I’m going to start doing something different with this blog. I started it as a way of publishing short writings on photography theory texts that I had to do as part of this course, but from now on I am going to use it as a way of documenting and developing an ongoing photography project I am working on. The project is called Stages and the basic concept is pretty simple – long exposure photographs taken from balconies at gigs. By long exposures I mean exposures of the order of minutes – anything from 3 minutes upwards to 15 or 20. Generally I try and make each exposure the length of a song in order to try and answer these sorts of questions: Is it possible to take a photograph of song? If so, what would it look like?
I’ve been doing this for a few months now so I am going to start with my very first attempt at it, which was at an Asian Dub Foundation gig in Tripod, Dublin which took place on February 19th. ADF are really not my bag (and the question of whether that actually matters is something I will return to) but the promoters were kind enough to let me come along and try out the concept from the balcony, which was not in use that night.
A week or so beforehand I had bought a 4×5 camera from a lady in Cork and this was also my first serious attempt to actually use it. If you don’t know what a large format 4×5 camera is (and many people don’t) here’s the quick summary – it’s a film camera that uses a negative that is 4 inches by 5 inches in size. This gives it vastly greater resolution than 35mm film and vastly greater resolution than any digital camera doesn’t cost more than a new car. The other big advantage of a large format camera is that it allows movements – technically speaking this means you can change the orientation of the film plane with respect to the lens – in practice it means you can fix things like converging verticals in camera, which is very handy for this project as a lot of the time I am shooting downwards from balconies.
I learned quite a few things that night in Tripod. The first one was to bring a torch in future. The second one was that scrambling around on a dark balcony with pounding music in the background is not the best way to learn how to use a new type of camera, particularly one that requires you to assemble it before you can shoot anything. The third one was that it is almost impossible to see anything through the ground glass of the camera inside a darkened venue, so careful framing and focusing is more or less out the window. At this stage I decided that this whole idea was probably not going to work but I did a few test shots with a digital camera, then stuck the 4×5 on the tripod, pointed it in the general direction of the stage, stuck it on f45, and left the shutter open for the third song. The result is shown above.