Monday, February 7, 2011

Prolonged Exposure

I was flipping through an old National Geographic this morning and came across this photograph by Gary Stubelick. He snapped the image using prolonged exposure and then "drew" the glowing outlines with sparklers. It's an astounding technique that Stubelick has been refining for over forty years. He refers to it as utilizing ordinary objects to create an extraordinary event, and the results are quite remarkable.

Urban Frontier by Gary Stubelick

What I love about his work is how he takes objects and settings with which we are so familiar that we've tuned them out and turns them something surreal, allowing us to see them in a new light (no pun intended!). 

I suppose a similar technique in music would be using a loop pedal during a live performance. It allows the performer to record a live sample and replay it throughout the performance, so that more layers can be added. Similar to Stubelick's photography technique, it allows a few seconds of music to receive prolonged exposure and in doing so allows that simple musical idea to develop and become something extraordinary over time.

This clip of Andrew Bird on Austin City Limits provides a great example at the very beginning. Listen as he layers the plucking on his violin and his whistling so that the sound becomes something new with each addition.

Like the photographs above, it captures a moment over time in a way that extends it and turns it into something new. We still recognize the outlines of the bike and the car or the sounds of the plucked strings and the whistling, we can even still pick out the individual parts (if you look closely at the photos you can almost guess when a fresh sparkler was added). But they have created new wholes which can never again be replicated, undoubtedly the most poignant aspect of any performance art.

Learn more about Gary Stubelick's work here.
Learn more about Andrew Bird's work here.


In putting this post together, I struggled to think of ways in which the fashion world could be related to these prolonged exposure techniques, but I would say the way in which many vintage shops make modern updates to pieces comes pretty close. You still have the same basic everyday items, but their life has been extended in some way. Wearing them now has a different connotation than when they were worn originally, even though the piece is essentially the same. In this way, prolonging the life of the garment has allowed us to see it in a new context (or light, if you will!). 

Fashion duo Michele Meunier and Olivier Chatenet have created a stunning label called E2 based around the concept of making old clothes new. They begin with extraordinary vintage pieces (often couture) and alter them in ways which play with the original design. Here's a selection of their work:


But of course, if the well-over-a-thousand-dollar price tag is more than you can handle (and trust me, I'm a high school teacher, so it is), there are many vintage shops around the world doing similar things at incredibly reasonable prices. Here's a small smattering of amazing reworked vintage that comes with all the same fashion sensibility, but for much less!

Handmade vintage flower print mini Dress 
Handmade Vintage Flower Print Mini Dress
by Pretty Raccoon $50

Vintage UPCYCLED Military Studded Snake Skin Leather Oxford Ankle Boots in Butterscotch - 9 or 8.5
Vintage Upcycled Military Studded Ankle Boots
from Two String Jane $50

Sea Foam Skirt
Sea Foam Skirt
by emwi $17

Nautical striped jumper modified VTG
Modified Vintage Nautical Striped Jumper
from Chopped and Sewed $22

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