Richard James Havis
When most people think of images on the Web, they think of video. But old-school still photography still plays a big part in the creative life of the internet.
Facebook and sites such as Flickr are more attuned to still pictures than moving images. And when a series of photographs is viewed as a slideshow it becomes a kind of virtual film, especially if the uploader uses cinematic transitions like fades and adds a soundtrack.
Canon and video-hosting site Vimeo recently teamed up to bring video and photography together in a competition called Beyond The Still (vimeo.com/groups/beyondthestill). The competition videos are not very innovative and the whole shebang is actually a marketing exercise for Canon, but the central idea is unusual.
Canon makes cameras, video cameras, and still cameras that can shoot HD quality video. Beyond The Still challenged filmmakers to download a still supplied by Vimeo and use it as the foundation for a video which created a narrative for the photograph.
Canon billed this as a collaborative filmmaking project. There were eight chapters: the first, The Cabbie, was directed by one of the competition's organisers, Vincent Laforet. Each film ended with a still, which the filmmakers had to 'reinterpret' to start the next film. The competition was judged in stages, and the winners of each stage were invited to film the final chapter with Laforet.
The winning videos are all slickly made, but there is a lack of visual experimentation. The competition demanded some kind of narrative structure. That is notoriously difficult to create by means of episodic collaboration, as the bits never quite fit together. But the idea of taking a still as the inspiration for a narrative story is certainly a good exercise for aspiring filmmakers.
A low-key - and more successful - way of using stills to make a virtual film is available at the French site www.panoramic-story.fr. Panoramic Story, by photographers Lucie and Simon, is an excellent montage of panoramic shots that documents a trip from Paris to Istanbul. The film was produced to show the panoramic capabilities of a new Sony camera.
Each part of the journey presents the viewer with two pictures of a location, one taken by Lucille and one by Simon. Clicking on a picture zooms it out to make a panoramic shot. It's very cinematic.
The photographs are consistently excellent and make good use of the panoramic frame. A series that was shot in Romania - Dracula territory - is especially atmospheric.
The idea behind the project, apart from promoting the camera, is to show the different ways people perceive places. No two photographers will see the same thing through the camera lens. By and large, there is enough differentiation between the two points of view to illustrate this idea in Panoramic Story.