This quarter, my photo class is divided into three themes, the first one being the "Annihilation of Time & Space". Rebecca Sonlit, a Bay Area writer, took a special interest in the technological advancements of the 1800's that greatly impacted communication in the United States, which she discusses in her article "Annihilation of Time & Space". She is specifically interested in Eadweard Muybridge's "Horse in Motion" photo experiment (pictured below) which was the source of inspiration for this assignment. Muybridge revolutionized photography in the late 1800's by creating a stop-motion method of shooting that allowed for time to be frozen for the first time in history. Previous photography methods, like the Daguerreotype and the calotype required subjects to remain extremely still to avoid motion blur; this sometimes even involved neck and back braces to ensure complete stillness during portrait sessions.
For the first time in history, it was possible to critically look at a photography and analyze motion. Sonlit states that, "It was as though he [Muybridge] had grasped time itself, made it stand still, and then make it run again, over and over. Time was at his command as it had never at anyone's before." Along with photographic advancements, Sonlit addresses the impacts of the invention of the telegraph and the advancements of the railroad. Travel and communication had become instantaneous and widely available.
The only direction for this assignment was to read and assess Sonlit's article and come up with a series of photos the reflects the changes in the 1800's that so drastically changed communication and the way humans experienced time and space.
My professor showed us many artists who used these concepts in their own photographic work to guide our thinking. A few photographers, especially Francesca Woodman, really struck me with their use of long exposure.
Francesca Woodman is an American photographer known for her use of black and white photography, usually featuring nude female models and often times, herself. She attended RISD in 1975 and graduated in 1978. Woodman is especially fascinating to me because she produced over 10,000 negatives in less than 7 years, before committing suicide at the age of 22. Her work did not become popular until after her death but continues to be exhibited all around the world today. If you're at all interested in her work, I strongly recommend watching "The Woodmans", a movie directed by C. Scott Willis who obtained unlimited access to Francesca's photographic collection, diaries and personal videos.
In an attempt to mimic Woodman's use of long-exposure, I experimented with different shutter speeds and exposures. I chose to over-expose my images to blow out detail from the background to create a focus on the subject in motion rather than the busyness of the buildings in the background. Woodman tends to create a balance between her backdrops and subjects, but most of her images were taken in abandoned houses which contributed to darkness of her images. I was less interested in the surrounding environment and wanted to experiment more with the actual subject of the images. I've always taken photos of people in a very straight-forward manner; centering the shot, making sure it's focused and trying to create an interesting composition. It was surprisingly liberating to take a more abstract approach at photography. It was nice to take photos and not worry about having perfect focus or correct exposure.
Here are the images from this assignment, click on the first image below to flip through the series. You can also view them in the "Projects UW" folder of my site.