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