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.
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.
Raoul 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.
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