Light and Time Lecture

On Friday 3rd May 2013, I attended a lecture taken by Jonathan Shaw about Light and Time. After this lecture had finished, a small group of us went to the Library for an hour workshop with Matt Johnston. Below are the notes that I have taken from these sessions:

Light and Time Lecture:

  • What is light?
    • Essential to photography – can manipulate it to create different outcomes
    • Definitions:
      • The natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible; electromagnetic radiation from about 390 to 740 nm in wavelength
      • Provide with light or lighting; illuminate
      • Come upon or discover by chance
      • Having a considerable or sufficient amount of natural light; not dark
      • Of little weight; easy to lift
    • Draw a circle
      • Draw a sphere
      • To draw a sphere, we draw in shade to represent the light
      • Photography and light is so intertwined – we are exploring the light in relation to photographing objects
    • Camera obscura – the original camera
    • Can start working with composition through knowing about perspective – visual cognition can establish the perspective
    • Howard RheingoldVirtual Reality (1991)
      • We are elements in an informational ecology that creates the illusion we call reality. The photons, the light-reflecting properties of the objects we see, the distance between our eyes, the nature of our visual perception system, our parallel data processors and other brain functions still unknown to science, act in concert to weave the apparently seamless cloth of experience.”
      • Looked at cave paintings
        • Relates to virtual reality as it is their form of communication
        • Ability to transform from boyhood to manhood
        • A version of a camera obscura showing fictional stories
  • Light – is electromagnetic radiation of a wavelength
    • Visible spectrum – only a tiny part of the overall light graph
  • Infrared photography – see a different spectrum within the light graph
  • Xray photography – Nick Veasey (TED talk)
  • What is photography?
    • Can create really stunning short films with light
    • Paul ClipsonSphinx on the Seine 2008

<p><a href=”″>Sphinx on the Seine (excerpt)</a> from <a href=””>studentsofdecay</a&gt; on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

  • Strobe photography – long exposure with multiple flashes
    • Mille 1960s
    • Relationship in terms of thought process
  • Light IS the subject
    • Anthony McCallLine Describing a Cone
      • Tate shots
    • James TurrellSky Space
      • Talks about his Roden Crater Project
  • Light as a measurement of time
    • Eadweard Muybridge – changed how we understood the world around us
    • Eadweard MuybridgeInvisible Worlds

Eadweard Muybridge horse


    • Bullet Time – someone is frozen
    • Tim MacMillanTime Slice
      • 5 metre length of metal – 500 plastic lenses with film placed behind them
      • People perception of understanding was challenged through the use of freezing something whilst moving
    • Etienne-Jules Marey
      • Study how somebody moves
      • Scientist not a photographer

Etienne-Jules Marey

    • Thomas Eakins
    • Harold Edgerton – high speed film
      • Invisible Worlds
    • MIT
    • Dir. Nick Knight
    • Anton Giulio Bragagliadepict movement as an indivisible reality, rather than a sequence of static poses…”
    • Sensation – photodynanism, manifesto
    • Dir. Chris Cunningham
    • Dir. Michel Gondry and Andy Earl Like a rolling stone 1995
    • Jonathan Shaw 1993
      • Took early basic camera technologies and turned into something modern
      • Engagement with technology was key
      • Medium format film
      • Pull negative and paper through at the same time
      • PHOTOS
      • New Landscapes of Photography: Explained, Explored, Discussed and Questioned – Grant Scott and Jonathan Shaw
    • Dewery Lewis
  • What has been shown today doesn’t give you answers but an influenced idea
  • Trying to work through text and ideas and put them into a new form
  • – wider university work
  • @time_motion – Jonathan Shaw twitter

Library Workshop – Photobook Club Session:

  • Gregory Crewdson – wanted this book but wasn’t available
  • Should be linking our research
    • Link to other things the photographer has done – links to an original theme?; originally new idea?
    • Link to influences
    • Link to context
    • Link to category photographers – e.g. street photography
    • How do you see your work in a wider concept – how do you see your work in a relation to your module; wider than university – compare to other photographers as if you where in the professional practice
  • In session task
    • Choose one book from the collection; look at:
    • Joel MeyerowitzCape Light
    • The aesthetic use of light
      • Natural and artificial soft lighting
      • None of the photographs uses harsh lighting, they just become darker
      • Makes use of shadows
      • No lighting contrast but contrast of colours
    • The conceptual use of light
      • Uses the light to represent the passing of time – light changes from morning, to midday, to evening
      • Symbolises three separate days
      • For each day, the lighting is similar to the previous day
      • “Long exposure time records slight changes in light” – pacing, wants to show a period of time, not a snapshot
    • (Describe the light; does the light change as we progress through the work; is the light used in composition; how does the light affect our reading of the image; does it draw our attention to something or create a mood)
    • An image demonstration of the above – reference your idea
    • (Choose an image to demonstrate and expand on your points; deconstruct the frame and the use of light within the frame)
  • Directed study
    • You should write approximate 500 words illustrating a 4 degree connection to a body of work that interests you in it’s use/implementation of light
    • You should start with one of the books presented here in this session and at each degree you should understand the work before looking for connections beyond
    • Edward Hopper

Directed Study:

Whilst looking through Joel Meyerowitz’s book “Cape Light”, I found that he most commonly focused on the lighting, colour, and feeling of his subjects rather than the subject itself. Throughout the book he captured both natural and artificial soft lighting and made use of the shadows to create a darker image rather than a harshly lit image. There were also no lighting contrasts but in a number of photographs a contrast of colour could be found. The varieties of light were used to represent the passing of time and symbolized the three stages of three separate days: morning, midday, and evening. The changes in lighting were also used as a pacing mechanism throughout the book and represented the fact that Meyerowitz wanted to portray a period of time rather than a snapshot image.

Joel Meyerowitz


Joel Meyerowitz 2

Whilst looking through the book “Cape Light”, I also found that a number of his singular photographs reminded me of different photographers and artists. The main, and most obvious, influences in these individual images reminded me of the likes of Sally Mann, Martin Parr and James Turrell’s “Sky Space”. Below I have posted the original Joel Meyerowitz images, along with the photographs they reminded me of:

Joel Meyerowitz - Sally Mann

Sally Mann

Sally Mann – Immediate Family 

Joel Meyerowitz - Martin Parr

Martin Parr

Martin Parr

Joel Meyerowitz - James Merrel

James Turrell Skyspace, Yorks Sculpture Park

James Turrell – Sky Space

As part of my research, I also thought that it would be useful to read the foreword of Meyerowitz’s book “Cape Light”. Within this foreword, Meyerowitz was interviewed by Bruce MacDonald where he began to share with the viewer his inspirations for his “street photography”.

The first photographer that he mentioned was Henri Cartier-Bresson. Cartier-Bresson was born in France in 1908 and died in 2004. His black and white street photography and life reportage style was what he was best known for, and it was this that led the photographic society to coin the term “The Decisive Moment”. “The Decisive Moment”, according to Cartier-Bresson himself is: “the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event.” Within this particular book created by Joel Meyerowitz, he used the “Decisive Moment” not to capture the human subjects, but as a way of capturing both the soft light and the atmosphere that was left behind by any form of human encounter.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

The second photographer that was mentioned in the foreword of “Cape Light” was Gianluca Fellini. In the foreword, Meyerowitz stated: “Fellini taught me something else… His willingness to see everything come in front of the lens, to give it a certain amount of time and then turn away from it”. After researching Fellini, I found that the occasional personal collection related to the “Decisive Moment” that was embraced by Meyerowitz. The most relatable collection that shows Meyerowitz’s influence and an example of the quote above was entitled “Sandyhook”, and consisted of images taken in a similar beach location where the human subjects seemed unaware of the photographers presence.

Gianluca Fellini

The third and final person that was a part of Meyerowitz’s influence was artist Edward Hopper. Hopper, an American realist painter is well known in the photographic industry and has been used as an inspiration to a number of famous photographers. His paintings tend to capture the light in a dynamic yet realistic manner, which has also been shown through the work of Meyerowitz’s “Cape Light”. Hopper also produced a painting entitled “Cape Cod Evening” which was influenced by the buildings and landscape in which Meyerowitz captured a majority of his “Cape Light” images.

Edward Hopper Cape Cod Evening