Vogue Hommes International
Fall / Winter 00-01

Photography - 'Time Lapse'

by David Brittain

The lnternet introduced us the to web cam, with hundreds them giving us 24-hour viewing access to Mount Everest, a waterhole in Africa, or the intimacy of someone's bedroom. Because the machine needs to replenish itself - at east once every 30 seconds - the photographic image produced is a hybrid that is between still and moving freeze and flow. It is an idea not lost on contemporary artists.

As I write, gangs of workmen are wrapping the outside of Selfridges' famous store in Oxford Street, London, with a massive 600-sq-metre photographic panorama. XV Seconds is the latest and most ambitious work by the British artist, SAM TAYLOR-WOOD, and, although each of its constituent parts looks like a pastiche or transcription, of a five-second moment. Thirty three year-old Taylor-Wood is one of several emerging artists who uses photography to produce marvelous hybrid works which pay marvel at the poetry of the unfolding event. Her homage to the 91-year-old "temple of shopping' featuring 21 cultural "gods" including Elton John, Blur guitarist Alex James and model Jodie Kidd. The final panorama, weighing two tonnes, required three such exposures to be pieced together. Those posing needed to hold scanning camera to make its exposure.

A mesmeric video projection of a stilled moment because one newspaper accused the artist, TIM MACMILLAN, of condoning cruelty to an animal. Dead Horse, a hybrid of conventional photography and computer technology, represents the instant a horse dies from a shot in the head. In fact a total of six horses were photographed in an abattoir, each from dozens of still cameras, which recorded the instant of death from a panorama of multiple viewpoints. Macmillan digitised these images, using his own "time slice" process that takes Cartier-Bresson's idea of the "decisive moment" into a new realm. It left British critics grappling for words. The Times called it "paralysingly watchable". The moment of death is permanently registered from a continuously panning viewpoint, which conveys, palpably, the violence of the bullet's impact by giving a sense of the effect on the animal's body. Richard Dorment, art critic of The Daily Telegraph, noted that we see an mage of the horse "endlessly swivelling from head to flank like a relief sculpture in movement".

Another talented young artist working in between the still and moving image, between optical and digital, is Dryden Goodwin, whose recent video installation, Wait, has just been premiered at the Tate Gallery, Liverpool. Goodwin videos ordinary people performing unremarkable feats - a woman waving a greeting, a man descending an escalator - then slows, loops and replays these vignettes revealing an astounding beauty which resides in the everyday. Shot during the months prior to the end of the Millennium, Wait contains images of anticipation - of a football fan waiting for his team to score, of a groom waiting to say "I do", etc. AlI very banal you might think -until you experience these representations the way Goodwin intends - as fragile, grainy black and white images isolated on small screens, formally arranged in a semi- circle and accompanied by a murmuring soundtrack. Suddenly the incidental gesture becomes charged with prescience, life seems ritualised and operatic. Like Macmillan, Goodwin aims to make us aware of the totally subjective nature of the experience of time. Most subjects in Wait are unaware of the camera, but in the midst of an earlier video, Within, one figure suddenly makes knowing eye contact, and the effect of being caught in the sustained gaze of a stranger is almost overwhelming. It is probably because the camera provides us with such prolonged intimate proximity to people. The pleasures gained from the work of Goodwin are not unconnected to the pleasures we experience in the act of looking. This realisation connects the viewer of the images with the filmed subjects and could explain why the critic Catherine Elwes has called Goodwin a "compassionate" artist.

Forty years ago, Andy Warhol's Screen Tests also explored the elusive zone between still photography and film. In Screen Tests, Portraits, Nudes 1964-1996 (Steidi), a recent book by Warhol's collaborator, Gerard Malanga, reveals the portraits of people, like Nico, Lou R, Edie Sedgewick, among others, who visited the Factory between 1964 and 1966. Each of them was placed in front of a static 16mm camera, then told not to move. The resulting strips of film, which show or hint at some change in the subject within the course of the 3/24ths of a second which lapse in three frames of cine film, are haunting still images, the sprockets holes betraying their place of origin. These screen tests, as well as the work of Taylor-wood, Macmillan and Goodwin, continue a long tradition in the art of visualizing time, which began when Da Vinci developed a technique for drawing rippling water.