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  • Damien Williams

Week 2: Interdisciplinary Practice: Photography Time and Motion

Updated: Sep 27, 2020

What does the moving image tell you about the still photographic image?

The singular still image is largely perceived as truth. For the majority of a film the still image is used as disposable currency at a rate of 24/second. The importance is very much understated and will be noticed more if there is an error than for the powerful unit of currency that underpins the moving images success. Whereas, in context with a film the ‘still’ can be used as a narrative device to extract more drama or to lend a clarified moment of reflection. This serves to manipulate the audience and the change of pace forces the audience to use the time to reflect and think, hopefully exactly what the editor and director want them to think. Synthesising the meditative qualities of a poignant image in a series of photographs.

I see these as very distinct functionally and technically.

Functionally: the ability to integrate sound to a moving image gives that image great to use as an encoding tool. A much more discreet way of informing the memory.

However, when applied to a ‘still’, sound isn’t nearly as affective. It remains a transformative experience but in my experience is better served with speech rather than ambient sound. Something I would like to experiment with as part of a Landscape photography dominant series of my HomeCity. Ambient sound and images to evoke a deeper sensorial response for greater biographical impact.

In terms of mortality or deeper emotional connections, these memories can be very intense. Allying a ‘still’ image with the subjects own dialogue as audio is powerful and very descriptive in nature.

Moving image: is a much more subtle delivery as environmental/ambient sound is required to blend the moving environment with the soundscape. Blending sound with moving images has a whole set of responsibilities of it’s own, in order to accomplish it effectively without detracting or distracting from the narrative. Moving image without sound tricks the brain into filling in the sound through sensory compensation. Which is heightened when something is not fully congruent.

How distinct do you see the still and moving image nowadays?

The ‘still’ image is very distinct from the moving image in both function and utility. Which is ironic as philosophically the moving image exists only as an optical illusion formed of singular images that the human brain interprets. Audience/viewer engagement with both forms are very different as are the creators use of them.

The viewers pacing of their thought processes within the space of being a viewer experiencing the work is forcibly determined by the author of the moving image. A ‘still’ image is very much viewer-led.

Moving images require a more physical interaction from the viewer. Largely, because of the multi-sensory nature of the experience combining sound, narrative and visuals. This was not always the case but the different methods of composition that occurred just before the inclusion of sound in movies, using inter-titles as a narrative delivery method, was I believe the first big step in distinguishing the two disciplines as distinct forms.

This is best exemplified by the French new wave belief (as per Jean-Luc Godard's famous definition of cinema) of the moving image containing "Truth 24 times a second" or Michael Haneke’s definition “Film is 24 lies per second at the service of truth, or at the service of the attempt to find the truth.” The French New wave coming to prominence in the very late 50s and early 60s as a reaction to how the art and language of cinema was being 'deployed'. This was the first genre that actively and overtly utilised the temporal and spatial qualities of both still and moving photography as narrative techniques. Interplaying them against and with one another.

Do the practical similarities outweigh the medium’s theoretical differences?

No. The techniques to deliver narrative are very different. The presupposition of prior knowledge (being required to reach objective truth) is a very important but precarious set of prejudices to control effectively. However, other disciplines specifically marketing, advertising, political photography almost relies on the viewer not fully understanding the subtleties of visual literacy in order to be able to manipulate. Which now I say it makes me feel it’s more similar to film and moving image. However, moving image there are many ways to distract and use sleight of hand techniques to refine and deliver the narrative the director and writer wishes. Setting up the paradigm that the viewer derives ’truth’ from.

How might you use moving image within your own practice?

Sequencing and Montage (or just a strategic animation, annotation or punctuation) are ways that I wish to investigate. Music and identity in music is often attributed to control of rhythm, duration and tempo, in other words space and time. This would be an experimental avenue I would like to learn more about and introduce to my practice. For instance, “Bullet time”, to move temporally and spatially, was an added dimension to using a freeze frame in moving images, to denote something of importance. If this could aid my storytelling I would be very interested in this or a similar process as long as it doesn’t distract from the narrative.

Link to Vimeo

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