Exercise 3.2

Start by doing your own research into some of the artists discussed above.
Then, using slow shutter speeds, the multiple exposure function, or another technique inspired by the examples above, try to record the trace of movement within the frame. You can be as experimental as you like. Add a selection of shots together with relevant shooting data and a description of your process (how you captured the shots) to your learning log.

Robert Capa

Robert Capa (Born Endre Erno Friedmann in 1913)  was one of the four photographers that founded the Magnum picture agency in 1947. His photographs of the D-Day landing in Normandy taken in 1944 are iconic images of the war. He has been quoted as saying:

‘If your photographs aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough’

This comment could relate to distance of the subject but I think it is more about how personal you are to the subject. Perhaps Capa felt emotionally drawn to take sides in the wars he photographed. He is also quoted as saying:

‘The truth is the best picture, the best propaganda’

His grainy blurred image of the D-Day landings feels authentic and captures the movement in the scene. I imagine as a war photographer that Capa was moving along with the soldiers hence the blur of motion, it has a feeling of chaos. Apparently many of his negatives from the landing on Omaha Beach were burnt in the darkroom but luckily a few survived perhaps this ‘accident’ also added to the final outcome of these images.

There appears however to have been much debate over the authenticity of one of his earlier images ‘The Fallen Soldier’. The image depicts a loyalist soldier taken at the moment his is shot by a bullet during the Spanish civil war, an extremely decisive moment in time. An article by Richard Whelen in 2002 provides interesting information and research which disputes the theory that it was posed.


Robert Capa continued as a war photographer  / photojournalist until his death by a landmine in 1954.

I have found his images of Chartres taken in August 1944 particularly moving, My father was born in occupied France and has told me stories of how his older siblings were sent to work for the Germans, the curfews and the punishment if you broke them. He also told me of the lines of ladies outside getting their heads shaved to mark them as German lovers and the sad tales of babies being drowned in Lac Leman. The truth was they simply made a choice in how to survive, My grandmother chose to become the lover of a local farmer so that her children would not suffer hunger. I wonder what became of the women whose heads were shaved once France was liberated and how their fellow citizens treated them?

What I have noticed when I look at the various images that Robert Capa has taken is that most often everything in the image has a reason to be there. There is very little distraction by other people not relevant to the scene. He has focused entirely on what we are supposed to see, perhaps this too explains his comment about getting close, perhaps he gets close enough to exclude what does not need to be there. Framing the image in the lens.

Robert Frank

Robert Frank born in 1924 in Switzerland appears to have had a varied photographic career. He  worked as a commercial photographer in Switzerland and as a fashion photographer in New York for Harpers Bazaar and later Fortune and Vogue. He also moved into making movies in the late 50’s.

His photo book ‘ The Americans’ was a collection of images taken as he travelled across America in the mid fifties. It shows America as Frank saw it, not necessarily how the Americans wanted it to be seen. Perhaps this was easier for him as he was not born an American so could see it though the eyes of an outsider.

I found the snapshot style and images of Robert Frank interesting, His photographs contain blur and grain which add to the sense of feeling, time and place. I was interested to discover his use of cropping to get the finished image, the image elevator girl was cropped from a larger photo which keeps her as the only ‘in focus’ subject. His subject choices reminded me very much of Walker Evans ,however, whereas Walker Evans got to know his subjects Frank did not. Robert Frank took images and portrayed what he saw or felt but did not get into the field of representing the subjects feelings or trying to tell the individuals story rather his own view.


Francesca Woodman

Francesca Woodman’s work seems to mostly focus around self portraits of Woodman herself. Born in Colorado in 1958 to parents that were both ‘creative’ people she died an untimely death in 1981 by jumping from a window and committing suicide. In her images she conceals her identity in a number of ways, sometimes using motion to blur herself so that she looks almost ghostly, or by hiding in her surroundings. I cant help but look at the images and read a sadness into them that actually may not have been meant to be there. I wonder if I would have seen them the same way had I not know of her suicide? I am predisposed to look at Diane Arbus’s images in a similar light. Interestingly I have played with capturing photographs of my shadow as I do not like to be in front of the camera but I am interested in capturing the rare moments of my unrecognisable form. It feels odd to see myself! I feel that she may have been happier behind the camera but needed a muse to work with. She experimented with light, reflections and movement and her images feel as though she was ‘finding’ herself, the title of her series ‘Self-deceit’ makes me think she was eluding to this. A number of my slow shutter speed images (Below) have a ghostly quality which I find interesting , they remind me of Woodman’s ethereal images.

Maarten Vanvolsem

Interestingly I did not find a vast amount on the work of Maarten Vanvolsem however I had come across the slit scan process whist I was looking at the fast shutter speeds and the time machine. I was fascinated how the images were created using a line of pixels from each frame. I have since downloaded an app to experiment  with this creative style of photography.

Experiments with shutter speed


Some of my experiments worked better than others. By simply choosing a very slow shutter speed I was able to put myself in the image with a ghost-like quality:

I was also able to add an ethereal , ghost-like quality to my children and to show the flicker of flames over a period of time:

I then experimented with moving my camera and panning during a slow shutter speed, this resulted in the effect of motion albeit no one item was in focus. It would be good for a sensation of spinning  or moving motion:

In the next set I tried moving my camera erratically or in an up and down motion whilst the shutter was still open, the second image is of my lamp and the light on the lamp coupled with the motion has given it an abstract quality which I really like:

Out on the street I experimented with using a slow shutter and ‘panning’, following a chosen subject with the camera to get a feeling of motion with the subject still in focus, this was not as easy as I hoped but I think this is something that requires a great deal of practise:

I also played with zooming my lens whilst using a slow shutter, I like the feeling of the crowds and there is an almost overwhelming, insanity feel to the image:

With a slow shutter I tried to remove / dissolve people, this would work better if I had slowed the shutter further still and used a tripod rather than using my camera handheld:

Or simply focusing on one stationary subject whilst the world around continues in motion, this one has worked well.

44mm, ISO 400, 1/3 Sec, f16 focused on man in the blue coat who was stationary in the crowd



Project 2 – A durational space

While some photographers try to resolve the problem of capturing movement within a still image by freezing it, others prefer to leave a trace of movement within the frame. One of the best-known examples of movement blur is Robert Capa’s image of an American soldier wading ashore under fire  on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France on D Day, June 6, 1944. If you view Capa’s Normandy Landings portfolio on the Magnum website you can see that he captured many sharper and clearer images, so why has this shot become the iconic image of D Day? The grain and blur seems to lend a sense of authenticity to the shot, just as noise and pixelated jpegs work as aesthetic codes for ‘realism’ in news photography today. http://www.magnumphotos.com/
Movement blur as style (rather than accident or necessity) was used creatively by Robert Frank (b.1924) in his photobook The Americans (1958). Referring to Frank’s 1955 image Elevator Girl, Geoff Dyer imagines the elevator door as a shutter curtain whilst also referencing the idea of the road trip contained within Frank’s book:
An elevator door is about to close, like a shutter that will open again, for a moment, not on another floor but in another building or another city. (Dyer, 2012, p.216)
The length of time that can be recorded in the frame is unlimited if you use the bulb function on your camera. (An automated release is useful if you don’t want to keep your finger pressed on the shutter release for long periods of time.) The Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto explored very long timeframes in his Theatres series, opening the shutter at the beginning of a film and closing it again as the credits rolled. These photographs are of American ‘movie theatres’ but the New York-based Sugimoto brings a particularly Japanese concern with ‘presence’ to his work. He explains his philosophy in a simple and clear way in the ‘Contacts’ film, which is available on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rY3nGoZqw9U
German photographer Michael Wesely used even longer exposures of between two to three years in his documentations of the renovation of the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Wesely’s technique seems to capture totally new information about the universe on camera film. Strange streams of light in the sky ‘put our existence, us, our planet into context with the Dance of the Universe, which coexists on an entirely different time scale [from us]’.
See: http://itchyi.squarespace.com/thelatest/2010/7/20/the-longest-photographicexposures-in-history.html [accessed 25/09/14]) http://www.wesely.org
OCA student Alasdair Gill recorded the passage of light through his home over periods of time. He captioned the images simply with a timestamp showing the duration of each exposure.
I began to study how light changed through my home through the course of a day and set up a camera in different positions to capture this ever shifting phenomenon with an automated shutter release system. (from Alasdair’s learning log)
When the movement of the camera rather than the subject is recorded in the frame, it’s usually regarded as a problem, requiring a faster shutter speed or a tripod to correct. The creator of the image below recorded the trembling movement of her hand due to Parkinson’s disease in a series of delicately fragile and expressive shots of night-time traffic on the Kings Road in London.
Artist and researcher Maarten Vanvolsem also uses a moving camera, for example using the strip-scan process to photograph dancers. The technique captures single lines of a frame sequentially, building up the image over time – and is cheaply available as a smart phone app. Vanvolsem observed that if the camera is moving while the shutter is open there is no single viewpoint and therefore no one-point perspective. The moving ‘stills camera’ creates a different perception of space as well as time.
Movement, of course, is the natural province of cinema: at 24 frames a second the eye naturally reads a sequence of frames as movement. Chris Marker used stills from a simple Pentax Spotmatic 35mm film camera to make the classic time-travel film La Jetée (1962). Cinematographer Christopher Doyle shot the opening scene to Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express (1994) at 1/8 second, depicting the chase scene through a crowded Hong Kong market with movement blur, which is unusual in cinema. The poetics of time in the film are described by Mike D’Angelo in ‘How Wong Kar-Wai turned 22 seconds into an eternity’: http://thedissolve.com/features/movie-of-the-week/221-how-wongkar-wai-turned-22-seconds-into-an-eternit/ [accessed 16/06/14].
Can the shutter create psychological drama in an image, similar to Guy Bourdin’s use of deep depth of field (Part Two)? Gerry Badger sees the work of Francesca Woodman (1958–81) as combining ‘personalised psychodramas with the temporal and spatial displacements of long exposures and blurred movement’ (www.gerrybadger.com/ francesca-woodman/ [accessed 16/06/14]). In other words, for Badger, Woodman’s emotional state (she committed suicide aged 22) is expressed visually through both time and space in her photography.
See: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/woodman-space-providence-rhode-island-19751978-ar00350