Saturday, March 21, 2009

Light Moving in Time

dried zinnia

The film historian William Wees entitled one of his books Light Moving in Time. I always think that his is as good a description of film as any. In film making, light and time (and space) are our basic elements. Time is always manipulated in film making. I can use camera technology to show you a flower blooming in a minute of screen time--something that would take hours or days of "real" time. I can tell some one's life story in an hour of screen time. I can challenge your patience with a film that asks you to spend a lot of time watching as I perform some banal task in real time (eat, sleep, clean the house). Right now, I am filming my backyard garden as it bursts into spring, taking two seconds a day for many days, so that the entire burst will unfold in three minutes of screen time.

a fresh zinnia, from "Flora and Fauna"

In the films I make with plants, I am always aware of layers of time. Not only am I trying to figure out how long I want to see each handmade frame on the screen, but I'm also trying to work with or against the gradual decay process the plants undergo in the frame over time. In "Flora and Fauna," which combines handmade frames with live action footage, I raced (time, again) to create and rephotograph the handmade frames while the flowers, herbs, and vegetables I was using were still fresh. I ended up not using a lot of handmade frames that I thought were too dried out. Those "old" frames will become part of a different work, in which the decaying process itself is the subject. Regardless, time is always central to my work. Like the play of scale (or space, really), which I wrote about in an earlier post, the play of time calls attention to the materials and the experience, presenting what I hope is a compelling way to look at something from the botanical world that we might otherwise not see, or take for granted.

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