Mass of Movement

Yesterday I found myself at the National Gallery of Art viewing the Foto exhibit before it closed. Although the theme of the show is not what would normally attract me, I am glade that I did in fact make the effort to view the work because I found a few images that spoke to me, and in one case, introduced me to the visual dynamics found in large groups of people.

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The image that really pulled at me is Demonstration at Charles University (1934) by Karel Hajek. You can see this image above. At the time that I viewed this image the gallery was full of holiday weekend guest, which made it difficult and uncomfortable to spent too much time with the works. I quickly wrote down some initial impressions in my notebook, which I sometimes do with things that capture my imagination. This is what I wrote:

Mass of movement – Altitude above the swirling collection of humanity – Men like bees in a pit of energy – Changing pattern – Many as one

The image by Hajek reminded me of some images made at Mecca of swirling pilgrims by Japanese photographer Kazuyoshi Nomachi.

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Both of the images that I have pointed out above are the same in that they are of large groups of individuals whose movements are captured with long exposures. The individuals have been transformed by the passing of time and the movement of their bodies which hides their identities transforming them into something more unified as a visual object. What happens when we can identify each face in the crowd?

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The image above Is by photographer Evandro Teixeira and shows a view of a 100,000 student demonstration in Rio de Janeiro in 1968. Each face looks back at us, allowing us to identify each person as the individual that they are if we look close enough. From the normal viewing distance the group of faces is rendered as a backdrop pattern from the banner in the upper left. Movement is not captured in this image, yet the pattern made by the varying density and shapes of the faces is hypnotizing.

Through seeing one image at a show that I thought I would have no true interest in, I began to explore the visuals created by mass numbers of individual things, in this case people. Yesterday was a reminder to myself that I need to remain open to the work of others. No matter what type of photography (or other art) you love, challenge yourself to find something you enjoy outside your comfort zone because this is how we continue to grow and expand.


~ by Phil Nesmith on September 3, 2007.

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