem, M. (2007) Silent Move 12 – 2007. [Photograph] At: http://www.imageandnarrative.be/inarchive/Timeandphotography/vanvolsem.html (Accessed 19/07/2020).
Fig 19 Vanvolsem, M. (2007) Contraction of Movement 3 – 2007. [Photograph] At:http://www.imageandnarrative.be/inarchive/Timeandphotography/vanvolsem.html (Accessed 19/07/2020).
Fig 20 Davies, G. (2010) Elements: Fire. [Photograph] At: https://www.tickpan.co.uk/streak/index.htm (Accessed 17/07/2020).
Fig 21 Davies, G. (2010) Sedum. [Photograph] At: https://www.tickpan.co.uk/streak/index.htm (Accessed 17/07/2020).
Fig 22 Davies, G. (2010) Forsythia. [Photograph] At: https://www.tickpan.co.uk/streak/index.htm (Accessed 17/07/2020).
Fig 23 Davies, G. (2010) Mushrooms. [Photograph] At: https://www.tickpan.co.uk/streak/index.htm (Accessed 17/07/2020).
Fig 24 Francesca, W. (1976) Space², Providence, Rhode Island 1976. [Photograph] At: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/woodman-untitled-providence-rhode-island-ar00357 (Accessed 20/07/2020).
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Fig 26 Francesca, W. (1975-78) Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island 1976. [Photograph] At: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/woodman-untitled-providence-rhode-island-ar00359 (Accessed 20/07/2020).
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