highlighted in the OCA course book Wells is of the opinion that we have moved
away from statement photography and moved towards dislocated moments that don’t
reflect the greater meaning.
review of The Present by Paul Graham, he highlights that Grahams has managed to
capture the antithesis of the decisive moment and has captured the mundane
average street view of the contemporary world that it has become an indecisive moment. Pantell goes on to say that Grahams photographic
series pose a question ‘what do we look at when we look at a photograph?’ (Pantall C 2012) Pantall suggests that the images
don’t contain a question, but are a question within themselves.
reading Zouhair Ghazzel’s essay on the Decisive Moment, she is of the opinion
that at the very meaning of the decisive moment doesn’t seem to be pretentious as
it could be about anything ranging from ‘any object, moment, event, and body’
(Ghazzel Z 2004). However, Ghazzel feels
that an order to the images is required ‘to reduce the flux of images to their
most relevant one’. Therefore, there is
a fleeting moment in time that cannot be repeated and can only be captured by
the lens. It is a unique moment that
tells its own story of what happened in the lead up to the image and what
vemeo videolink provided by OCA, Cartier Bresson explains that the majority of
people don’t look at the image they are capturing and just press the button. He goes on to explain that when this is done
the gaze is missing a question. Henri
Cartier-Bresson believes that images are about a conversation and this conversation
will not be captured when you just press the button without your gaze seeing
the question. The Images are about the geometry and form firstly and foremost,
then you think about the light.
I tend to agree with Ghazzels opinion and Henri Cartier-Bressons opinions that the Decisive Moment, must contain a question. It should allow the viewer to see in their minds eye, what just happened prior to the shutter being released, capturing that moment in time combined with where it led directly after. If the image doesn’t hold a question or that fleeting moment to pull you in then I feel that it is more a form of a snap shot.
my research and looking at the images focusing on this technique, I would agree
that the shutter can create psychological drama. This can be captured in many ways and there
is no magic formula to this. Drama can
be created within an image by using a slow shutter speed to capture the
movement of an object. The reverse is
also true that a fast shutter speed can capture a split moment of something leaving
you in suspense.
Another good example of the shutter creating psychological drame is Richard Billingham’s image below from the series Ray’s a laugh.
Untitled, 1995, from the Ray’s a Laugh series
In this image the psychological drama has been created by the cat being in mid-air leaving you wondering how did it get there? Was it thrown? The subject’s hands are directly below the cat. Did it jump, if so where from? Where is it going to land? This together with the subject’s reaction and recoil from the cat in mid-air creates tremendous drama and leaves you wondering about the lead up and what happened after. The photograph is also taken at a slight angle making the image appear to be a snap shot.
At the time of the Normandy landings Robert Capa was the second only photographer that travelled with the armed forces over to Normandy to photograph the D-Day landings. He travelled with Company E in the first wave of landings at Omaha Beach. Capa took four rolls of film. However, during the developing process the technician in the dark room left the lamp on too high burning the film resulting in only 11 photographs surviving of the D-Day landings.He captured many photographs of the preparation leading up to the landings and of the actual landings. His most iconic photographs of the D-Day landings were taken with a slower shutter speed due to the poor light. This has resulted in reflecting the chaotic scene. The images also contain noise, which has been used to create an authenticity within the photograph. His most iconic photograph is ‘FRANCE. Normandy. June 6th, 1944. American troops landing on Omaha Beach, D-Day.’
FRANCE. Normandy. June 6th, 1944. American troops landing on Omaha Beach, D-Day.
In this image a US Soldier is charging through the water at chest height, with his rifle out in front of him ready to fire. There are anti invasion blockades in the water in a line on the top third of the frame and in the distant there is a ghostly shadow of a war ship on the top right. By using a slower shutter speed Capa has created the sense of fast movement. However, the shutter speed was not so slow that the water was completely smoothed out losing the detail of its movement. This has added to the sense of the soldier’s frantic struggle to keep low and move quickly avoiding enemy fire. You can almost feel the palpable air of adrenaline, anxiety and fear that the soldiers must have felt during the D-Day landing in this image.In this image a US Soldier is charging through the water at chest height, with his rifle out in front of him ready to fire. There are anti invasion blockades in the water in a line on the top third of the frame and in the distant there is a ghostly shadow of a war ship on the top right. By using a slower shutter speed Capa has created the sense of fast movement.
The noise has also been kept within the image to help create
an air of authenticity about to demonstrate that this is not a composed or planned,
but rather an instant reaction to the scene that is unfolding in front of him.
With the slow shutter speed the far background is over
exposed, resulting in the image of a ship becoming a rather ghostly enhancing
the drama of that moment.
The very essence of the image draws you in as an eye witness to the events unfolding around you.
FRANCE. Normandy. June 6th, 1944. US troops assault Omaha Beach during the D-Day landings.
The above image is taken
from behind a number of US troops trying to charge through knee deep water
towards the beach with their rifles in hand rather than over the shoulder ready
to pull up and fire, whilst dodging enemy fire.
This image has also
been taken with a slow shutter speed creating a blur telling the viewer that
Capa was himself charging for cover whilst photographing the scene. The image highlights the smoke floating from
the bombs landing
on the beach, creating a haze over the top
third of the image. The soldiers closer
to the beach are less prominent as they are engulfed in the smoke and dirt
floating in the air. The image captures the
atmosphere of a chaotic, fearful scene charged with adrenaline. Although the slow shutter speed has created a
slight blur especially around the soldiers as they move quickly, it has kept
the movement of the disturbed water giving you a sense of how quickly things
were unfolding as the landings took place.
There is a soldier on his back on the left third of the image
approximately half way down with men charging past without stopping to help
making you wonder had he been a casualty of the landings being fatally hit by
Although Fig. 1. Is the most
iconic image of the D-Day landings I feel that Fig. 2. is more explicit in
bringing the human element to the forefront showing a large group of soldiers
frantically scrambling for cover from enemy fire wadding through knee deep
water whilst carrying all their equipment weighing them down, stopping to drag
injured comrades adding to their load.
The longer exposures used
for the D Day landing appear to be more of a necessity rather than an artistic
licence. Capa is quoted on Magnum Photos
website as saying
‘It was still very early and very grey for good pictures, but the grey water and grey sky made the little men, dodging under the surrealistic designs of Hitler’s anti-invasion brain trust, very effective.’ Capa R (s.d.)
When looking at the images the composition is flawless, highlighting the talent that Capa had for photography under extreme conditions. When viewing the images you are able to see that Capa was not on a boat or in a safe place using a telephoto lens but he was in amongst the thick of it, alongside the soldiers. There is a connection between him and the soldiers that can clearly be seen.
Hiroshi Sugimoto is a Japanese photographer who created a photographic series named Theatres, which he started in 1974/5. Sugimoto explains in the Youtube video that this photographic series fist came together with a vision. He describes the process of creating the photographic series in stages. This began with the vision, followed by thinking about the concept alongside his vision, concluding with thinking about what he was going to do and how he would be able to photograph the scene. In this instance his vision was to capture nothingness.
Sugimoto used a long exposure on a 4×5 camera mounted on a tripod to capture an entire screening of a film at theatres. He would open the shutter when the movie began and closed the shutter when the end titles started to roll. The only light provided within his photographs is that of the light being produced from the film being projected onto the screen.
Everett Square Theater, “Mujo” 1970, Boston, 2015
The above image was taken in a derelict movie theatre. Sugimoto projected a film himself onto the screen in order to capture this image. The light emitted from the film lit up the whole theatre with the intensity decreasing towards the outer frame being further away from the screen. The light and length of exposure has allowed the camera to capture the building in fine detail with an ethereal light shining upon it, enhancing the details. Sugimoto has composed the frame symmetrically placing the theatre screen on the lower central section of the frame allowing the detail of the theatre to frame and contain the screen. Although this goes against most of the compositional rules that we have learnt so far on the course, it is very effective in creating a central tension. This tension allows the eye to explore the theatre on all sides, bringing your eye back to the centre. It creates a coherency slowing the eye down avoiding it from darting around erratically allowing you to explore every detail. The position of the screen also retains your attention within the frame instead of wondering off and out of the frame and you realise that you are looking at an emptiness that has been serenely framed.
The course literature recommended that we look at the work of Michael Wesley and in particularly his work documenting the renovation of Potsdamer Platz in Berlin which took a few years to produce. Michael Wesley has developed a technique for him to take unprecedentedly long exposures using filters and small apertures, that can go on for a number of years both in black and white and colour.
His images taken of Potsdamer Platz in Berlin creates ghostly shadows of buildings, which are no longer and the creation of its replacement.
Potsdamer Platz, Berlin (4.4.1997 – 4.6.1999)
In the image above there is a vague outline of a building on
the left half of the image. This rather
ghostly exposure of the building leaves you wandering whether this the building
is a remanence of what was or that of what is to come pushing its way through
to be seen. In the background the
buildings that have not been demolished have remained constant and are in sharp
focus together with the tree line on the horizon. These images serve as a reminder that nothing
is permanent and that the world around us is constantly changing. Not only does the light change, but the
physical elements around us come and go.
I must admit that this series of work didn’t really hold my attention. Maybe they were a little bit too chaotic for me, with so much changing in one frame.
Woodman was an American photographer who started taking
photographs at the age of 13. Both her
parents where artists. At the age of 22
Woodman committed suicide having produced in excess of 800 untitled prints
taken in the 1970’s.
Her photographs were mainly black and white
self-portraits. Although the contents of
some of her portraits had a slightly disturbing content, they always had a
serene quality to them due to the aesthetics and tonal range used within her
Her black and white images use a light tonal range leaning
towards a soft grey palette rather than using dark blacks. The images also contain an intimate quality
about them, that are enhanced even further by the way they were printed. The prints of Woodmans images are 8” x 10”
and are printed using vintage gelatine silver.
Woodmans images could easily sit alongside those of Julia Margaret Cameron who was a photographer in the Victorian era more than her contemporary’s like Cindy Sherman. Cindy Sherman was also producing a series of self-portraits at the time. However, Sherman’s series in titled ‘Film Still’ reflected the different stereotypes of woman depicted in the media, through TV, films, magazines and advertising.
Untitled Film Still #13
Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-78
Looking at both the images which were taken in or around
1978, they do not appear to have been captured in the same era. In addition to the tonal ranges the hairstyle
and clothing seem to date them, together with the surroundings and tonal range
used. Woodman used soft greys and white
in her images, with soft lighting. Whereas
Sherman used a more defined tonal range with a clean sharp light. Without knowing when these images were
captured you would tend to place them in completely different eras if not
In the majority of Woodmans self-portraits, her face is
obscured either by an object or motion blur using a long exposure. Even though her photographs were taken in the
1970’s Woodman choose to use vintage clothes and furniture as part of her
surroundings. The locations she chose for
her backdrop were either dilapidated and crumbling buildings or nature.
Through her choice of setting, props, and lighting, combined with the use of black and white instead of colour, make her images timeless. You could easily think that these images may have been taken in the early 1900’s rather than decades later.
Through her choice of setting, props, and lighting, combined with the use of black and white instead of colour, make her images timeless.
Providence, Rhode Island from Space2, 197
In the above image, Woodman’s has used the houses dressing (wallpaper) to cover her face and intimate parts to become one with the house. There is a vulnerability to this image created through her partial covering. Woodman has cleverly used soft lighting to create a sharpness to the right side softly moving across her body ending with a soft shadow on the left blending her body into the wall. Although there is a vulnerability to this image, the lighting and tonal range create serene quality.
In this image Woodman is stood in front of some silver birch
trees within a wood with her arms extended up.
She has wrapped some bark of silver birch around her wrists and forearms. You can just make out that one arm follows
the same angle of a tree trunk in the background whilst the other extends out
presumably representing another silver birch tree. In this composition Woodman and become one
with her surroundings.
Does the camera capture time or does it fragment it as Szarkowski believed, isolating thin slices to reveal something new?
‘There is a pleasure and beauty in this fragmenting of time that had little to do with what was happening. It had to do, rather, with seeing the momentary patterning of lines and shapes that had been previously concealed within the flux of movement’ (Szarkowski 2007, cited in Photography 1 Expressing your Vision 2018:58)
For this project I first researched the recommended photographers, many of whom were instrumental in the progression of photography enabling the modern day photographer to capture fast moving objects, effectively freezing it. You can see my research here
With today’s advancement in the quality of cameras and lenses I do not feel that you can place high speed photography in a specific category. Photography today can capture a frozen moment in time or a fragmented moment in time depending on your focal length, composition, framing and subject matter. For example if a wide angled photograph of a polar shelf plunging into the sea is capture showing the ice shelf in the background and the sea in the foreground, then it tells its own story and becomes a frozen moment in time. However, if a tight frame is captured and you are not able to see the polar shelf, or enough of the water to decipher that it is the sea then I would see this as a fragmenting of time. Therefore, it is all dependent on the subject, composition, framing of the image.
Having said the above, each highspeed photograph does revel patterns and lines, which the naked eye would normally miss; it does not tell you what led up to that moment in time either. Going back to the example of a polar shelf plunging into the see. Would the photograph tell you it is most likely due to Global Warming or would you be reliant on a brief description from the photographer, or the image being placed in a photographic series showing different types of global warming?
Using high speed photography also allows you to capture the more obscure/unique photographs creating an abstract image that you would not normally notice in everyday events. For other images they serve a more scientific purpose as seen in Muybridges work Animal in Motion and Human in motion together with Edgerton’s work studying surface tension. Where high speed photography was used to study the subject movement.
Bloomfield R (2018) Photography 1 Expressing your Vision Barnsley Open College of Arts
Eadweard Muybridge designed a high speed shutter and high speed electronic shutter and electro-timer. Following this design Muybridge was able to capture animals in motion for the first time without any blur. Follow the link below to see my research on Eadweard Muybridge
Arthur Mason Worthington was an English physicist. He is best known for his studies on fluid mechanics. It was during this study that A M Worthington pioneered high speed photography in order to observe the effects and illustrate the movements that occur during the splash of a droplet.
Series II Milk into water (100cm, fall)
Edgerton was an American professor of electrical engineering. He was the inventor of the electronic flash
While working at MIT Harold Edgerton was studying problems with synchronous Motors. To facilitate this study Edgerton had a power tube, that would create power surges to the motor unit. During these studies he noticed that when lightning struck a power line it would send a larger charge through the tube creating a flash of light. When the increased charge occurred in sync with the turning of the motor parts, time seemed to freeze allowing the parts to be analyzed. Following this Harold Edgerton developed techniques for the strobe and by the mid 1930’s he was photographing everyday occurrences from sport to wildlife.
One of his most famous photographs is that of a milk drop, which was published in LIFE magazine. Edgerton took hundreds of photographs over the period of six to seven years perfecting the image of a milk coronet.
To capture the coronet, Edgerton set up a dropper with milk in it that would released a drop. As the drop fell it passed in front of an LED light, which triggered the flash and shutter.
Milk Drop Coronet 1957
Philip-Lorca Dicorcia is a modern photographer who has been influential in recent years. I have researched his photographic series ‘Heads’, which can be seen following the link below:
Philip-Lorca Dicorcia created a photographic series titled ‘Head’s. To create this series, DiCorcia set up his equipment in Times Square, New York. Dicorcia attached a flash to some scaffolding pointing down at the faces of passerby’s and he set up his camera up approximately 20 feet away at street level. DiCorcia pre-focused the flash and camera, which had a telephoto lens mounted on it and synced them together. Once a subject entered a predetermined zone, Dicorcia would then decide if he wanted to take their photograph or not. The subjects of the photographs were not aware that their photograph had been taken and did not see the flash trigger.
Philp-Lorca Dicorcia explains the he treated this photographic series as a day job and worked between 4-5 hours a day taking around 3,000 photographs in total, from which he chose 17 images for his series.
choosing the photographs for the series he said, that he was looking for images
that were different to the others, although the series was to show how people
aren’t different, but the same.
The most notorious image from this series is probably the image of Erno Nussenzweig, who was a retired diamond merchant and orthodox Jewish man.
Head No. 13, 2000
photographic series was exhibited Philip-Lorca DiCorcia was sued by Mr
Nussenzweig for exhibiting, publishing and profiting from his image. Mr Nussenzweig claimed that Philip-Lorca
Dicorcia had violated his right to privacy and religious beliefs. He also claimed that his image was used for
Commerce (by putting the image up for sale) and advertising (by using the image
in the catalogue).
The case was heard in New York and went to 3 appeals, after which Philip-Lorca Dicocia won the case. The judge decided that artistic rights ‘trumped’ that of privacy rights. Had this case gone the other way, this would have had far reaching consequences for future photographers and past work of others, reaching as far back as Walker Evans. Ultimately it would have most likely stop all future sales of any photographs taken without the permission of the subject.
‘Heads’ is an interesting photographic series creating an insight and social documentation of urban culture and society at that period intime. By using a flash for these photographs, DiCorcia isolated the subject in his images from their surroundings creating an almost black backdrop. The people in the images were unaware that they were being photographed enabling Dicorcia to captured unguarded images of people going about their day lives, lost in their thoughts as they walk along.
Head No. 3, 2000
image, DiCorcia has used a flash gun to isolate and highlight the subject of
the image from the background and others around him. This separation has been emphasized by the use
of a shallow depth of field, drawing your eye immediately to the subject,
creating a sense of loneliness despite being in a crowd of people.
The composition of the image encourages your eye to explore the image. Firstly you are dawn to the main subject, who is in perfect focus and highlighted by the flash. Your eye is then drawn down to the blue of the headphones (the only notable colour in the image),
before you are taken to the highlights over the shoulder of the main subject onto the white shirt behind. Your eye is then drawn to the highlights behind the second man, which curve down to the right creating a tension that brings you back to the main subject, instead of out of the frame. This use of highlights also directs your eye around the frame rather than letting them dance around the image.
The above image is of a young man, who has been isolated by the flash. In this image the young man has a blank stare reflecting his absence of mind as he walks through Times Square.
The photographic series successfully emphasizes that although we see ourselves as individuals with many differences and express our individuality through our choice of clothing, when in reality we are fundamentally the same, irrespective of race, colour or religion.
Muybridge was an English photographer who pushed the boundaries of photography by
designing a high speed electronic shutter and electro-timer. It was this equipment that allowed him to capture
high speed motion. Prior to his
development of a high speed electronic shutter, photographers were unable to
photograph something in motion due to the slow shutter speed resulting in it
One of his most famous pieces of work is Animal in Motion, which was Muybridge’s first study of motion. It is believed that this study came about because an acquittance, Leland Stanford, wanted to settle a bet on whether all four hooves of a horse left the ground when running at speed.
Muybridge set up a bank of 24 cameras and used white bed sheets as the background to bounce back as much light as possible. As the horse galloped through the bank of cameras it would pull threads attached to the shutters triggering the photograph. The threads were then later replaced by a clockwork mechanism.
The sequence he captured and titled The Horse In Motionproved for the first time that all four hooves of a horse left the ground as it galloped. Prior to this it was thought by most that the horse kept one hoof on the ground at all times, because the motion was too fast for the human eye to see.
The Horse in Motion
Muybridge was also instrumental in the invention of instant photography and came close to inventing cinema through a projector he invented called Zoopraxiscope. He used this as a way to project his images as short moving sequences (animation). Muybridge went on tour of the United States and Europe showing his images using the Zoopraxiscope, which was well received.
Following the breakdown of Muybridges friendship with Leland Stanford, he was awarded a position a Pennsylvania University allowing him to continue his studies of animals in motion.
After the completion of his studies Animal in Motion, Muybridge moved on to study the Human Figure in Motion.
In order to take the images of the human body in motion, Muybridge set up a bank of cameras in a semi-circle and had a grid placed behind the subject. The grid was placed behind the subject at the University’s request so that they may measure the movement. This method of photography is still used today and was used in the film Matrix where the character Neo lent back dodging bullets.
When it came to photographing the human body in motion Muybridge favoured the stereotypes of the day in his subjects. He photographed only one man who was not of white descendant who had a large muscular frame. The white males he chose to photograph had a more slender athletic build. When it came to woman Muybridge leaned towards photographing the more feminine and maternal side, but later on in his study he started to move more towards a form of eroticism see Fig. 5.
Plate 344. Striking a Blow (Right Hand), 1885 (collotype on paper)
The above image is of Ben Bailey, who was a boxer of mixed race. Images where taken of the movement he made when punching/jabbing. It was thought at the time by scholars that you could measure physical differences to define race.
Image from ‘Animal Locomotion’ series, c.1887 (b/w photo)
Woman. Descending a Stairway, 1887, illustration from ‘The Human Figure in Motion’ by Eadweard Muybridge, edition published 1904 (b/w photo)
Animal Locomotion Plate 247, 1887
The above sequence of images of a woman smoking is over exaggerated and one can not envisage how this would have been used to study movement of the human body. The poses of the woman are not natural and she has over emphasized each movement, whilst moving into a lent back pose.
Prior to his photographic series of animal in motion, Eadweard Muybridge first prominence for his landscape photography starting with a series in Yosemite, California. The photographs he took had a deep depth of focus showing the expansive landscape. Muybridge would trek through the Yosemite Valley looking for the right light and viewpoint, which would lead him to inaccessible areas in order to find dramatic views enhancing the intensity of his images.
View in the Yosemite Valley, 1872
The above photograph taken by Muybridge uses a viewpoint on the top of a cliff looking down the valley, which snakes round and out of view. The valley is enclosed on both sides by towering cliffs. Muybridge used a deep depth of field, keeping the detail of the trees in the valley together with those growing up the side of the slopes meeting the cliff edge. By looking for different viewpoints, Muybridge set his work apart from his contemporaries.
It was Muybridges work as a landscape photographer that first brought Muybridge to Leland Stanfords attention.
Muybridge E (c1878) The Horse in Motion [Photograph] Bridgeman Education (Accessed 24 May 2019)
Muybridge E (1885) Plate 344. Striking a Blow (Right Hand), 1885 (collotype on paper) [Photograph] Bridgeman Education (Accessed 24 May 2019)
Muybridge E (1887) Image from ‘Animal Locomotion’ series, c.1887 (b/w photo) [Photograph] Bridgeman Education (Accessed 24 May 2019)
Muybridge E (1887) Woman. Descending a Stairway, 1887, illustration from ‘The Human Figure in Motion’ by Eadweard Muybridge, edition published 1904 (b/w photo) [Photograph] Bridgeman Education (Accessed 24 May 2019)