October 2008 Archives

Synechdoche

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(Postcard)

 

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Copyright 2005 Malcolm Ryder

 

 

Boomers

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Copyright 2008 Malcolm Ryder

Boop de Doop

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Copyright 2008 Malcolm Ryder

Foto Review

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Navigator

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New postcard.

 

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Copyright 2008 Malcolm Ryder

Freeze Frame

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Celluloid Snap

The very best freeze frame ever seen was not an orphaned outtake still but an action shot...

The film braked, if not broke, in the teeth and capstans, and on the projector screen we watched the hyperreal image of an unlucky frame curling, smoking and blistering in front of the incandescent.

The exact opposite of a cinematic excerpt, this was a reality insertion, bragging an unparalleled fusion of violence and grace, and throwing us suddenly out of the role of watching and into the role of witnessing.

 

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What I wanted next was to see the numerous seconds of dissolution run back in reverse -- which of course not being a recording the presentation could not do.

Unless someone (like "HoboJohn" on  YouTube) photographed or maybe even filmed the burnup as it happened. Then there's the chance.

Conventionally, it's just the editorial eye intruding on the stream of images passing through the frame. As if the stream itself wasn't already premeditated, the typical freezeframe is a "decisive moment" of observation that pretends to make us watchers into witnesses. As with every snapshot, it relies on the tension of implied continuity, of a before and after not shown, to create the "snap" in the moment shown.

 But it doesn't always work. Just as posing in a picture bleaches a moment of its momentum, not knowing the "before and after" leaves the picture to its own devices, working (like this one here of another celluloid melt) outside of time. 

Staid science pictures (of wounds, ruins, or decay) often offer images that are exciting to scientists because the scientist has the ability to infer the before and the after. Then of course there are celebrity candids, which are all about imagining the stream of activity that the photograph "interrupted" -- essentially sports photography.  But the most premeditated case of synthetic time is still life advertising, which needs to persuade you that the frame you are looking at is a slice of your own life, no matter whether it is your fantasy life or your real one. (One frame is a pretty thin slice, but... never too rich.)

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What lurks in the background of lots of freezeframes, though, is the equal chance that the moment of decision was arbitrary, just mechanical. How many other "snapshots", born at some number of frames per second, never promoted and many never noticed, lay in a dark box as individual unacknowledged moments on a stretch of unlabelled Super-8 or 16mm stock, forgotten but not gone? 

What I want is a collection of celluloid melts, and a collection of crashing waves too. But I don't want just the freeze frame; let's have the motion. And I don't want the whole little movie start to finish, plus I don't want the sound. I just want the very few extra moments that come right before and including the perfect moment to  freeze, and not a single moment after.

Google dispassionately digs up a few Crashing waves and hardly any melters, often with very tangled routes (if any) to the copyright holder.      

YouTube, although quick to provide the due credits, counters with a surpringly lame set of crashers and melters. We'll just keep looking around.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Domestic Travel

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(Recent drawing)

The difference between the scenic and the scene is often a matter of how strongly the imagist colonizes the subject matter to his predisposition towards the subject. They share a common strategy -- reducing the scenery to building material that is then used to reconstruct the image of the scenery in the picture. Take it apart, then put it back together again.

 

 

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Especially where foreign travel is involved, we notice the leveraging of relatively exotic material to build tasty pictures. Forgive the fact that the material is exotic only to someone not already familiar with it: pursuing those synthetic results may be self-justifying in some interesting discovery of how the material may be aesthetically managed. It's akin to exploring new sound effects as a basis for new musics. But with pictures of known objects -- be they bacteria, bodies or buildings --  the question may remain as to whether or not that aesthetics has "sincere intentions" towards the subject: is it revealing the subject's persona (the scenic), or is it inventing it (the scene)?

This is not a question necessarily needing an answer, any moreso than a portrait of a person necessarily need be of someone already known to the viewer. The portrait's real job is just to be itself, to propose -- memorably or at least grippingly for the moment -- that someone is a certain way. It is as much an accusation as it is an observation. The real success of a portrait comes not from looking knowingly into it but looking at it.

Still, in contrast to scenics, ordinary scenes enjoy a kind of tenuous anonymity that allows them to be readily appropriated to the picture. Probably this is most interesting if the picture then makes the scene iconic, in which the portrayed subject, even the mundane, may be abstracted to the (quint)essentials of "the place". We want to make this instance of the place representative of all instances of the place, without seeming to work at it.

Copyright 2008 Malcolm Ryder