Tag Archives: Project 2: It’s about time

Project 2: Exercise 2~ Is photography uniquely suited to portraying time?

Does the ‘mechanical’ nature of photography make it a medium uniquely suited to portraying time and the passage of time?

We’ve been asked to consider the portrayal of time across several different mediums of the course of the module. Throughout the course workbook examples crop up time and time again of Artists using Photography to capture or convey time, either a particular moment of their artwork or to document it. It seems to me that even when the artwork itself wasn’t originally a photograph at some point photography is incorporated or used to help aid our perception or ability to interact with that artwork. This seems to be particularly the case with land art, sculptural works which are located in obscure or hard to reach destination. As I write this I can call to mind several examples of this, think of Katie Paterson’s, Vatnajokull (sound installation) a sound installation based in an lagoon filled with icebergs. Photographs are used here, it seems to help us visualize the location of the installation and to capture moments in time.

Can other creative art forms deal with the concept of time to the same extent?

I think where photography struggles is in capturing ongoing time (if you discount film or cinematography here), in the Katie Paterson example mentioned above, sound allows us to get a sense of what is happening real time, and in ongoing moments. The Photograph can only capture isolated moments, fractions or pieces of time. Sontag mentions this in her book, On Photography, and states this is what makes photography so linked with nostalgia, it is a capturing of the past, it cannot continually show us the present.

This is where creative art forms involving new media perhaps offer an new window into portraying the passage of time – a live web feed (using a camera here), or an algorithm that responds and alters game-play as it unfolds – these are  technologies perhaps birthed from Photography, which have evolved beyond it’s more static nature.

I think we think of Photography as being the best art form for capturing time because it seems so authentic to us, we use photographs to document our news stories, capture world events, tragedies etc, it’s become a form of evidence of time based occurrences. But it isn’t beyond manipulation or alteration. It can only (as I’ve said), capture a moment, and it does that convincingly – not an ongoing reality.

I fear I’m beginning to repeat myself here – but my point is. Yes Photography seems to excel in portraying moments in time, but I think it works well in conjunction with other art forms. I don’t think it should be held as more effective or the best option for capturing time. Time is such a complex and broad subject that I’m beginning to see why and how we’ve been able to explore it through such a variety of art forms/mediums.

Project 2: It’s about time ~ Exercise 1

For this exercise I’m considering four images which use photography to capture a sense of movement. I’m not sure if I can include the images in my blog, so where I can I’ll include any online links to them.

  1. Derek Trillo, Passing Place, Manchester, 2006

In this image the silhouette’s of two figures are seen moving up a set of a stairs. The stairs have glass side panels so we can see the figures legs lifted, showing us they are walking. The figures are slightly blurred, or perhaps even slightly doubled which adds to the sense of them being in motion. I think the title also adds to the idea of movement, ‘passing place’ implies an active movement or passing by of people.

2. Harold Edgerton, Bullet and Apple, 1964

In the photo an apple is scene impaled on and upright bullet shell. The apple is seen to have been pierced by a bullet, you can see the bullet having left the apple but you can also see the dynamic reaction or force in both ends of the apple. I think this is a very effective capture of movement and a very unique quick moment in time. It must’ve taken carefully planning and execution as a bullet moves too quickly for the human eye to perceive its speed. The clouds or lines at the entry and exit points of the bullet look like explosions, they remind me of the lines drawn to indicate movement in lots of cartoons or comic books. I also wonder if the blue wall or background helps aid the seeing of the movement or explosion of the apple, the explosion appears white in a strong contrast to the blue background.

3. Harold Edgerton, Multiflash tennis serve, 1949. 

This image is much harder to describe than the first two!! It looks like a black and white photograph. The background is a solid black, in the centre a blurred white figure is visible, over the head of the figure a sort of semi-circle is created by multiple grey/white tennis rackets at different positions. The tennis rackets appear closer together at the left edge of the image and are further apart at the right hand side. A faint grey blur shaped like a circle can be seen in the mid right hand side of the image, presumably a tennis ball? In the top centre of the image a series of white circle overlap almost forming a line to the top of the photograph. I’m guessing this the ball moving up as it’s thrown in the air? Looking at the tennis rackets, I’m reminded of the movement of the hands of a clock in stages, and therefore reminded of the progression of time itself. I’m slightly unsure of how to comment on the black and white nature of the photo it somehow makes the image feel more static, perhaps because it feels so stark. Does the draining of the colour make it feel less like real movement? I’m not sure why?!

4. Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Cousin Bichonnade in Flight, 1905. 

A black and white image, (gelatin silver print), which shows what appears to the side of a large home, with a side angle of stone steps. A a woman in a skirt and black shirt is seen apparently floating above the stairs. Her skirt is creased suggesting movement, and her hands appear blurred as if moving too but her upper body/frame looks still. I guess the easiest assumption here is that the photographer has captured her mid jump from the top of the stairs to the bottom.

Personal photographs of movement

I don’t have much practice with or experience of watching others taking photographs to capture movement. But I’d like to give this a try. I had a little search on Pinterest for ideas/tips on how to capture movement using the search, ‘Photography capturing movement’.

I found a couple of examples of photographs capturing movements that I felt I could try and re-create or try a version of for myself.

  1. Photographing shifting flour or icing sugar – I found an example of this with a very practical tutorial on a website called Playful Cooking, Understanding ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed. 
  2. Light Art Performance Photography – capturing a moving light source. A how-to I found on Picture Correct, Light Painting How to.
  3. Photographing Light trails – capturing traffic or light from moving objects. I found another how to guide on Light Stalking, How to photograph light trails.

I’m going to need a tri-pod to take these photographs so I’m going to move onto the next exercise whilst I find someone to borrow a tri-pod from to take the pictures!