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!
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 Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky
Based on Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky
Starring Alexander Kaidanovsky, Anatoly Solonitsyn, Nikolai Grinko, Alisa 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
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