Dance movement

Shinichi Maruyama

Shinichi Maruyama, Nude #8, 2012

This striking image is a dancer going through a routine, naked. The beautiful shape of the blur is almost floral but at the same time it’s like diagram, a teacher’s drawing of a dance sequence. It certainly demonstrates the bursting energy of the dancer’s craft.

You would think the photographer Shinichi Maruyama shot it using a long exposure to achieve the blur, say several seconds, but it’s actually the reverse. Each image combines 10,000 individual frames, shot with a special camera. “I tried to express the beauty of both the human body’s figure and its motion as well as the concept of time.” You can see more of these images and others by Maruyama at his website here.

The abstraction of movement in Maruyama’s project is a paradox. Seeking to express motion and time, as he says, means freezing it. He removes those elements of flux in order to depict them – the dilemna of all still photography of movement: to demonstrate motion you stop it. This problem goes back to the work of Muybridge and his racehorse, but an example closer to the work of Moruyama is Loïe Fuller, the Art Nouveau dancer who was photographed and filmed just over a century ago.

The rhythmic patterns of Maruyama and Loïe Fuller have a lot in common. Fuller was a sensation in Paris at the turn of the 19th century. Her dance performances using silk fabric captured something about the spirit of Art Nouveau, its freedom and energy.

Loie Fuller

Frederick Glasier, Loïe Fuller, 1902

You can see the beauty of it in this still photograph by Frederick Glasier. It’s a striking image, with just enough blur to suggest motion.

Framcois Larche 1901Raoul Francois Larche, sculpture of Loïe Fuller, 1901

Compare it to this figurine of Fuller and you can see there is common ground between still photography and sculpture. Both mediums have to represent movement through its opposite – static form. There is something mysterious in a sheet of paper (the photograph) or a solid object (the sculpture) capturing the spirit of fleeting gestures of motion.

Compare these images of Fuller to those by the Lumiére Brothers – inventors of cinema in the 1890s. Their short film Danse Serpentine of 1897 was made in only the second year of cinema history. The movies – motion pictures – are a closer form of representation to dance.

Loie Fuller


Finally, back to the present and another rendering of feminine movement in homage to Loïe Fuller. Fashion photographer Nick Knight has made a photograph for Vanity Fair based on Fuller’s dance. Some artists cast a long shadow.


Nick Knight, Vanity Fair, 2010


Urban still life 4


Greg Neville, urban still life, 2014


Greg Neville, urban still life, 2014

“Still life is a genre of art depicting mostly inanimate objects, typically commonplace objects which may be either natural or man-made. Still life gives the artist more freedom in the arrangement of elements within a composition than other genres such as landscape” (- from Wikipedia).

Nothing in that definition rules out these photographs, but they’re clearly not “still lifes” as the term is normally used. Still life is the depiction of arranged objects, so composition is usually a big part of it. And composition is the game of these photographs. They’re an attempt to make viable photographs of the urban environment which work as composition exercises. The chaotic world of things out there occasionally presents itself to the camera ready to be captured. You need to be watching, and to be prepared to find the exact right position in space for your camera.

The objects in these urban still lifes are the normal stuff of the urban world, loading bays, wire fences, dump bins etc, unappealing in themselves except when they group themselves together and pose for the camera. They don’t mean anything, the pleasure is pure visual.

In contrast to other visual mediums such as drawing and painting, photography is about selection. There’s an infinite changing world of stuff out there and you have to draw a line around a small piece of it, a rectangle or a square. As a definition of photography, that will do for now.


Greg Neville, urban still life, 2014


Greg Neville, urban still life, 2014



My life in cameras 25


The Canon Demi was a beautifully styled half-frame consumer camera from the mid-1960s. At this time, the Japanese surged ahead of their German and American competitors in large part because of the sheer beauty of their products.

Seven models of the Demi were made between 1963 and 1967. My Demi is an EE17 from 1966. It came with built-in CdS light meter, self timer, hot shoe for flash and zone focussing. The lens is a 30mm f1.7, a generous maximum aperture for interior shooting. The camera is compact, easy to use, sturdy and attractive.

The word Demi means ‘half’ and refers to the half-frame format: two shots for every 24 x 36mm frame. This means 40 shots for each 20 exposure roll, or 72 for every 36 roll – a lot. This was economical when colour film was dear, but costs came down in part because cameras like this made home photography easier. That plus the delay in processing caused by the large number of shots eventually made it less popular.

The appalling but popular Kodak Instamatics with their easy to load 12 exposure cartridges took over a chunk of the home market at that time. There’s no justice.


Greg Neville, Demi 1, 2012


Greg Neville, Demi 2, 2012


Greg Neville, Demi 3, 2012


The fine grain of history

richmond 2

Look at this beautiful texture, the random dispersal of silver grain in a photograph. It’s a closeup of a billboard in Richmond advertising a new apartment construction, Landmark Richmond Apartments. Richmond is an old area, formerly very working class, presently very gentrified. The new apartments will go up across from the Skipping Girl sign, the famous Melbourne landmark (we have so few left, we have to resort to vinegar advertisements!).

Why would the marketers use such an overtly traditional medium as silver photography when the new apartment building will be the acme of modern. Silver-based photograph has been thoroughly supplanted by digital, which represents the future in technology. Silver is holding on as a large niche part of photography but now has associations of tradition and history.

So the marketers must be trying to lend their development an aura of history and authenticity, linking it with the history embodied in the Skipping Girl sign and the old suburb itself. You’re buying a piece of old Melbourne when you take one of these contemporary apartments.

richmond 1

There’s a powerful irony in all this, because that site has other associations that also go back to the ‘silver age’ of photography. The new Landmark Apartments are going up directly opposite another landmark, the very site of Wolfgang Sievers’ masterpiece, Gears for Mining Industry, Vickers-Ruwolt, 1967.

Yes, Vickers-Ruwolt, the great Australian engineering firm that manufactured giant industrial machines for us in peace and war was situated right there. And do you know what took it’s place and will sit opposite the new Landmark apartments? Ikea, the Swedish importing firm.

Vickers- RuwoltWolfgang Sievers, Gears for Mining Industry, Vickers-Ruwolt, 1967 (photo AGNSW)


Hommage to a Guy


Here is a unique hommage to an artist. The promotion describes it as…

One Night Stand: a limited-edition cheek palette featuring iconic Orgasm Blush and Laguna Bronzing Powder. Plus four additional shades inspired by legendary fashion photographer Guy Bourdin.

What? A line of makeup inspired by a photographer’s images? This is surely a first in the history of photography: photographs from the past come back to life on the faces of women in the future.

Guy Bourdin’s color-saturated photography insinuated a high-fashion world of dangerous women and intriguing sensual decadence. Nars pays homage to Bourdin’s seductive, suspenseful images with cheek palette of signature shades and dramatic blushes and highlighters.


“I was such a fan when I was a kid,” recalls the makeup artist and photographer François Nars who has produced this unique line. “I woke up to the fashion world through his images.” Nars has honoured the late photographer with a holiday collection inspired by some of his favourite shots. “I was really inspired directly by the makeup in those photographs,” says Nars, who translated it into intensely pigmented lipsticks, nail polishes and eyeshadows.

The original makeup artist who created Bourdin’s signature look in the 1970s is Heidi Morawetz whose work is described as “preternatural cheekbone blush, hues of blue and purple highlighting powdery-pink body makeup… lips dripping with gloss, a beauty mark on the cheek, dusty charcoal eyeshadow, furry fake lashes, accentuated features.”

You can see from this that the genius of Bourdin’s work in those years was the product of collaboration. The surrealism of Bourdin’s visual ideas was matched by the originality of Morawetz’ makeup. The performer in the photographs was a third collaborator, often the model Nicolle Meyer who even wrote a book about the experience: Guy Bourdin – A Message for You.

You can read more about this at and if you’re still looking for an orgasm after that, you can find one by clicking here:


Guy Bourdin, December 1976


Google plane


Google Earth image of Dubai

Here’s a strange image, a screen grab from Google Earth over Dubai. The plane is solid on the left and broken into primary colours on the right. The relative positions of the airliner and the Google plane have caused it.

Finding quirks on Google Earth is almost a new art movement. For one example of this phenomenon, see the work of Clement Valla, a US artist.


Antarctic negatives


Century old negatives have been found in Captain Scott’s expedition base in the Antarctic. The identity of the photographer is not known for certain but is probably Arnold Patrick Spencer-Smith, the expedition photographer. As you can see, the negatives have stuck together into a wad, although they have been separated successfully, revealing partially damaged scenes of the expedition.

The complete set can be viewed at the website of the Antarctic Heritage Trust.