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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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