24 Mar 2011

ken burns is innocent

Moving pictures? Sound as well? Nah, it'll never catch on. Who do you think I am, desperate to tart up my fine art photography with a garnish of Ken Burns effects on a bed of Gerry Rafferty's Streets of London?  Well, against my better judgement, I've been thinking of putting together my pictures to a soundtrack of some description. 
It's interesting to re-consider the concept of a slide show in terms of an experience that now isn't so much about sitting in your front room comatosed by the neighbours' holiday snaps or a cold church hall camera club enthusiast only interrupted by the whirr-click of a carousel. Daddio get with the digital age. Now we can consume byte-size pieces of media on-demand. Simultaneously re-tweeting Justin Beiber while waiting to eBay bid on a collection of 60s manga we queue a YouTube sequence of skateboarding cats.

How to compete for any attention span, however shallow, in those circumstances?

As part of the opportunity to display my book loved; life; London at the Format Festival I was given the chance to participate in the Carousel Slam. I loved the oxymoron. It made me reconsider my outmoded thoughts on slide shows and I decided to jump in.

The business of editing and sequencing images was my first challenge. I had a way in by virtue by referring back to love; life; London and I soon had a rough cut of about 30 images. However just sequencing them like a PowerPoint presentation i.e. centre each image onscreen, 3 seconds each, next - next - next - etcetera - etcetera - etcetera didn't do them, nor the medium justice.   
I wanted to give some energy, some reflection of the street to the experience.This made me focus on the soundtrack. I was desperate not to contradict my no-crop no-caption maxim, not to "lead" the viewer but let them make up their own mind what they take from the picture. I didn't want to set these pictures to a song which made an overt connection to a particular interpretation (herewith known as the Rafferty Effect).

Where did that leave me?

As well as photography about the city, and books about the city, I do love films about the city too. Digging around the sequences on my YouTube channel I picked out a couple. The first was The City, an American documentary from 1939 by the splendidly monikered Willard van Dyke. It has a wonderful soundtrack which is a sampler's paradise. The vocal excerpt I picked had a marvellous quality, like a 50s government information film, but the spoken words were more B-movie panic than Keep Calm and Carry On.

To follow I couldn't resist one of my all-time favourites West Side Story. If I'd ever had a Jim'll Fix It wish (details here for my overseas friends) then it would have to be a walk-on role in that production. It's such a perfect combination of sound and vision I felt guilty running Leonard Bernstein's score against my pictures.
However the segueway between it and the first piece just fell into place so perfectly I felt it was meant to be. Honestly.
Now when I reviewed the sequence I wanted to do something more with the images themselves. Working on a MacBook the Ken Burns effect, a zooming and moving effect, is a default within iMovie and I confess to having found it profoundly irritating whenever I'd seen it. However, after introducing the soundtrack the ebb and flow, rather then making me feel seasick, suddenly made sense. I applied it to all, with a little tweaking, and clicked save.
OK it's showtime...although you've probably gone straight to play this before reading of my ramblings above. I know I would.
Just this week I was invited to show this again at the HOST Gallery's Slam and this time I was to able to introduce it in person. It was a really inspirational event. A full house collectively experiencing a diverse collection of moving images, in both senses of the word. it was also great to be part of a broad cross section of photographic approaches.
This current year of street photography is wonderful. It's certainly keeping me busy. However I think it's important to recognise there's a real opportunity here to make connections in the wider community of people who care about cities, about urban places, about how we shape them and how they shape us.
And by the way, Ken Burns, if you're listening, I take back what I've said about you.

No comments:

Post a Comment