Category Archives: Exercise 3.2 A Durational Space

Exercise 3.2 A Durational Space

Since the earliest days of photography, blur was an unwanted function of the process.  It is interesting that since then much investment has been put into technology by equipment and media manufacturers that ensures a pin sharp and stabilised image, yet ironically blur is one of the most common techniques used by photographers to represent motion.

From my understanding of the history of art, it is also interesting to note that until photography established itself there was little or no concept of the use of blur to depict movement in painting or drawing.  From my investigations it appears that only when movement blur was seen in photography (either by accident or design) did the use of blur as the representation of movement appear in art as a planned effect in the finished picture.

While art and photography tended to keep in separate silos the Italian Futurist movement crossed over this divide and saw blur as a method “to capture the movement through time and space and used photography’s natural ability to capture time passing through a lens”[1]. The Futurists called this method of employing long exposures to capture movement Photodynamism, with the key exponents being the Bragaglia brothers Anton Giulio and Arturo.  ‘Change of Position’ Anton Giulio Bragaglia (1911)

Gerhard Richter the German artist took this one stage further by creating ‘photo-paintings’. These are a painting based on a photograph with the blur added afterward.  His paintings were made up of a number of steps starting with projecting a photograph onto a wall, traces the image, paints the picture, and then smears it with a large brush to give a blurred effect.  Zwei Fiat (1964 Oil on canvas) is an excellent example where the painting now replicates the movement effect in a photograph.

With this in mind the following looks at the photographers mentioned in the text and sees how they use various techniques to represent motion within a still image. It is not meant to be a critical review of the body of work by each photographer but more a comment of the techniques they employed.

Robert Capa
Capa’s Omaha Beach of the blurred Marine remains an iconic photo in the sense that it vividly portrays the confusion of the landings. The blur captures and add to the visual quality and the grittiness of the day.

Varying accounts seem to contradict each other as to whether Capa was trebling, excited, fearful, having difficulty with his equipment trembling created the effect, “a new kind of fear shaking my body from toe to hair, and twisting my face.”[2]

What is interesting is that clearly blur was not in the mainstream of photography and newspaper and journal readers were expecting pin sharp images.

When LIFE published the photographs, a caption disingenuously explained that the ‘immense excitement of [the] moment made photographer Capa move his camera and blur [his] picture.'” [3]

What is not known is that if more than the ‘magnificent 11’ of Capa’s 106 frames he took on the day were much shaper would have the image become so iconic.  Based on the previous quote I suspect the editor of life would have gone for a sharper image.

Robert Frank
Robert Frank challenged the way photography was perceived during the 1950’s in America.  The ‘establishment’ was about straight photography that is: clear subjects, obvious composition and sharp.  It has been suggested in a way this style was reflecting the optimism and positiveness of post war America.

Frank’s wrongdoings in the eyes of the establishment were seen as twofold.  Firstly he dared to show that life as it was what.  That is one which could be difficult, hard, ordinary and worst of all boring and banal.  Frank believed all life was worth capturing and not just the rose tinted view that was being published.  As Nicole Rae (nd) states: “He put a mirror in front of people, showed them what they didn’t want to see, and they weren’t comfortable with that” [4]

Secondly and probably a greater crime was that he challenged the way in which one lit, composed and took a photograph.  Again Rae comments: “He was not looking for technical perfection. His pictures were messy and grainy, and he purposefully used obscure lighting. He was photographing feeling. He wanted to evoke an emotion when people saw the photographs. They have the look of being taken by an outsider” [5]

Whereas blur had been used to represent the feeling of movement in “Elevator — Miami Beach” it was seen as if the girl was surrounded by her demons. In his introduction to Frank’s book of The Americans, the editor Jack Kerouac writes (1958) in , “That little ole lonely elevator girl looking up sighing in an elevator full of blurred demons”[6].

© Robert Frank from The Americans

© Robert Frank from The Americans. Reproduced with the kind permission of Pace/MacGill.

This and the other images were not readily accepted.and the folio of work received harsh critical reviews.  Eventually a new generation in the 1960’s did see life for what it was and Frank’s work has since received the recognition it deserved.

(Author’s personal note: As a result of the investigation for this writing, being introduced to his work through other web sites and watching of the documentary ‘Leaving Home, Coming Home: A Portrait of Robert Frank’ [7], I bought the book The Americans and have learnt much from his visual style).

Hiroshi Sugimoto
Hiroshi Sugimoto saw and recorded motion in a different way.  He recorded motion of what was once there but has disappeared.  His concept was to go to the cinema, open the camera shutter at the start of the film and close it at the end.  The result was that all the movement recorded eventually turned white.  My initial thoughts when I saw this work was “so what?”; you could have created the same image by taking the same picture with no film showing.  It took me a while to realise that the only way the whiteness or the emptiness could be created was recording the accumulation of individual motion of the movie which disappears in front of our eyes yet this actually stays with us though the whiteness of the picture.   Sugimoto said himself “How do you show the nothingness, emptiness?  You have to have something surrounded by this nothingness.  In this case the movie theatre is the case to hold this emptiness” [8]

Michael Wesely
Michael Wesely sees and records motion in a different way doing so by the use of extremely long exposures. These can last anything from between six months to over three years. His concept is that the exposure of the image should last as long as the event itself.  If a train takes two minutes to leave a station then the exposure should be two minutes, if the construction of a building takes three years then the exposure should be three years.  He is registering the time of the event rather than recording the actual event.

We are used to seeing time-lapse films of buildings being built, but in the case of Wesley’s picture of the re-construction of the Museum of Modern Art in New York we see the time lapse effectively all as one image.  What makes this image interesting is the fixed unchanging background of the existing skyline with the ghostlike image of the building being built in front.

For me this long exposure is an interesting technique in that while there is an element of composition the results are somewhat unpredictable.  I would argue that for such long exposures Wesley is just as surprised of the results are as we the audience.  Where I struggle with this is not so much the concept but more the process.  Devoting three years of time to something that has many possibilities of going wrong is taking the art of photography to the extreme.  I would question if it the world record of the longest exposure that is the goal rather than the image itself.

Maarten Vanvolsem
Maarten Vanvolsem is an exponent of strip photography to record movement.  He believes it adds a different dimension by the expression of time and space in photographic images.  He sees that this technique gives “new expressions and experiences of time and movement” [9]. In ‘The Contraction of Movement 3’ the strip technique which usually is used to give a blurred background and a sharp subject image actually shows movement in the subject.  It looks like the dancer has a number of hands and feet and very little if any face set against a liner moving background.  The photograph looks a halfway house between a still image and an image if it has be frozen from a moving film.

The Contraction of Movement 3

Francesca Woodman
Ignoring the argument that because of the short duration of her body of work that Woodman is still not considered by many as a renowned photographer, I stay away from this and only consider here her use of movement and blur.

Woodman was a troubled soul who eventually took her own life.  Many writings suggest that Woodman used blurring purposely in her self-portraits to describe how she was feeling and as a device to hide behind because of her sense inadequacy, rather than just at face value a photographic technique.

Her most frequently utilised technique was the time exposure, which had the effect of blurring and diffusing her figure, and contributes largely to the evanescent, yearning quality of these ethereal meditations upon the pain of existence”[10].

House #3, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976

Many of Woodman’s photographs were taken using a slow shutter speed; the long exposure meant her movements were captured but she appeared as a blur. The effect is disconcerting, as though the camera has been left in a haunted house”[11]. I am not sure about the haunted house reference but the blur does add an extra dimension of depth to her images.

 Other Photographers
As well as researching the above photographers I also researched the following photographers to use as other reference points for my own shots.  I could have just gone out randomly and tried differing techniques but I felt I wanted a framework of understanding to see what others had done in this space.  It could be argued that this was not a good idea as it would restrict me within my thinking by me either consciously or subconsciously trying to create what I had previously seen as opposed to being totally original.  My belief in this case it was inspiring rather than restricting.

Platt D Babbitt –  Group at Niagara Falls  – 1855
I would argue that movement was an unintentional consequence with Babbitt’s pictures that added an extra dimension to the final image.  Babbitt was a daguerreotypist who took pictures in and around the Niagara Falls area many of them for affluent tourists who wanted and early version of the ‘we were here’ images.  But in doing, because of the technical limitation of the daguerreotype in the slowness of the medium, movement was subsequently recorded.  Because of the force and speed of the water it created the fluffy movement we take as grated today.  This could possibly be why Babbitt’s contemporaries of his work stated “some of the most beautiful views of the falls, and points of interest in this vicinity, that we have seen.”[12]

Erich Salomon – The King of Indiscretion – There He Is! – 1931
I would suggest that within this image the movement was an unintended consequence of poor lighting and a slow (by comparison of today) film speed.  It is essentially a grab shot in which the movement of the subject’s hands and the background character add to the general feel of movement, conviviality and joviality. What is not known if Salomon saw this as an addition to the final image or was a distraction, yet the importance of the subjects meant outweighed an ‘technical imperfection’.

Otto Steiner – Walking the Dog on Foot – 1950
I think that this image is one of my favourites of this genre.  It takes an everyday event in this case walking down the street combined with a slow shutter speed to capture the movement. In also uses a fixed position to capture that which is static combined with a very simple composition of circles and lines creates to produce this image of movement in a fixed environment.  What I cannot seem to find out as to whether Steiner had pre-planned this shot and waited for the right moment or it was decided there and then on the spot.  Regardless for me this belongs to the Cartier-Bresson decisive moment category.

Irving Penn – Rowboat on the Seine – 1951

Irving Penn more renowned for his fashion and portrait work created this image which shows movement.  I would suggest a number of techniques are used here to create this: a slow shutter speed, over exposure, possibility of purposely not focusing and some form of printing technique.


Rowboat on the Seine © Irving Penn. Reproduced with the permission of The Irving Penn Foundation

The end result is a misty almost dreamlike image that maybe mimics Georges Seurat’s style of painting; perhaps Beach at Gravelines

Ernst Haas – La Suerte De Capa, Pamplona – 1956
Ernst Haas was a great exponent of creating movement within an image. “He frequently employed techniques like shallow depth of field, selective focus, and blurred motion to create evocative, metaphorical works” [13]. Haas himself said of his this movement work “To express dynamic motion through a static moment became for me limited and unsatisfactory. The basic idea was to liberate myself from this old concept and arrive at an image in which the spectator could feel the beauty of the fourth dimension which lies much more between moments than within a moment” [14].

The link below shows a range of Haas’s movement work but for me ‘La Suerte De Capa, Pamplona’ brings together composition, colour and movement to give an image that has great dynamism.  You feel as the viewer that you are there and part of the action.  I would suggest there are similarities to this image and Robert Capa’s beach landing image in the way they work.

Different Techniques
While as mentioned before that prior research had taken place I found this quite challenging but also rewarding in that although a certain amount of composition can take place the results are generally somewhat unpredictable.  Trial and error is needed to get the feel for the right shutter speed.  Too slow and the image is completely blurred to the point all detail is lost, too fast and the element of movement is lost.  An advantage with digital technology is that the results are instant and you can refine your process immediately.  To achieve the same learning curve using film would have taken a much longer period.  The other advantage of digital technology with this type of photography is that you can see your settings on the screen, thus referring back to pictures it is easy to recreate or use these as a known starting point.

A problem I encountered was that in many cases I could not get the speeds slow enough for my desired effect.  On a bright day with the lens stopped down and a low ISO I was still getting speed of 1/10th or 1/15 of a second.  While this did create some blur it was not what I wanted.  To overcome this I used a variable neutral density filter at the strongest setting.  While probably not the most desirable thing to do on a ‘standard’ photograph as it does affect picture quality (another layer of not too good quality of glass) this would not be noticeable on the images I was creating.

1) Slow Shutter Speed with camera tripod mounted
I would suggest that one of the most common methods of demonstrating the duration space is in the use of light trails especially so in the urban environment.  A camera mounted on a tripod is left on a slow speed for a period of time that records and records the movement.  As with all of these movement techniques the results are by trial and error.  However with this method a degree of compositional choices can be made beforehand to allow a greater chance of success e.g. lights against a dark background, on a corner where the light trail will turn or move around. For me this was interesting to try this and was overall pleased with my attempt but feel this technique is a little bit overused.


Here I have purposely not tried to over use the light trail effect. I have used just use it sparingly so it becomes part of the whole composition rather than the subject itself. The rail goes behind the statue and weaves in between the lamp posts. (Location: Rolex Building, Lausanne, Switzerland).

That said Gjon Mili was an exponent in the use of light trails and stroboscopic flash to represent movement. He took a series of pictures of Picasso at the Madoura Pottery Workshop where Picasso draws with light.  So it is interesting for me that a photographer is recording an image of an artist who drawing which is only possible by the use of the medium of photography. “Picasso gave Mili 15 minutes to try one experiment. He was so fascinated by the result that he posed for five sessions, projecting 30 drawings of centaurs, bulls, Greek profiles and his signature. Mili took his photographs in a darkened room, using two cameras, one for side view, another for front view. By leaving the shutters open, he caught the light streaks swirling through space.”[15]

The following pictures are my variation using a similar technique. The camera with a wide angle lens was tripod mounted in a darkened room. Using a torch I then moved this in different sweeps to try and create a pattern. What surprised me was that from the 30 second or so exposure the torch gave off enough light to effectively paint the bed. So not only did each individual trail register the bed is light by the accumulation of each down stroke of the torch beam.


An up and down side to side motion was used to swing the torch. It gave the effect I was looking for but an added dimension has been given that on each downstroke the torch painted light over the bed. While sort of planned the final image turned out far better than was expected.


A similar effect to the image above but this time a swirling motion. It can be seen that because of this motion the light has been painted on the bed differently that because of the downstroke of the torch. My outline can be faintly seen in the background.



Finally with this series this was taken outside in total darkness. Because my camera has not manual focus override it was very difficult to judge hence the out of focus feel. Again I think this adds to the image. To finish I then manually fired a flash to record myself. Again I had an idea of what I wanted but results while unpredictable were pleasing.

2) Slow shutter speed with camera hand held
Setting the camera at a slow speed and taking a hand held picture.  The camera will then record both what is moving in the scene plus any of my body movement at the time of taking.  I found with this I liked the results more by overexposing the scene.  This gave a much washed out appearance which to me emphasises the feeling of movement.


This was taken from the pier looking toward the beach. A windy day meant that the representation of movement was exaggerated more than I intended. Perhaps I am stretching my imagination but I think there is a certain Capa-esque feel here similar to the Omaha Beach picture. (Location Southwold, Suffolk).



A moving image and slow handheld created this added by the fact it is somewhat under exposed. To me it gives a sort of Venetian Carnival feel to the image. The movement can also be seen in a electric bulb in a window at the top of the frame, (Location: Hampton Court, London).



I propped myself against the wall to dampen the movement so as to get the background reasonably sharp and then waited for people to move quickly by. (Location: Lausanne Station, Switzerland)

3) Slow shutter speed while moving at speed.
In this case images taken at speed from inside a car.  Here I have tried to use this affect to abstract the image similar to that used by Franco Fontana – Landscape 1974.

I have slowed the speed down so the image picks up both the physical speed of the moving car, plus the fact that the camera cannot be held still enough at that speed especially over the lumps and bumps in the road. For this type of picture it does seem strange to purposely build in blur.  Many images (especially touristic photos) are taking from moving objects such as a bus, car or have unwanted blur.  What was desired was a sharp image.


I waited until fields and sky appeared and tried to recreate the feel of Fontana’s image. (Location: Somewhere on the A14, Cambridgeshire).



Passing some trees has given this almost charcoal drawing like feel to the image. Of all the experimenting I did that day this is my favourite and here I could have never have predicted the outcome of this image. (Location: Somewhere on the A14, Cambridgeshire).

What has added to the image as an unintended and unplanned effect was the dirt on the window.  This was exaggerated by the angle of the sun.  So rather than avoid it has become part of the compositional effect and added to the ambience of the final images.


In this there is a combination of the static of the wing mirror plus the movement outside. The out of focus dirt on the window acts as a conduit between the two. (Location: Somewhere on the A14, Cambridgeshire).



Taking the last technique a little further it is a combination of the movement outside and the reflection of the passenger in the train window. (Location: Train, near St. Albans, Hertfordshire).

4) Panning
This is a technique that can be used isolate a moving object with the purpose of blurring the background yet freezing the object.  This is used very much in sports photography.  Here I decided to pan yet not freeze the object and try and keep a sense of movement.  I tried different ways of panning to the left and the right. For me this works well when there is a bright object (a person in a red coast) against a muted or pale background.  Also there is a fine line between at totally abstract image and one where the subject is still just discernible and we can register what we are seeing.  (Perhaps further research is needed on what are the minimum the reference points the eye need to register before it can recognise what it is seeing).


The car was moving and the panning has slowed the movement of the car down yet it still retains some movement so it does not look like a parked car. (Location: Southwold, Suffolk).



Similar to the picture above but on a much slower speed blurs the image to the point where the subject is just discernable. (Location: Southwold, Suffolk).

5) Zooming
While the shutter is open I moved the zoom quickly through from the minimum to maximum focal length. This gives the effect of the blurring radiating out from a central point.  Again with this there needs to be some point of focus in the image.  Again I have noticed that this technique was used much once in sports photography but does not seem as prevalent now.  Also have noticed that many post production software packages can apply this as an affect afterwards however they cannot reproduce the unpredictability of creating at the camera source.


A strong subject in the middle of the screen and then zoomed out as fast as I could. Again an element of composition but much is left to chance. (Location: Southwold, Suffolk).



On a slow speed zoomed through the focal lengths as fast as I could. In doing this it left a trail on the image where the subject moved through the zoom. (Location: Southwold, Suffolk).

6) Out of focus over exposed
Moving on from the last technique I found that if out purposely did not focus correctly and over exposed a sense of movement could be created with the shutter speeds at handheld stable speeds 1/60th second or above.


Effectively every ‘rule’ was broken with this image. Out of focus, over exposed, blurred but it still does retain and element of composition and to me is a pleasing result. (Location: Southwold, Suffolk).

7) Multiple Exposure
What I wanted to do was create the sense of movement by freezing the action a number of times in the same picture.  Generally this is done by the use of a stroboscopic flash that can fire a great number of flashes per second each freezing the action. But because of a very slow shutter speed or in fact the shutter remaining open through the whole sequence (by use of the bulb setting) this is all recorded on one image giving the sense of movement.  Not having a flash like this I had to improvise by finding a very dark background (night time in this case), tripod mount the camera and set on the bulb setting.  From here I would fire a handheld flash (using the test button) directed at the subject, get the subject to move and repeat a number of times and then stop the exposure.


Camera tripod mounted on bulb setting and firing a manual hand held flash many times as I moved around. Again I knew what I wanted to achieve but the results were still somewhat unpredictable. (Location: Lausanne, Switzerland).

Because my camera does not have a multiple expose facility I tried to replicate this by exposing a scene by exposing the scene using the bulb setting so some of the image was recorded then cover the lens, move the camera and repeat and then eventually close the shutter.  The interesting thing with this technique was that even though you could have some modicum of composition the end result was very much unpredictable.  This technique probably took the most amount of time to get what I would call a reasonable result without being too abstract.


The mug which was on the table looks as if it is moving through the room as it sits against the backdrop of the windows. (Location: Lausanne, Switzerland).

8) Spinning on Axis
A compositional focal point is taken and the camera is spun on that axis as fast as possible while using a slow shutter speed.


My foot as the focal point and the camera moved fast. (Location: Lausanne, Switzerland).



[1]  (n,d.) The Delights of Seeing [Online]
Availiable at:  [Last Accessed 28th Feb 2015]

[2]  Bellamy (2014) Extreme Armchair Photography – Robert Capa, Japan Camera Hunter[Online]
Availiable at: / [Last Accessed 28th Feb 2015]

[3] (n.d.) Aperture Magazine  [Online]
Availiable at: [Last Accessed 28th Feb 2015]

[4] [5] Rae, Nicole (n.d.) Peeling Back The Veneer: Robert Frank [Online]
Availiable at: [Last Accessed 28th Feb 2015]

[6] (2009) Robert Frank’s Elevator Girl Sees Herself Years Later  [Online]
Availiable at: [Last Accessed 28th Feb 2015]

[7]  (2005)  Leaving Home Coming Home: A Portrait of Robert Frank, [Online]
Availiable at: [Last Accessed 28th Feb 2015]

[8] (n.d.) Contacts [Online]
Availiable at: [Last Accessed 28th Feb 2015]

[9] (n.d.) The Art of Strip Photography, Leuven University Press  [Online]
Availiable at: [Last Accessed 28th Feb 2015]

[10] Badger, Gerry (2015) Francesca Woodman [Online]
Availiable at: [Last Accessed 28th Feb 2015]

[11] Salter, Kate (2012) Blurred genius: the photographs of Francesca Woodman [Online]
Availiable at: [Last Accessed 28th Feb 2015]

[12] (n.d.) Platt D. Babbitt, The J. Paul Getty Museum, (n.d.)  [Online]
Availiable at: [Last Accessed 28th Feb 2015]

[13]  (n.d.) Ernst Haas, Wikipedia Online]
Availiable at: [Last Accessed 28th Feb 2015]

[14] (n.d.) Ernst Haas, Historic Camera [Online]
Availiable at: [Last Accessed 28th Feb 2015]

[15] (n.d.) Behind the Picture.  Picasso Draws With Light. [Online]
Availiable at:  [Last Accessed 28th Feb 2015]

Thanks to Matthew Krejcarek, Intellectual Property Manager at The Irving Penn Foundation for permission to reproduce Rowboat on the Seine