Anna Fox * (1) shared a number of her techniques with the OCA students who attended the Audience with Anna Fox last week. I was interested in the idea of stitching together a number of pictures of the same place to create what Anna called a “memory of a place over time”. She is using this technique in a current project about a town in France and I came away from the talk keen to experiment with it.
The technique is to use a static camera and lighting set up to capture a series of photos over a period of time in exactly the same place and in the same lighting conditions. She then selects parts of individual pictures and stitches them together to form a single image. This technique enables the photographer to select a number of cameos that, when fitted together, describe events that occurred over time in the chosen location.
Whilst working on editing pictures for my assignment 3 about mannequins I recognised that I had a sequence of photos that might be interesting to experiment with. I was not using a tripod and was not controlling the lighting conditions so this is not the idea set to work with but I was standing in the same place for a few minutes taking a series of pictures of people walling in front of Austin Reed in Guildford.
Emboldened by Steal Like an Artist * (2) I created Fig. 1 from four images of three individuals and one pair who walked past the shop at different times. None of the pictures were interesting in their own right but taking the five people and putting them together creates a balanced composition of what happened in the course of about 2 minutes. A sort of single shot elapsed time photograph. I like the way this technique enabled me to fill the spaces with subject matter. It would obviously be better to work over a longer period of time to have more variety in the subject matter.
The other major difference here, apart from the skill of the photographer, is that I spent an hour putting this together, Anna’s team can take up to week to create a single stitched image.
Fig. 1 is not the perfect example of the technique and I want to repeat the exercise using a tripod in a place where I can control the lighting and in a location where people naturally do different things.
There was a debate at Anna Fox’s talk about where the line fell between truth and untruth in documentary photography. Her view was that all photographs are untruths because of the selective nature of composition but that documentary photography is still based on truth. The idea of capturing multiple moments in time from one place and combining them to form a single image could be argued as moving further from the truth because the combined picture represents something that never happened. On the other hand it could be argued that it brings us nearer to the truth because the photograph is not limited to an isolated moment that mis-represents the time the photographer was present and is therefore nearer to being what the photographer experienced.
It is true that these five people walked passed Austin Reed between 13:07 and 13:09 on May 5th, I saw them and photographed them and haven’t airbrushed any of their normal human imperfections or cleaned up the pavement. Being there is true; being there together is not but I’m telling the truth that they weren’t.
The four unedited originals:
* (2) Kleon, Austin. (2012) Steal Like an Artist. New York: Workman Publishing Inc.
* (1) Fox, Anna. Anna Fox Website (First accessed 2014) www.annafox.co.uk