One of the things that interests me about long-exposure photography is that it facilitates a different way of seeing. It compresses a stretch of time into a single visual and, in doing so, uncovers patterns and movements that we do not normally experience. Conventional photography employs shutter speeds that are designed to roughly correspond to our normal view of the world. The camera’s job is to freeze a discrete instantaneous visual moment and allow us to peruse it at leisure. If a photographer inadvertently uses a shutter speed that is too long to properly freeze the moment in front of the lens, the blurred result is more often than not regarded as incorrect, a mistake. But surely it can be more interesting to try and use a camera to uncover things our visual system does not show us, rather than to simply replicate the things that it does?
Long exposure photography is one way of doing this, but curiously super-short exposure photography is another. A long exposure might allow us to see something that happens too slowly for us to normally see, but a short exposure might allow us to see something that happens too quickly. I was thinking about this while looking at the work of Flashlab, which I came across in a recent issue of Photoworks magazine. Flashlab is a group of photographers from Mannheim who create what they call temporary sculptures, an example of which is below.
These images are created with the help of a group of people, who are instructed to drop or throw the materials they are holding on cue. A camera capable of shooting images at 1/12000 of second fires off exposures as the materials are falling to the ground, resulting in images like the one above. The creators state that while the three spatial dimensions are clearly present in the picture, the fourth temporal one “is only apparent to the analytical spectator, who consciously perceives that what the eye sees (does) not conform with the laws of nature”. So, in other words, while what is shown above looks unreal, uncanny or fake, it only does so because we are looking at something that our own visual system does not have the means of showing us. It’s really fascinating work I think, and I would encourage you to head on over and have a look at the rest of it.
The photo at the top of this post was taken in the Village venue last month. It is a six minute exposure of the band Katatonia – “dark rock” from Sweden, apparently. Now and again things pop up in these pictures that I just can’t explain. In this case is the bright perfectly formed triangle on the head of the right-hand side guitarist. What is that?