Sunday, 18 August 2013

This may not be the real world that we think it is ...

When I was a child, because my Dad was in the army, my family and I spent short periods of time living abroad in a number of different places. This involved a lot of travelling. At that time I had the uncomfortable feeling that we never actually travelled anywhere at all. I couldn't shake the idea that when we got into an aeroplane at, let's say, Luton Airport, and then landed in Germany, we hadn't actually left the ground at all. All that had happened was an unknown group of (possibly alien) manipulators shook the plane around a bit to make it seem like we were flying, and while that was going on, all the scenery and people were moved around. When we got off the plane some hours later, believing ourselves to be in Germany, we were actually still in the same place we had always been - but we didn't recognise it, and all the (maybe alien) people had started to talk in German.

The feeling stayed with me for years (and if I am honest, has never really completely gone away) and was reinforced when I read a sci-fi story about just such a delusion suffered by the main character. In the story, it transpired that he was not deluded, but was really living in a constructed reality as part of a mysterious experiment by aliens. And more recently the film "The Truman Show" has put another spin on a similar theme.

In September 2011, Fiona and I made a visit to Liverpool with friends Susan and Leigh, in part to see an exhibition of works by Rene Magritte at the Tate Liverpool. I was most familiar with Magritte as the author of the painting "La Trahison des Images (Ceci n'est pas une pipe)" ("The treachery of images (This is not a pipe)"). I occasionally used it in Photography classes to encourage students to consider what an image is:

Me (passing round the picture): "What is this?"
Student 1: "It's a pipe."
Me: "Anyone else?"
Student 2: "It's a picture of a pipe."

Back to the Tate exhibition. Much of Magritte's work focusses on the problems of perception, and the pieces in the exhibition that I found particularly fascinating have titles that seem to be significant to their meanings. "Evening Falls" seems an obvious double meaning, referring both to the setting sun outside the window, and to the broken shards of glass littering the floor. "The Human Condition" though, with the easel in front of the window, is more enigmatic. These two pictures, being more 'landscapey' than much of his work, got me thinking about the ideas of place that they aroused in me, and recalled my childhood paranoia about never actually traveling, and which I equate with my uncertainties concerning my control over my life.

This led to the idea for the picture that I have called "Memories of Childhood" (above). When I made the picture, I had not got a photograph of a suitable window; but I remembered that I had some interior views of a Shepherd's Hut from a holiday in Dorset in 2010. I thought that one of the pictures would suffice for a first trial - what would it be like to discover that my fears from all those years ago were justified, and that everything I do is being monitored by some other being, peering in through a gap that occasionally appears in the fabric of our universe? To add to my present confusion, some current thinking about cosmology, and some arguments about perception, lead me to a supposition that the world depicted in the Wachowski Brothers' movie "The Matrix" may not be that far off the mark!

The second image (to the right) is an early attempt at recreating the "Evening Falls" image, made from the view from Susan and Leigh's room in the hotel where we stayed in Liverpool. (Or should that be "made from an image of the view from Susan and Leigh's room in the hotel where we stayed in Liverpool?)

Things are not what they seem.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Another Blog, a sort of Beginner's Photography guide

I have started another blog, based on the beginner's photography classes that I used to run. It is called "Get to Know Photography - Some Basic Principles", and you can find it by clicking on the link.

Monday, 13 May 2013

The Punctum of Time

How the most mundane of snapshots can catch you unawares.

In the opening paragraph of "Camera Lucida", Roland Barthes mentions having seen a photograph of Napoleon's brother, Jerome, taken in 1852. He was amazed to realise that he was "looking at eyes that have looked at the Emperor". Now, this is not meant literally, but it does give rise to thoughts about the way that we are prepared to accept a photograph as being “real” in some sense.

Later, in Chapter 32, he describes photography as proof of the fact that "the thing has been there"; painting can "feign reality", and spoken or written language can deceive, but it can always be said of a photograph: "That Has Been".  The nature of the photographic process means that light from the referent (the original real object or person) creates its image in the photograph. When the image is eventually seen by a spectator (by you or I) that light from the referent, delayed by a period of time, finally reaches the spectator. Barthes describes a photograph as "literally an emanation of the referent". Again, this light from the referent is not literally the same light that, passing from the referent to the film emulsion, caused the original exposure. This idea of ‘deferred light’, finally reaching its eventual audience, is more concerned with the fact that every photograph is inevitably of the past. However, there are quantum physicists who might argue that, because one photon is practically indistinguishable from another, there is no way to prove that the light emanating from the photograph is not the same as that from the original exposure.

In the latter part of the book Barthes is discussing a photograph (referred to as the Wintergarden photograph) of his (recently deceased) mother as a young girl. We are not shown the photograph, a snapshot, since Barthes considers that it would appear mundane to anybody but himself, and thus appear incomprehensible as an example of an important photograph. Yet in studying the photo, he "rediscovered" his mother in "the treasury of rays which emanated from my mother as a child, from her hair, her skin, her dress, her gaze, on that day".

Lewis Payne, by Alexander Gardner, 1865
In chapter 39 there is a photograph, taken by Alexander Gardner in 1865, of Lewis Payne in his prison cell awaiting execution. Barthes had the realisation that, in addition to the punctum of 'the detail', there can be, as in this photograph of Lewis Payne, a punctum 'of Time'. In the photograph (evidence of "That Has Been") he is alive and well; however, we are also aware that, at the moment that the photograph was exposed, he is about to die, and that he is dead (in the here and now), and has been for many years.

I have recently experienced my own example of what I might call a Wintergarden moment, or perhaps of time as punctum. While searching through old negatives and prints for a particular photograph, I came across a negative which I neither recognised nor remembered. I scanned it, and enlarged it, and in the picture saw myself (my assumption therefore being that Fiona, my wife, is behind the camera), with two old friends: Linda Wilkinson, a long-time-ago nursing colleague of Fiona's, and Andy Bell, an ex-school friend of mine. Andy and I were at boarding school together; we played in the obligatory rock and roll band, and we saw one another infrequently, while he was at University in Sheffield and I was living in Salford. In the photo (from about 1980), we are all standing on the steps to the door of the house where Fiona and I had our first flat; Andy is carrying bags, and from memory, was returning to Sheffield prior to leaving England to take up a job in Zimbabwe. He died not long after in a car accident while working in Zimbabwe.

The photograph was a shock. I do not remember it being taken, but there it is ... "That Has Been". And after all these years, across that great gulf of time and forgetfulness, from that "treasury of rays", there is Andy Bell. Alive and well, yet about to die, and yet dead. A revelation.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Rob Freeman's House

If you look at the list of links down at the bottom of this page, you will notice that I have recently added a link to Rob Freeman Building. Rob is a long-time friend of mine from school days, and now lives down in Devon. He runs his own construction company, specialising in conservation and renovation using old-time traditional techniques and materials. As a billboard, demonstrating the kind of work his company does, is his own house (pictured here) which is a combination of the original dormer building and the modern extension, enlarged to accommodate Rob's family.

The first set of photos are from New Year's Eve a few years ago, showing paper lanterns placed around the ornamental pond, situated on the patio in the back garden. The attraction of the scene, to me, was the presence of the reflections in the mirror-calm of the water. The camera that I was using for these shots was a long-in-the-tooth Nikon D100, with non-functioning light meter, and which worked only in manual mode. (I mention this by way of excusing the variation in exposure of the pictures, even though this does not necessarily work to their detriment).

It is true (as noted by some of my photographic friends) that I have something of a preoccupation with reflections. I would say, in my defence, that I am not alone in this. Henri Cartier-Bresson's "Gare St. Lazare", and many of Ansel Adams' landscapes demonstrate some classic examples of reflections within the historical canon of photography. In my case, the fascination lies within the 'image within an image' aspects of the pictures, and the tricks our minds play on us when we 'look' (with our eyes) at a reflection, then 'look again' when we examine the photograph some time later. Suffice to say, given the limitations of the camera record of a scene (particularly one recorded in low light) what I remember of the scene as seen by the naked eye bears little resemblance to the photographic images. This is generally due to the lack of recorded detail in the deep shadow areas, which because of the nature of reflections in water, tends to be within the reflection areas of the picture.

An example of so-called 'diffraction flare', a photographic phenomenon unique to digital cameras
However, that is not the major interest that I have in these images. I had spotted before, but not paid significant attention to, the phenomenon illustrated in the images above. I have encountered (and combatted) flare for most of my photographic life (and will be posting an article on flare in the near future), so I am familiar with it, and its manifestations in the viewfinder. The coloured blobs, clearly seen in all of the images above, and which I had previously assumed to be flare, were not visible in the viewfinder. This indicates that the artefacts (the coloured blobs) cannot be a lens-related occurrence.

The more I thought about it, particularly the fact that all of the blobs feature the three primary colours red, green and blue, the more I came around to considering the reseau, or Bayer filter, that is incorporated into the digital sensor at the heart of a digital camera. (The link below is one of the many places on the Internet that a description of the structure of a digital sensor can be found).

More research has led me to the revelation that the phenomenon is indeed linked to the image sensor (and that it is unique to digital photographs) and is caused by diffraction of high intensity light rays by the pixel structure of the sensor array. This article on Wikipedia mentions it (near the bottom of the page) and even comments on the fact that it is not visible in the viewfinder.

Who says you can't teach old dogs new tricks?

I will conclude with some pictures of the house, taken in daylight last November. Good weather always makes a photograph look more attractive, and being on holiday (which I invariably am when visiting Rob) makes the process of photographing very pleasurable. However, while the physical comfort of having the warmth of the sun on your back makes photography enjoyable, clear blue skies can mean death to a photograph. Even though a photographer may not have the choice (ultimately you photograph under the circumstances that you find on the day) a few clouds can make all the difference to the appearance of a picture. Most of the time, this just means that I will have to go back and try again on another day.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Posting Articles about Photographic Technique

At the top of the Sidebar to the right of these posts, you will see an item called 'Pages'. I am having a go at putting up individual articles on particular topics, and one method is to create a new page. Each of the pages will contain a separate article, and many of them will be illustrated.

An alternative will be to set up a second blog, with the intention being that each separate topic will be put up as a new post. If I decide to try the second blog approach, I assume that there will be somewhere on this page that I will be able to set up a link to enable interested parties to find their way to the new articles. Updates to follow as necessary.

The first article is now available, with the somewhat cumbersome title: "Size Constancy Scaling" as a Psychological Explanation for Disappointments with Wide-Angle Lens Images, by clicking the title in the Sidebar. Those of you who have experience of my earlier efforts to use the internet for Photographic discussions will be familiar with the content, but it should still be of interest to people not aware of the ideas. Opinions, via the comments box, as to whether or not the separate page method works, will be considerately received.

Monday, 15 April 2013

'The Snug', Carnforth

The observant among you ...

may have already noticed the presence of a link to The Snug Micropub at the top of the page, and the fact that, if you click on the picture of Gregg over on the right hand side, it takes you to my Picasa album of pictures of the Snug.

You never know what you will find on the bar at the Snug
Not much to do with photography, you might say. But I find myself much less interested in toting camera and tripod all the way up a hill nowadays, and much more enthusiastic about a walk that involves a stop in a pub. So I take quite a few pictures of the inside of pubs, and pictures of the beers available on hand pump. (To the degree that I now refer to my 'photographic memory' when it comes to recalling what pub we visited on a particular day, or what beer we may have sampled). And when it comes to drinking at a pub like the Snug, with an ever-changing selection of beers from all over, but with a preponderance of local breweries represented, it is always a pleasant surprise to discover what's on. Never a dull moment.

Next Question - Why Images?

One way to define a photograph is to define its necessary technical characteristics. There will, inevitably, be disagreements between film and digital users about the status of certain physical manifestations of a supposedly photographic image (computer screen image, ink-jet print, and the like), but such disagreements may be useful in arriving at an idea of photographic actuality.

Ceci n'est pas un photo

So, what about technical characteristics? First, light is a requirement, not an option. A painting, or a
sculpture, can be made in an underground bunker in the pitch dark (the technical or aesthetic quality of such creations may, however, be questionable). To take a photograph in the same circumstances is an impossibility. Second, a light-sensitive medium is required to capture or record the image. Third, certain physical and optical laws govern the final appearance of the image; in this category I am thinking of things such as perspective, sharpness, and the concept that light travels in straight lines. Fourth, a photograph must be of a real object. A painter can ignore inconvenient objects or alignments in making a painting, or even introduce fantasy elements. A photographer, however, must always work strictly with what is physically present before the camera. Fifth, a photograph is an 'automatic' recording medium; it requires no pen, brush or stylus, no physical intervention on the part of the photographer other than the operation of a switch - the actual recording is a somewhat mysterious alchemy known as "making the exposure" which takes place somewhere in the workings of the mechanical / electrical / electronic device called the camera. Sixth, the in-camera image must be processed to bring it out of the camera and into the light of day. A painting, on the other hand, becomes visible from the instant that the first brush stroke is made; even though the image may not be complete, it is seen from the moment of its inception.

So far, all of the above apply equally well to both digital and analogue images. Where things become tricky for me, in this technological era, is in the realm of the digitally encoded image file. I believe that reproduction of photographic images in newspapers has been with us for long enough for us to recognise that a picture in a newspaper has a photographic origin; but few of us would argue that the ink-on-paper image that leaves inky marks on our hands is an original photograph. Nor do we confuse postcards or calendar images with original photographs. Therefore, while I would draw a distinction between an image produced by an inkjet printer (not a photograph) and a chromogenic photographic print (a photograph), I have no problem with understanding the photographic origins of either print.

I equally have no problem with conceding that an image made with a digital sensor is a photographic image; I simply have difficulty visualising what that digital sensor image actually is. A negative or transparency is an extant physical entity; I can hold it in my hand, I can hold it up to the light and see the image. But a digital image file is an intangible. Without the right kind of technology to decode it, and place the image on a screen or cause the image to be printed onto a sheet of paper, it cannot be seen, it cannot be touched. It exists (that must be true, or else how can one explain the appearance of the image on a computer screen when one gains access to the file?) and yet it has no perceptible physical form. I know of its existence in an intellectual sense, yet I cannot perceive it without the assistance of the appropriate technology.

So, I do not think, in a strictly technically defined sense, that digital sensor-derived images are not photography. My own interest in photography, though, has become less about the technology and much more about the psychology of the image. And because (so far, at least) digital imaging seems to be so exclusively concerned with the technology, it forms more of a barrier to me, than a way forward.

Tyrella Beach, County Down
(One of the possible sources of conventional/digital disagreement might arise from the ease with which digital images can be manipulated. Even if the original sources of a composite image are all strictly photographic, can the final composite image still be defined as a photograph? I’m sure I will return to this question, which gives rise to more complex questions regarding the nature of reality and truth, as well as the more obvious ones about the trustworthiness of photography).

So, given the technical, practical and physical differences between photographs and paintings, why is photography the chosen form of creative expression for photographers? What makes a photographer take up photography instead of painting or sculpture? It is common, and I have used the explanation myself on many occasions, to explain the fact that photography is my preferred form of expression because of an intrinsic inability to draw or paint. However, such an explanation still does not address the fundamental question of why I feel compelled to express myself through imagery - if I feel that I cannot draw or paint, why have I not gone down the road of writing, or music? What intrinsic trait do I possess that drove me into a visual medium of expression?

Our prehistoric ancestors, despite lacking the technology available to us today, still had a profound connection to the world at large through imagery. Academics today speculate about the possible ritual importance of cave paintings of animals, some of them extremely ‘realistic’. The true significance of cave paintings at places like Tarascon in France remains unclear. But scientists conclude that this art, some of it brilliant even by today's standards, reflects the development of "symbolic life," an important turning point in hominid evolution that has sometimes been dubbed "the mind's big bang." Cave paintings may show that early humans were developing a sense of self, abstract concepts, and, perhaps, the beginnings of a mythology. The making, and understanding, of imagery, even if confined to a small section of the population, is a very sophisticated psychological development, which gives insight into the way in which hominid brain function was advancing.

Here are the first couple of paragraphs from ‘Eye and Brain; the psychology of seeing’ by R. L. Gregory; 1979, Third Edition. Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

"We are so familiar with seeing, that it takes a leap of imagination to realise that there are problems to be solved. But consider it. We are given tiny, distorted, upside-down images in the eyes, and we see separate, solid objects in surrounding space. From the patterns of stimulation on the retinas we perceive the world of objects, and this is nothing short of a miracle.

The eye is often described as like a camera, but it is the quite uncamera-like features of perception that are most interesting. How is information from the eyes coded into neural terms, into the language of the brain, and reconstituted into experience of surrounding objects? The task of eye and brain is quite different from either a photographic or a television camera converting objects merely into images. There is a temptation, which must be avoided, to say that the eyes produce pictures in the brain. A picture in the brain suggests the need of some kind of internal eye to see it—but this would need a further eye to see its picture … and so on in an endless regress of eyes and pictures. This is absurd. What the eyes do is to feed the brain with information coded into neural activity—chains of electrical impulses—which, by their code and the patterns of brain activity, represent objects. We may take an analogy from written language: the letters and words on this page have certain meanings, to those who know the language. They affect the reader's brain appropriately, but they are not pictures. When we look at something, the pattern of neural activity represents the object, and to the brain is the object. No internal picture is involved."

Considering the implications of the way in which the brain translates the information given it by our eyes, then the ability to appreciate images is almost even more incredible. A flat, flexible rectangle containing some shapes and colours – that’s all a picture is. And yet we look at it, and we see the object, person or place that the picture is of. It definitely is not the actual person or thing, but we are prepared to accept it, as if it is in some way. I will return to Professor Gregory in a future post, to discuss the disappointment of tiny, receding mountains in landscape photographs. (See the article: "Size Constancy Scaling").

But for now, I will content myself with saying that we sophisticated 21st. Century homo technilogicus seem to be no longer aware of just how amazing our ability to read images really is. The super-saturation of our day-to-day world, with pictures everywhere we look, leads to us not really paying much attention to most of them. Even if we wanted to, how could we find the time to review every single photograph – let alone all the video clips, paintings and drawings that are produced every day? So we have to make choices. And even those few images that we choose to regard are given only the most cursory of glances for the most part. A picture has to be immensely arresting to get our attention. To use the terminology established by Roland Barthes, the photo must possess studium to attract our gaze, and a punctum to make us look deeper. But even in those instances, we soon find ourselves drifting on, looking for the next image. So what are we looking for? And will we know it when we find it?

Starting the Debate - What Is A Photograph?

What is a photograph? 

Sleights Church, near Whitby, North Yorkshire
Some time ago, and in a couple of different arenas, I made an attempt "To define a Photograph". It is a concept that is still active in my mind, so I'll give it another go here.

After thirty years as a photographer, what I nowadays find most interest in is not particularly the photograph as artefact (although I anticipate that such considerations will occupy at least some of my time), but rather the photograph as cultural construct. Thinking about the photograph raises many questions in my mind. What differentiates the photograph from any other kind of image? Why is it not the same as a painting, a drawing, a sculpture, a pictograph? What conditions have to be met for an image to qualify as a photograph, and possibly more contentiously, what disqualifies an image from being called a photograph? Are such distinctions important?

If you have found your way by some accident to this page, and your curiosity has been piqued, you might use the comments box to make statements, ask questions, or give references to any and all things related to the overall question. I may speculate, quote passages from books, magazines, web sites, or even TV programmes, that can further the project, and if I receive any contributions via the comments box, I may respond to those views or statements.

Whitby Harbour at night
An obvious aspect of this project will be to think about how we read photographs. Some of the photographs that I take for myself, and some of the work of other photographers that I discover in my meanderings through photography, might be used to support (or undermine) some of the ideas that I explore in this examination of "What is a Photograph?" As a start to this new site, I will start with an initial response to the original question from a friend, Graham Winder. Graham suggested the following link, and the quote from Andreas Feininger:

"Photography as a hobby

If photography is your hobby you are an amateur. An amateur is defined as a person who does something because he loves to do it - he does it for the pleasure of it. If you are to be successful as an amateur you must have pride in your work and derive a feeling of self-respect and satisfaction through doing it. The only way to reach this desirable state is to do original work.

As an amateur, you have an advantage over other photographers - you can do as you wish. You have no boss. No one to tell you what is wanted; nor to suggest how it might be done. This should make amateurs the happiest of photographers.

Unfortunately, this is rarely true. Very few amateurs realise their unique position and take advantage of it. Most of them are indecisive, lacking in both purpose and goal. To compensate for lack of direction they look desperately for guidance. This inevitably leads them into imitation of the work of others in the thought that what worked well for someone else will work as well or better for them. Once a photographer competes on this level, he will quite likely end by being part of that society for mutual admiration, the photo-club. If this happens, he gives up the chance of becoming a photographer with something of value to say.

To avoid the trap of imitation, don’t concentrate your attention on what some other photographer does, whether he is your friend or a stranger whose work you respect. People are different, and another’s approach or interest may be totally wrong for you. You are you - so be yourself, and be proud of it. Listen to criticism, but analyse it carefully and accept only that advice which you are convinced applies to you - your kind of work, your temperament and personality, your goals."
Andreas Feininger - The Complete Photographer"

So, to finish, a couple of technical definitions:

(From "The Focal Encyclopedia of Photography"; Desk Edition 1960, Edited by Frederick Purves).
"PHOTOGRAPHY. Literally, 'writing with light" (from the Greek, phos, photos - light + suffix graphos - writing). The term is generally accepted as any method of producing a visible image by the action of light - for example, on light-sensitive silver salts. The use of the term was suggested by Sir John Herschel to William Henry Fox Talbot in a letter dated 28th. February, 1839. It was also used in the Vossische Zeitung of Berlin on 25th. February, 1839, in an article over initials which point to the astronomer Johann von Maedler, who was a correspondent of Herschel's."

"PHOTOGRAPHY. (from Greek φωτο and γραφία) is the process, activity and art of creating still or moving pictures by recording radiation on a sensitive medium, such as a film or an electronic sensor. Light patterns reflected or emitted from objects activate a sensitive chemical or electronic sensor during a timed exposure, usually through a photographic lens in a device known as a camera that also stores the resulting information chemically or electronically. Photography has many uses for business, science, art and pleasure.

The word "photography" comes from the Greek φώς (phos) "light" + γραφίς (graphis) "stylus", "paintbrush" or γραφή (graphê) "representation by means of lines" or "drawing", together meaning "drawing with light." Traditionally, the products of photography have been called negatives and photographs, commonly shortened to photos."

 Of course, the digital 'revolution' means that some of the stages in the traditional, or 'analogue', process have either changed or disappeared, and that may give rise to disagreements in terms of definitions.

The Passage of Time

The passage of time is an ever-present paradox to the photographer. Whether it be the representation of time passing using photographic means (the two examples here are attempts to address that), or the fact that every photograph only ever shows the past - photographers, consciously or not, are always constrained by time.

The composite photograph left illustrates one of the ways in which still photography can demonstrate the passage of time. This sequence shows how the apparent position of the setting sun changes throughout the year when viewed from a single, fixed viewpoint. The movement of the sun is very hard to distinguish on a day-to-day basis, but when viewed all together, its changes in position become readily visible. This sequence shows the view towards the Southern Lakeland Fells from Kendal Golf Course.
("Golf - a good walk spoiled"; Mark Twain).

In the opening paragraph of "Camera Lucida", Roland Barthes remarks on having seen a photograph of Napoleon's brother, Jerome, taken in 1852. Barthes was amazed to realise that he was "looking at eyes that have looked at the Emperor". He later states his opinion that a photograph is evidence that "the thing has been there"; painting can "feign reality"; spoken or written language can deceive; but it can always be said of a photograph: "That Has Been". 

The nature of a photograph is such that it causes light from the referent (the original real object or person) to create its image in the photograph. When the image is eventually seen by an observer, by you or I, then that light from the referent, delayed by a period of time (in some instances years, or even decades), finally reaches the spectator. Barthes describes a photograph as "literally an emanation of the referent".

The triptych image above shows another variation on the theme. In this instance, the changes in shadow and highlight over the course of a day alter the appearance and visual impact of the tree. Choosing the right lighting (or being fortunate enough to stumble upon it) can make a big difference to the success or failure of an image.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Opening Gambit - Decisive Moment v. Saccadian Rhythm

Ideas and examples of photography. What I like and why I like it, as well as some guidance on how to do it better. Don't feel obliged, but by all means join in.

Whitby Harbour Composite.

The conventional concept of a photograph, as espoused for example by Henri Cartier-Bresson, is of the “decisive moment”, captured and held forever in that single image. This carries with it the implication that a photograph is a record of a single instant of time. This idea holds good even when the photograph is a long time exposure, made to create the impression of movement, for example the smooth, mist-like appearance of waves breaking over seaside rocks. In this case, where an exposure time of seconds or even minutes has been used, the observer of the photograph still accepts the photograph on the basis of the “single instant of time” perception.

John Blakemore, a Midlands-based photographer with a unique and very personal photographic philosophy, developed a technique which rather stands this conventional idea on its head. It involves the production of a single image by a process of building up a series of incremental exposures, each of them insufficient in themselves to give rise to “correct” or adequate exposure on the film, but calculated so that their sum total is equivalent to the net level of exposure necessary to produce a correctly exposed negative. Consequently, the resultant photograph is no longer a single image of a single instant of time, but a composite of a multiplicity of images superimposed upon one another, thus representing a scene as perceived over a period of time. (There are parallels here with the astro photography technique of 'stacking' images).

During the early 1980s, David Hockney developed a new technique for creating photographic collages, which he termed 'joiners'. These works involve assembling large numbers of photos of small portions of the same subject taken from different angles in a single session. Hockney's aim was to inject a visible element of time into photographic images, which normally represent only 'frozen moments'.

In "Eye, Brain, and Vision" (David H. Hubel 1988), Hubel has this to say about the way in which we physically look at a scene:
"First, you might expect that in exploring our visual surroundings, we let our eyes freely rove around in smooth, continuous movement. What our two eyes in fact do is fixate on an object: we first adjust the positions of our eyes so that the images of the object fall on the two foveas; then we hold that position for a brief period, say, half a second; then our eyes suddenly jump to a new position by fixating on a new target whose presence somewhere out in the visual field has asserted itself, either by moving slightly, by contrasting with the background, or by presenting an interesting shape. During the jump, or saccade, which is French for "jolt", or "jerk" (the verb), the eyes move so rapidly that our visual system does not even respond to the resulting movement of the scene across the retina; we are altogether unaware of the violent change. (Vision may also in some sense be turned off during saccades by a complex circuit linking eye-movement centres with the visual path.) Exploring a visual scene, in reading or just looking around, is thus a process of having our eyes jump in rapid succession from one place to another".

The image above, Whitby Harbour Composite, is based on the Hockney idea, in that it shows the harbour over a finite period of time (obviously, a certain period of time had to elapse to photograph all of the individual frames). The presentation of the resultant image(s) is also intended to imitate the physical mechanism of the eye roving around the scene. The above arrangement is obviously only one way in which such a selection of multiple images may be presented - in the future there are several other combination images I may put here.