Thursday, September 03, 2015

A collection of long photos

As a photographer, it's hard to be disinterested in the world around you. While a photo may involve a single shutter firing, a single moment when instinct kicks off a snapped finger twitch, everything in photography is about observing and monitoring the world leading up to that moment. It's meditation, but with a goal, an output, a memory to take home.

Recently I've noticed more photo-like videos cropping up - longer, balanced takes that seem to reflect this pre-final, penultimate moment. I wonder if it's a backlash against the oversaturation of traditionally static images, or the frenetic nature of the MTV-age, attention-economy video edit style, or even against the bombardment of activity and stimulation we face every time we wake up. Whichever, or whatever combination, where do slow videos/long photos fit in with our lives and our loves?

Some examples of this movement that have stuck in my head over time and more recently:
  • Flickr adding short video support
  • Bookmore's recent series of 10-minute postcards
  • 'After' by Victoria Lucas of Castle Market shopping centre in Sheffield (previously blogged in ‘Living/Dead spaces and the distracted death’)
  • Lynn Weddle’s “Living Portrait” work currently on display at the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne:

  • Even, I would include tentatively, the Chemical Brothers' video for Star Guitar, although somewhat occidentally rather than by design. (The video betrays the 'long photo' idea by cleverly and deliberately syncing video to the track, but I’m linking to it because I only just found this out and am amazed.)
  • … and many more, I’m sure. Please do link me up if you know of any good ones.

Note the gulf and contrast between Flickr's "long photo" approach and Vine's "rapid fire" style.

For anyone even vaguely caught up in the mechanics of modern, networked life, choosing to spend time sitting still and watching something with little "obvious" interest is a hard-placed decision. Which makes it more interesting, of course.

I'm aware video online is massively popular. People choose to watch videos, but without descending into another post here, I'd argue there is a big distinction between "entertainment" videos that provide a reason to watch, and the long photos, which perhaps simply capture a single view/element/concept, and explore it using some notion of time, beyond the single-frame limit of still photography.

I'm playing with putting Bookmore's postcards on as background accompaniment at work, like playing back cafe hubbub or car noise to soothe a baby. Full-screen on a second monitor turns it into an interesting window into another world. There’s something going on, but it’s not “interesting" enough to distract me. Sometimes people put a favourite film on for casual accompaniment, rather than to watch it, and it feels a little like that.

In terms of content and profit, it sucks for modern day attention industries. But in terms of life, maybe this is something I could get into.

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