Time and motion

26 October 2012

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Our new event series, Rhythm is a Dancer explores the psychology and physiology of dance, and its impact on the body and our minds. Accompanying the series, fine art photographer Atton Conrad has created a series of portraits that track the algorithms of each dancer’s movements through light, capturing the essence of their dance form. Individual portraits will be revealed as the series progresses. Here he explains how he began capturing the motion of the human body.

It’s a rare admittance but I have to be honest, all my photographs are lacking. Missing a certain something, deficient of it entirely: motion, movement & time. They are not present. Now this lack, apparent in all photographs, is also their greatest strength, allowing the eye to linger on the wonderful complexity of a frozen moment that would pass too quickly to be perceived otherwise. Yet trying to convey a sense of movement in a still image has always required skillful manipulation of inferences such as posture and motion blur.

Light painting is entirely a creation of movement. A light source is drawn across the scene while the camera is open and so a single point creates a flowing line. A memorable example is in pictures of moving cars at night, where the head and tail lights trace out lines of white and red.

The process used in the creation of the dancers’ and performers’ portraits combined these two concepts to track the movement of the performers over time. Lights attached to the performers’ bodies trace out the motion of their movement in a pitch dark environment while a final high speed flash freezes their final position. The nuances of their action are present in the trail, visual representation of motion and movement over time in a still image. Quite literally graphic data.

Science has always been of interest to me. I always enjoyed the process of twisting my mind into unusual intellectual shapes to understand concepts in both science and art equally, along with the following awe at the beauty of both and the minds of those that formed the ideas.

Creativity is not only the preserve of an artist. Science is perhaps the ultimate creator. I use exactly those same conceptual processes in image creation, as do all artists. The same equation, just differing inputs.

To quote Einstein is a cliche, but relevant. “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious—the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”

It was the work of scientist Alexei Gastev that was the catalyst for the shoot. During the 1905 Russian revolution he was a specialist in ‘time and motion’ studies. His aim was to increase the efficiency of Russian workers creating ‘cyclograms’ as they were known, to understand the movement of those workers.

Although never intended as art they retain an inherent utilitarian beauty all of there own and I hope I have done at least some justice to the original works.

Tickets for the first event, ‘Can You Kick It’ are available from today. Visit our website to book online and  watch a short film created for the event. Find out more about Atton Conrad’s work at attonconrad.com.