The art of seeing #21: When still images start moving

(Image credit: Benedict Brain)
About Benedict Brain

(Image credit: Benedict Brain)

Benedict Brain is a UK based photographer, journalist and artist. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and sits on the society’s Distinctions Advisory Panel. He is also a past editor of Digital Camera Magazine. 

Recently I discovered a bunch of old black-and-white 4x6 prints. They were slightly damaged and partially stuck together in places. My instinct was to throw them away – but then something stopped me.

The images were taken at the beach, and were mainly of gulls sweeping down towards the camera. I can’t remember exactly what I was trying to achieve: I think I was experimenting with rear-curtain flash and moving subjects. Whatever it was, I couldn’t have been happy enough with the shots to do anything with them, and they’d been relegated to the back of a cupboard. However, the passage of time and the distance from my original motivation allowed me to see them in a new way.

I couldn’t find the negatives, and there was something about the way the surface of the print had degraded over time that I found visually appealing. So I made photographs of the photographs, using a copy stand. I then created a very simple frame animation, using the Timeline panel in Photoshop.

I was thrilled with the result. Like some Hitchcockian nightmare, the fast-paced edit resonates with a haunting menace. Most of the images are only displayed for a fraction of a second (0.2 sec) so it’s challenging to watch, and best seen on a loop. The overall clip is only 14 seconds long.

I’ve also started collecting sounds using a Zoom H2n recorder – I’m still not sure to what end, but I’m squirrelling away short sound files like an obsessive digital hoarder, to use when it seems right. In this instance, layering a recording of the intense sound of cicadas in a Greek olive grove perfectly (and slightly weirdly) complemented the visuals and accentuated the sense of menace

The images seen here are in a grid to reflect the frames of the animated video; visit my website via if you’d like to see the clip. BB

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Benedict Brain

Benedict Brain is a UK based photographer, journalist and artist. He graduated with a degree in photography from the Derby School of Art in 1991 (now University of Derby), where he was tutored and inspired by photographers John Blakemore and Olivier Richon, amongst others. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and also sits on the society’s Distinctions Advisory Panel.

Until July 2018 Benedict was editor of Britain’s best-selling consumer photography magazine, Digital Camera Magazine. As a journalist he met and interviewed some of the world’s greatest photographers and produced articles on a wide range of photography related topics, presented technique videos, wrote in-depth features, curated and edited best-in-class content for a range of titles including; Amateur Photographer, PhotoPlus, N-Photo, Professional Photography and Practical Photoshop. He currently writes a regular column, The Art of Seeing, for Digital Camera magazine.