Here at Public House of Art we love photography as much as we love a maverick. With experiments constantly widening the parameters of the discipline, we take a look at five photographs that capture movement in their own, entirely unique, way.
EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE, HORSE IN MOTION, ca. 1878
Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) is the man that famously proved that horses can fly. Apparently, in the pre-twitter world of the 1870s, a hotly debated topic was whether all four feet of a horse were off the ground at the same time whilst galloping. The human eye can’t break down the movement of a horse’s gallop so artists consistently painted them with one foot always on the ground. Muybridge was commissioned by Leland Stanford, a racehorse owner, to make a photographic study to prove him right in the debate. On the 15th of June 1878, Muybridge set up a line of cameras with tripwires that each triggered a split second picture as the horse ran past. The results, as shown in this plate, put an end to the debate once and for all.
PHILIPPE HALSMAN, DALI ATOMICUS, 1948.
When your subject is Surrealist painter Salvador Dali, a simple portrait will not suffice. This photograph by Philippe Halsman (1906-1979), the pioneer of experimental photography, took 28 attempts to achieve. It was inspired by Dali’s painting, Leda Atomica , which can be seen in the right-hand corner of the composition. The painting, chair and easel were suspended by thin wires, whilst off-camera assistants threw cats and a buckets of water timed to Dalí’s leap. The result is an apparently haphazard shot of a surreal moment in time. A moment that was fantastic for the evolution of photography, but really terrible for the cats!
HAROLD E. EDGERTON, BULLET THROUGH APPLE, 1964
Harold Edgerton (1903-1990) was the father of high-speed photography. Whilst a professor at MIT he became the first man to harness electricity in a way that froze time to an instant. Edgerton recorded images on a motion picture camera, which was altered to shoot previously impossible speeds, and lit them with an electric flash he invented. This is his most famous picture of a bullet going through an apple. It was taken with a flash duration of a millionth of a second and the bullet, travelling at 2,800 feet per second, pierced right through the apple, destroying the fruit completely. Although his photographs are poignant and visually alluring he refuted their artistic status, saying: “Don’t make me out to be an artist. I am an engineer. I am after the facts. Only the facts.”
GJON MILI, MULTIPLE EXPOSURE OF ALICIA ALONSO, 1944
Gjon Mili (1904-1984) worked with Harold Edgerton and was a pioneer in the use of stroboscopic photography, a method that utilises multiple flashes to capture a sequence of action in one image. Although his engineering feats changed the possibilities for depicting movement, his photographs also changed the public’s perception of movement in general. Through the prolific publication of his work, he revealed the mechanics of human kinetics to the postwar world. His photographs of dancers, athletes and performers showcased the graceful flow of movements too rapid for the naked eye to dissect. This is an image of the ballet dancer, Alicia Alonso, on stage. I just hope my dancing is never captured with this technique, for it would not be anywhere near as beautiful!
ALBERTO SEVESO, CHEMICAL ROMANCE, 2017
PHOA’s artist Alberto Seveso pushes the boundaries of high-speed photography with his beautiful images of ink mixing with water. The two intertwining colours have the appearance of a plume of smoke and move with a fluidity that surpasses even that of Mili’s dancer. Few have tried to replicate Seveso’s technique, which is closely guarded, but none have paralleled his vibrancy of colour and richness of texture. He makes work concerned with “the possibility to stop time in a click.” Alike to the previous four pioneering photographers, Seveso’s images are impactful, even without knowledge of their groundbreaking technique. In fact, his website biography once read: “Does not really matter who I am or where I come from, the world has no borders.” This photograph definitely speaks for itself.
Written by London-based Freelance Writer Lydia Veljanovska for Public House of Art.