Poetry of a long tracking shot, surreal photography and more

The Common Ground Project - A black and white portrait of a Latino girl behind the barred gate of her families home and business in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

This month we look at the poetry of a long tracking shot, the surreal photography of Jerry Uelsmann and the meaning of art. It’s always fun putting these together and I hope you get inspired. Enjoy!

Personal Project

This featured image is from the Common Ground project: A twenty plus year study on Latino culture. More images are available to see on Instagram.

Film I’m Studying

Stalker: The camera starts very close on Stalkers wet leather jacket, it follows a path of jacket buttons until Stalkers dormant face fills the screen. We rest here for a moment as omniscient whispers tell a tale of Kings hiding from God on the day of his return to earth. The camera and the whispers continue, leaving stalkers face to closely examine the shallow depths of a long forgotten aqueduct where corroded remnants of a corrupted civilization rest amongst floating filth. We don’t stop moving until we see Stalkers hand, resting on the water like a disfigured pearl, a welcome reprieve from the filth. The camera slowly moves out and cuts, leaving us to ponder on the poetry of a long tracking shot.

Of any shot that I’ve seen in Cinema, this one reaches out to me the most. When I think of visual story telling, of visual poetry and of things I hadn’t seen before. this shot it always there. have a look.

I’ve been fascinated by Tarkovsky’s films since Janos Kovacsi showed us some clips from his first feature Ivan’s Childhood, in a class about working with actors at the North Carolina School of the Arts, School Of Filmmaking. He rolled in one of those old square tv’s on a metal framed cart with squeaky wheels and played us a clip. It was perfect, every element was in absolute harmony with the other.

Due to conflicts with Soviet authorities regarding his work, Stalker was Tarkovsky’s last Russian film. Therefore, his last two; Nostalghia and The Sacrifice were made in Italy and Sweden.

Here are some frame grabs from some of my favorite shots in the film.

Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Produced by Aleksandra Demidova
Written by Arkady StrugatskyBoris Strugatsky
Based on Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky
Starring Alexander KaidanovskyAnatoly SolonitsynNikolai GrinkoAlisa Freindlich
Music by Eduard Artemyev
Cinematography Alexander Knyazhinsky
Edited by Lyudmila Feiginova
Production Company: Mosfilm
Release date: May 1979
Running time: 161 minutes
Country: Soviet Union
Language: Russian
Budget: 1,000,000 Rubles

Photographer that inspires me

Jerry Uelsmann: I was exposed to Uelsmann in the 90’s when first learning about photography and have been obsessed with his work ever since. But aside from his images, the one thing I remember the most about him is that he had a ritualistic way of working. Every Wednesday, no matter what, he would work in the darkroom.

Here is an excerpt from an essay I wrote about him in 2001 for a college assignment.

In search of a way to display his vision, Jerry Uelsmann studied and experimented with different photographic techniques in the early 1960’s. He found that photomontage was the best way for him to express himself and this started a storm of controversy. He was breaking the photographic  tradition in creating surrealistic images by using many different negatives to create one print. Purist photographers said that he was not a photographer.

The essay is titled It’s About The Vision and you can check out the full article along with my research and professors notes in this old PDF.

Article I am enjoying

Walt Whitman on the “Meaning” of Art and How to Best Access the Poetic: This was a quick read that inspired me to read more poetry.

Quote I am pondering

Art is by nature aristocratic, and naturally selective in its effect on the audience. For even in its ‘collective’ manifestations, like theatre or cinema, its effect is bound up with the intimate emotions of each person who comes into contact with the work. The more the individual is traumatised and gripped by those emotions, the more significant a place will the work have in his experience.- Andrei Tarkovsky

Steven Arnold Heavenly Bodies at New Fest

We packed the house in New York at HBO’s NewFest for the Steven Arnold: Heavenly Bodies premiere. Thank you to those who attended! Now, The film is headed to France to accompany a solo show of Steven Arnold’s photography hosted by Fahey/Klein Gallery at Paris Photo. The exhibit will be on-going from November 7-10 at the Grand Palais, Booth A33. And screenings take place at the MK2 Grand Palais on November 8 at 3pm and November 10th at 5pm.

Miss Rosen pens a fitting tribute to Steven’s life and career in a new article from Another Man.

“Artist, photographer, filmmaker, and ‘queer mystic’ Steven F. Arnold (1943–1994) is a quintessential icon of our times, a revolutionary figure whose ideas about gender fluidity, radical acceptance, and non-binary consciousness, first realised in the late 1960s, are just now becoming part of the cultural conversation.”

Here is the full article.

2019 Paris Photo poster for the films sector where Steven Arnold Heavenly Bodies was screened.

Action of stillness, non-visual film and purist photography

Locals in Guanajuato, Mexico discuss News and Politics⁠ over coffee while employing the action of stillness. From the Common Ground Project.
Here is some personal work and musings. It’s always fun putting these together. I hope you get inspired. Enjoy!

Personal Project

This featured image is from the Common Ground project: Locals in Guanajuato, Mexico discuss News and Politics⁠ over coffee. Thank you @biomimi_healingspaces for the beautiful comment on this image via instagram; “the action of stillness.” I love the irony. More images are available to see on Instagram.

Film I’m Studying

Non-Fiction Directed by Olivier Assayas. I usually don’t like non-visual films. In cinema we write with light, not words. Dialog is merely supplemental. So why am I so interested in a film that Rolling Stone Magazine describes as “Talk, Talk, Talk,” while Assayas himself says “this movie’s explicitly nonvisual. And I never saw it as flattering in terms of mise en scène.”

Both thematically and aesthetically, the evocative duality attracts me. While their action is primarily to be in stillness, there is great turmoil inside each character as they seek refuge in salons, cafes, bedrooms, living rooms and office lounges while indulging in french food, wine, cigarettes, love making and intellectual stimuli. Their conversations run the gamut but most often rest on anxieties over new technological trends in the writing and publishing industry–an allegory on the state of affairs in Assaya’s own industry.

With DP Yorick Le Saux, his use of super 16mm and flexible diffused light is a nostalgic homage to the arthouse spirit of French New Wave in the 50’s and 60’s. However, at times it feels out of place–self aware that it’s time to embrace something new. I think Assayas and Le Saux recognized this–in one way or another–and they shot the closing scenes in 35mm amidst the warm embrace of a late day sun.

Looking at this film amongst Assayas filmography, it appears to be a very personal film for the director. It’s almost as if he is accounting for his own transition into purely constructive cinema starting with Something in the Air, and fulfilled by Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper.

Production companies: CG Cinema
U.S. Distributor: Sundance Selects
Writer-director: Olivier Assayas
Cast: Guillaume CanetJuliette BinocheVincent MacaigneChrista TheretNora HamzawiPascal Greggory
Producers: Charles GillibertOlivier Pere
Executive producers: Sylvie Barthet
Director of photography: Yorick Le Saux
Editor: Simon Jacquet
Production designer: Francois-Renaud Labarthe
Casting: Antoinette Boulat

Photographer that inspires me

Edward Weston: After WWII a purist approach to Photography was advocated by photojournalists and dominated by Edward Weston and Ansel Adams. They preached what Adam’s called “previsualization”: the full realization of the image at the moment of exposure. In their point of view any post tampering with the negative was anathema. Weston’s widely exhibited prints were unmanipulated or “straight” completely free of embellishing handiwork.

He was focused primarily on form rather than the recording of events–an approach more akin to painting rather than documenting. His goal was to reveal the significance of his subject without providing any context or reference of time. He called it revelation of the subject. Inspired by nature his subjects were almost exclusively organic. Nudes, vegetables and rock formations frequent his work and share intertwining visual themes as they are posed, placed or found in stillness.

Blog series I am enjoying

Wait But Why: The Story of Us. This is a trump era inspired thesis on human behavior. And particularly thought provoking is the concept of how the primitive mind, the higher mind and our belief systems intertwine and compete with each-other.

Quote I am pondering

Photography suits the temper of this age – of active bodies and minds. It is a perfect medium for one whose mind is teeming with ideas, imagery, for a prolific worker who would be slowed down by painting or sculpting, for one who sees quickly and acts decisively, accurately. – Edward Weston