Moving Stills: Photographer’s Film Symposium

I was very lucky to be invited last minute to the Moving Stills symposium on Friday (Watershed, Bristol).  It was a whole day whereby numerous artists/ film makers / photographers etc spoke about the use of film. This was a very insightful day, particularly as I have decided to create a moving portrait. Here are some notes about the day.
Jim Campbell discussed the ambiguity of the narrative within photography. He gave an important quote from Alex Sloth “Photo suggest narratives whilst film resolves it“.

I think this is what I had been feeling over the past few weeks. I had worked with certain individuals and got to know them so well, that the knowledge far outweighed what I could portray in a portrait about their identity and who they are. Indeed, the idea that a portrait can capture a person, is a lie. A portrait captures a human being in front of me at that particular moment in time. An image, for me, is an illustration to assist a larger body of text about a story. This is not to undervalue the image but to acknowledge it’s position within a wider body of information. Indeed, the image can be the element to humanise and connect the viewer with the information.

Carolyn Lefley

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(Christian Metz research)

Title: From stilled time to time-based: reflections on photographers’ use of moving image as an extension of their craft.

Lesley showed work which you could say was gallery based moving art installations.
She talked about Metz ideas of the temporal duration of film vs photo and this has led me to an interesting essay which I have posted in the blog after this. Unfolding the In-between image; the emergence of an incipient image at the intersection of still and moving images. By Masaki Kondo.

She discussed Gillian Wearing’s video portraits. In Gillian Wearing’s work, the gaze of the audience is held through the subtle movements in the portraits. Lefley discussed how it is very rare for a 2-d image to capture an audiences gaze for the same length of time that a moving image can, even if the movement is minuscule; It is the suspense of what is going to happen next that can hold the audience’s attention.
Wearing’s work raises ideas of how we:

  • Perform our identity

  • Present ourselves

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Sixty minutes of silence by Gillian Wearing

Lefley introduced us to Anastasia – Ana Lynd’s moving image work ‘STAY’.

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Portraits of ukranian women, waiting for the soldiers to return from war. This is a brilliant piece of moving image and the sound is so impactful in combination. The soundscape merges from domestic sounds to the beating of war drums, you stare at these women’s faces and you can feel there minds being taken away from the present to the idea’s of where their men, sons, brothers are. Then the door suddenly bangs and you start to hear the mutter of day to day conversations and are brought back to the present domestic space. Suddenly the sound changes again, when I see the women’s eyes close and open I can’t help but imagine where they are in thoughts. This is a very good example of how important sound is when creating an atmosphere within an image. Watching this piece also showed how sound can give narrative and direction to a seemingly still image.  Lefley discussed how the soundscape can give control over the reading of the photographs and I agree.
Here is a link to the film STAY

Rakesh Mohindra

Mohindra explores ideas surrounding transition and identity.   He starts by quoting August Saunders, 1951 – “Photography is like a mosaic that becomes a synthesis only when presented en masse“. Mahindra discusses how photography is part of a collection, and gives the example of La Jetee. He questions by placing the images together against a soundscape and given them a narrative, does this give the single images a louder voice together?

Film is the machine of dreaming. – David Bates. 

Mahindra’s talk really enticed me as he discussed much of what has influenced my work this past year. The idea of the unconscious, our dreams and desires in collision with the idea of ourselves and how we think of ourselves compared to what others think.

‘The combination of frozen moments in time and voice over commentary conceals as many layers and open to as many interpretations as memory itself’.

He discussed the idea of image within a triangle of the photographer, the subject matter and the viewer. The viewer was essential in order to perform what we desire, he also states the viewer, photographer and subject matter can be all at the same time.

Infant of the camera you see the subject – what effects the image is the mood, purpose, relationship, environment.

In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art. In other words, a strange action: I do not stop imitating myself, and because of this, each time I am (or let myself be) photographed, I invariably suffer from a sensation of inauthenticity, sometimes of imposture (comparable to certain nightmares). In terms of image-repertoire, the Photograph (the one I intend) represents that very subtle moment when, to tell the truth, I am neither subject nor object but a subject who feels he is becoming an object: I then experience a micro-version of death (of parenthesis): I am truly becoming a specter. The Photographer knows this very well, and himself fears (if only for commercial reasons) this death in which his gesture will embalm me.

13-14 Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida (London: Vintage, 2000)

Mahindra discusses how the film allows us the play roles we get caught up in a narrative and a fantasy – and we know it, compared to a photograph where the decisiveness and past tense of it gives it an illusion of truth.  Mahindra’s discussion was so interesting and relevant to my project as he talked a lot about change, transition and progression. How the process of change is at the very heart of life itself. Can a photography convert this?

Photography – persistant / still / viewers control / death
Cinema – change / specified time / moves / set duration / new to see / change / death 

Moving images are concrete and fetishtic whilst film is voyeuristc and an expansion. Moving images has the stillness as the seed of the piece, whereby the viewer is denied control over it. In context we can appreciate the still, moving image can tell us the limits and strengths of the still.

****Mahindra questioned how much can a portrait tell you?
The expansion of media can expand the concept. So the portrait can widen to a generalised idea about humanity, the piece can say something not just about an individual but something bigger about humanity. 

Jennifer’s transition is an extreme example of identity and social performity. But we all undergo this transition of change and performance, everyday when we wake up and choose what to wear and how to act with the world outside. They are more subtle and maybe more socially acceptable but each and everyone of us undergoes a metamorphosis each and every day. *****

Henri Bergson –

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(2) For I speak of each of my states as if it formed a block and were a separate whole. I say indeed that I change, but the change seems to me to reside in the passage from one state to the next: of each state, taken separately, 1 am apt, to think that, it remains the same during all the time that it prevails. Nevertheless, a slight effort of attention would reveal to me that there is no feeling, no idea, no volition which is not undergoing change every moment: if a mental state ceased to vary, its duration would cease to flow. Let us take the most stable of internal states, the visual perception of a motionless external object. The object may remain the same, I may look at it from the same side, at the same angle, in the same light; nevertheless the vision I now have of it differs from that which I have just had, even if only because the one is an instant older than the other. My memory is there, which conveys something of the past into the present. My mental state, as it advances on the road of time, is continually swelling with the duration which it accumulates: it goes on increasing-rolling upon itself, as a snowball on the snow. Still more is this the case with states more deeply internal, such as sensations, feelings, desires, etc., which do not correspond, like a simple visual perception, to an unvarying external object. But it is expedient to disregard this uninterrupted change, and to notice it only when it becomes sufficient to impress a new attitude on the body, a new direction on the attention. Then, and then only, we find that our state has changed. The truth is that we change without ceasing, and that the state itself is nothing but change.






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