Sunday, June 7, 2009

Rephotographing Bridges

When I first became enamored with swinglens cameras several years ago Jeff Bridge's book Pictures was an inspiration. Yes, that Jeff Bridges. He's a photographer as well as an actor (among many other things). While on the sets of various movies, Bridges used a Widelux to create some great photos which he gave away to cast and crew.

My favorites in the book are from his series Comoedia/Tragoedia, for which Bridges shot the same actors twice in the same frame. A Widelux set at 1/15th takes a few seconds to make a complete circuit. Bridges used the first part of that time to capture a smiling portrait. Then, while the lens was still swinging he shifted the camera sideways to capture the same person again, this time with a frown (or maybe the frown came first. I'm not sure) to arrive at something like this:

John Turturro, 1993 by Jeff Bridges

Note that the vertical line down the middle isn't a frame division. It's from my scan across the book gutter. The blurry section near the center is from Bridges moving the camera during the exposure.

Michelle Pfeiffer, 1989 by Jeff Bridges

So far as I can tell Bridges is the only person to really explore this technique. His photos tend to have an extra oomph because they are of famous people, but I think anyone with a Widelux or Horizon could do something similar. I've tried with the Noblex and it doesn't work nearly as well because the camera only slows down to 1/30th (about 1.5 seconds in Noblex time). Instead of separate heads you get something like this:

Self Portrait, 2003, Blake Andrews

It wasn't until recently that I realized Bridges' photos could be considered a form of rephotography. As with Klett, Marten, Rauschenberg or any more traditional rephotographer, Bridges shot a subject then reshot it at a later time. It just so happened that the second shot was within a few seconds and in the same exposure.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, 1998 by Jeff Bridges

Cuba Gooding, Jr., 1994 by Jeff Bridges

Compiling multiple takes into one image isn't unique. Idris Kahn and Pelle Cass are only two among many who've explored its possibilities. But I think combining multiple takes into one exposure is unique. Does anyone know of another photographer pursuing something similar?

Martin Landau, 1988 by Jeff Bridges

Bridges' photos have a funky pre-digital originality that I find charming. With the advent of digital stitching and demise of film I doubt his technique will be explored much. The door is wide open for someone to push this idea's boundaries. How many distinct images of one subject can fit into a frame? Can you capture the subject on film as it transitions from smile to frown? How would it capture a dynamic scene like a sporting event or explosion?

Here's a shot of mine from several years ago. Although the camera didn't move, it managed to capture some bball players twice. On the right side of the frame, a player is about to release the ball. By the time the swinglens catches the shadow in the left of the frame, the ball is in the air. It's not quite a rephotograph but getting there.

Glencoe School, 2003, Blake Andrews

As this and Bridges' photos show, there are many many possibilities. It's sort of a tragi-comedy that few people have explored them.

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