I remember as a child being challenged by a friend who offered the following scenario: a bee is flying south along a railway line when it is hit by a train travelling north. This means that there must be a point when the bee meets the train, when the bee stops travelling south and begins to travel north and is, therefore, stationary. As the bee is, at this point, compressed onto the front of the train, then the train must too at this point be stationary. It took a while wrestling with this conundrum for me to realise the solution – this is an idea borne of a fundamental misunderstanding of time and reality – that time is made up of a series of single moments strung together. And this misunderstanding, so it seemed to me, was itself an idea borne of our knowledge of the moving image, made up as it is of a series of still images strung together.
Although the still and moving image appear to be inextricably linked, for me at least they are about as separate as they could be. Despite loving films (indeed a unit of my Bachelor’s degree was in film studies) creating moving image does not and never has interested me. When online, I will rarely pause on a social media post or news story that requires me to watch a video. The only time I ever use YouTube is when I need it for work.
I think it comes down to a difference in the role of the consumer: to use an analogy, the difference between the moving and the still image is akin to the difference of the novel and the short story – the latter in each case requires a great deal more effort, input and (as others have said of the short story at least) intelligence on the part of the audience. The still image and the short story both rely as much on suggestion implication as they do on explicit commentary. The consumer needs to use her imagination to fill in the blanks.
My main interest within photography is travel photography. I have just returned from a two week trip around Cuba (as with Iceland, Cuba is a place that is hard to take a bad photograph of but damn near impossible to take an original photograph of). I didn’t enjoy the trip anywhere nearly as much as I was anticipating, although I was pleased with many of the photographs I made there. The main reason was that I thought I knew Cuba through the many, many photographs I had viewed before going. And these, although they created an accurate portfolio of how Cuba looks, did not, for me, represent how Cuba felt and how Cuba made me feel in the way that a film about Cuba may have. And that is mainly down to sound. Cuba made me feel tired. Exhausted. Despite the many pictures of Cuban musicians I saw (and subsequently made), I wasn’t ready for the constant barrage of noise that faced me from my arrival right to the moment the plane for London took off from Jose Marti International airport a couple of weeks later. And here is where the moving image has an advantage in many way over the still image – the use of sound. Most films I enjoy, I enjoy due to the mood and atmosphere they create, either through the use of music or in some cases (Exorcist III being a case in point) the lack of music where some might be expected. In order to create atmosphere in photography, we can only suggest visually and require the viewers imagination to fill in the other senses.
This is no more prevalent anywhere than it is in ‘late photography’ where the impact on the viewer requires the imagination to infer what happened by viewing its aftermath (just how many refugees would it have taken to make that pile of lifejackets on the Greek beach?) Late photography is something that interests me enormously – one of the interests that I intend to look at partnering with photography is that of psychogeography, or how the environment and the people who live in it affect each other. As I live in a vastly multicultural city (something like 80% of Dubai’s inhabitants are expatriate) I am interesting in looking at the different effects different groups of people have on the city.
I am not sure how I might utilise the moving image in my own practice, given that if I were make short video clips as I traveled, as many people do, these are exactly the sorts of things that I would, as a viewer, skip past. I intend to start looking at travel vlogs to see if there is indeed anything I feel I could use.