Moving Stills

Let’s face it, quiet is not exactly the word that comes to mind to describe our times, and although perhaps we sometimes wish everything would just freeze for a moment and allow us to contemplate, the rush of motion is an intense life force which in stillness we crave. Photography has done a wonderful job of exploring this contradiction; after all, it is at its very core to eternalize fleeting glimpses, and capture what cannot be caught. This fascination with movement has not only produced beautiful images, but has also affected the technologies used to produce them, the most obvious being cinema.

 Edward Muybrige

Edward Muybrige

If it hadn’t been for Edward Muybridge’s obsession with animal locomotion, and the many artefacts he created to register the clip-clop of horses, perhaps Hollywood would have never come to be. And if it hadn’t been for experimental photographers and film editors, the narrative potential of images might have never reached its full glory. But just as in stillness photography led to motion, in motion there came the reciprocal quest for stillness, and so we have wonderful examples of experimental films such as Dziga Vertov’s The Man with the Movie Camera, which introduced fragments made with stop motion techniques, and Chris Marker’’s La Jetée, a sci-fi film made entirely from still photos.

Chris Marker La Jetee (1962) Extract © 1963 Argos Films

Other technologies, such as lomography, sequence shots and the more recent giffs and cinemagraph techniques also explore ways in which to capture movement through still shots. Lomography derived from a Viennese movement that sought out spontaneity and non-pretentious fidelity to the present (see more on the Lomograph community here) and the Cinemagraph is the latest fad in the motion/stillness dichotomy incorporating only slight movement to particular spots of pictures through apps and editing technologies (see more here).

 Walking Shadow- Yann Pinczon du Sel

Walking Shadow- Yann Pinczon du Sel

So, how can you play with motion in your own pictures?

1-     Choose a moving subject and capture the perfect instant. The genius of this method was Henri Cartier-Bresson, who wrote a book about it called The Decisive Moment.

2-     Take a picture of the same subject from different angles or at different intervals of time and then display them one after the other for a stop-motion effect.

3-    Slow down your shutter speed to capture motion blur. Remember that you will need to balance the increased exposure to light by altering the aperture and ISO/DIN sensitivity variables if you have manual settings on your camera or are working with analogue technology.

4-    Play with cinemagraph and sequence-shot apps on your Iphone. Find a list of Cinemagraph apps here, and sequence-shot apps here.

Afterwards, make sure to share!