© 2017, Andrey Semenov

Get Ready,
Twenty Seconds Exposure


Once I was asked to take a look at an article about ambrotype before publishing it — one of the earliest,  photo printing technology created back in the 19th century. There was a phrase in this text (either a quote, or a subtitle) — "We begin. Exposure time is 20 seconds." And I got caught in those twenty seconds — it's a completely different picture, twenty seconds... It's almost a movie, but in one shot only. Usually exposure is measured in centiseconds, even milliseconds. Imagine that you are shooting something with a shutter speed of 1/125, which means in twenty seconds there are 2500 such intervals. And what if it is 1/250? Or 1/2000? It's already 40 000! Imagine 40 000 photos simultaneously. Twenty seconds — compared with the usual exposures — are almost eternity.

 

It reminded me of Theatres by Hiroshi Sugimoto, a project shot in old American movie theatres. Sugimoto was opening the shutter of his camera at the moment when the first titles appeared, and exposing the film for the duration of the entire feature-length movie. On the photo there was a white screen, emptiness. But in this white light there were all the frames of the film at the same time, and around the screen there were details of the interiors, moldings and empty chairs of the auditorium.


Twenty seconds is another language. In twenty seconds a lot of things can happen, a person will change in those twenty seconds. The expression of his face, thoughts in his head, emotions will change. Someone will try to "keep the face" — a dazzling smile, or make a "duckface", — the other one will feel growing uncertainty, the third one will get bored, the fourth will diligently follow the settings received from the photographer, etc. And all his doubts, qualms and efforts, his boredom and stress will be in one frame, overlapping, like time.
One hundred years after the invention of the colloid process, Andy shot video portraits with a movie camera, and in fact, did the same, with the only difference that he divided those twenty (or hundred and twenty) seconds into hundreds of frames, demonstrating them in turn.
Twenty seconds — this is Anti-Bresson, no decisive moment. There are several thousands of those moments in one frame. A completely different experience.