Movement / Photography

On the move, Lloyd Spencer – all rights reserved

“If your photos aren’t good enough then you aren’t getting close enough,” Robert Capa is reputed to have said.

In other words – if you want better pictures move! Zoom with your feet, not with a zoom.

And one can extend this principle: if you want better composition move your camera. Composition is about much more than simply framing. Practice moving the camera to the right and to the leftabove the eye-line and then below.

Digital cameras make it so much easier to experiment. The instant feedback they provide make it so much easier to learn. So here is a proposition – make yours a mobile camera and move it!

It makes perfect sense to regard the images we capture with our cameras as “stills” – especially as these days most of those cameras have a separate setting for recording “movies”. So we start with a paradox: the photograph never captures movement, it freezes it, stills it.

Nothing illustrates this better than the difficulties involved in taking photos of dance. In fact, dance (which, for me, is a passion) is a great metaphor for a lot of what interest me most in photography.

Have a look at the tango dancers in this pair of photos. They are dancing, not posing. But nothing about the individual images suggests their movement. Putting them side-by-side suggests movements by posing the question: how does she get from there to there?

This “storyboard” technique is more successfully used in this triptych (“Triple Time”) of jive dancers. Losing the background adds something to the drama. The swirl of the dress and of her hair suggest movement. The fact that we have three pictures and some kind of complicated looping of arms creates a sense of drive or propulsion.

You take a still photo by opening the shutter for a length of time. If the shutter of a handheld camera stays open for longer than about 1/60th the photo is likely to be blurred by handshake.

For many of my photos of jive dancers a fast-moving camera has blurred the background while the flash has frozen the movement of the dancers. It is almost as if the camera has joined the dance.

Movement is also suggested by the poses or gestures in which bodies are caught. Hands caught in dramatic pose can suggest the extravagant gestures that they are making.

Clothes caught by the wind, or a bit of hair out of place can be enough to suggest movement.

I am reminded that more than one person compared the constant movement of Cartier-Bresson when photographing in the street to those of a dancer. One such description reads:

“He appears to be in a dance with life and, indeed, seems to exude a dancer’s energy as he rises on his tiptoes for a particular shot, or leans elegantly to one side or the other, almost following the energy of his subject.”

Park Row Pranks, Lloyd Spencer – all rights reserved.

The stream of appearances is a moving one. Our photographs capture something – but only by fixing it, dead, upon a pin. Or, as Henri Cartier-Bresson reminded us…

“Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing, and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth can make them come back again. We cannot develop and print a memory.”

One Comment
  1. Ronnie Saini 8th September 2010

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