Short form video book?

Posted in Flotsam by LBM on October 10, 2011

Can short videos function like photographs? Can you imagine an iPad book of 40, one-minute videos working together much the same way a photography book works? Discuss here:

25 Responses

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  1. Charly Artmann said, on October 10, 2011 at 8:02 am

    Hi Alec, my answer is – yes and no.

    The question connects how photographs and photo books work. If a assume that a photography tells something, and that a photo book puts those photos together in a narrative way, tells a story – than I can get something additional but I will loose something if I create a photo book in form of a short videos. I can add music, sounds, etc. elements that support the story, the narrative element, give a different view on photos. But I will loose the haptic of paper, something that for me strongly is connected to a photo book.


  2. Doug Spowart said, on October 10, 2011 at 8:11 am

    Interesting thought – I’m writing a thesis on the photobook at the moment and consider the idea of cinema and photobook are one – – –

    Here is a small segment of the thesis:

    Extending the narrative: the cinematic strategy
    Do photographers who make books have a connection or are influenced by approaches to the narrative employed in cinema? Colin Westerbeck in an essay entitled, The Americans, a model, in Michel Frizot’s, A New History of Photography (1998), writes about the influence that Wright Morris’ (1910-1998) Inhabitants (1948) and Walker Evans’ (1903-1975) American Photographs (1938) had on photographers like Robert Frank (1924- ). These early books, says Westerbeck were, ‘… designed to let pictures play off each other in a way that controls and reinforces their effect on the viewer.’ (Westerbeck 1998:646)
    Westerbeck states that Frank’s books Les Americains/The Americans (Paris 1958 & New York 1959) ‘made the photographic book into an art form in its own right.’ Frank’s images he claims go, ‘much further, creating a denser, richer, deeper structure of images than any book before it.’ (Westerbeck 1998:646) Westerbeck connects Frank’s success at the time to his being well ‘on his way to being a filmmaker’ and that as such,
    … was able to apply the principles of cinematic montage to still photographs in an innovative fashion. The pictures follow on from each other by a kind of metamorphosis … Because they have behind them the momentum of earlier carefully placed pictures, certain images in this way acquire an impact that they could never have had by themselves. (Westerbeck 1998:646)
    Robert Frank was not the only photobook maker that moved into movie making. Others include, Larry Clark (1943- ), Elliott Erwitt (1928- ) and Danny Lyon (1942- ). Successful photobook makers then had a sense of the cinematic which may have informed their image capture, sequencing of images and creating book layouts sensitive to the styles of storytelling found in movie making.
    Another example is Lou Stouman (1916-1991) who started out as a photographer and journalist in New York. He moved to California 1945 and began a career in filmmaking. He was the recipient of two Academy Awards for documentary filmmaking and lectured in film making at UCLA for 20 years. He claims that he became bored with the single image. ‘They don’t move. They have no voice, no music. … In my own case, I got seduced by the cinema.’ (Stoumen 1975) Later in life Stouman reconnected with still photography in the 1970s and invented the ‘paper movie’ (his term for this form of the photobook) and published two such photo-narratives in 1975 and 1988. The books are a blend of text and photographs presented in a personal poetic form. A playful introduction in Stouman’s 1975 book, Can’t argue with sunrise: A paper movie, makes the following statement to readers,
    ‘You might even best use this book by reading its sound track aloud. To yourself or to a friend. Work the words a little for their rhythm and emphasis and roll. You be the director, work for a good reading from your self-narrator. And of course you are the movie projector. The little paper machine you hold is hand operated, you turn the pages.’ (Stoumen 1975:188)
    These words mirror those that one could reasonably expect would originate from someone who makes artists’ books as Stouman’s books seem to echo some of the haptic, self-directed inclusive interactive entertainment forms encountered in today’s internet, wi-fi’ed and iPad-ded world.
    Whilst my discussion is premised upon finding a connection between the cinema and narrative, Berger offers the following, ‘If there is a narrative form unique to photography, will it not resemble that of cinema?’ (Berger 1982:279) He then counters this by suggesting that, ‘Surprisingly, photographs are the opposite of films.’ And then goes on to qualify the remark,
    ‘Photographs are retrospective and are received as such: films are anticipatory. Before a photograph you search for what was there. In a cinema you wait for what is to come next. All film narratives are, in this sense, adventures: they advance, they arrive.’ (Berger 1982:279)
    Douglas Holleley also agrees with Berger when he claims the photobook narrative works best, ‘if you can create a sense of suspense.’ (Holleley 2009:47) He adds that to create suspense,
    ‘… you need to introduce the quality of (linear) time. This is why the most successful visual narratives using photographs are best seen in cinema. Cinema relies upon movement and action to propel the story forward.’ (Holleley 2009:47)
    Holleley concludes this statement with ‘Such properties are alien to still photography.’ (Holleley 2009:47)
    I would challenge both Berger and Holleley’s statements that photographs can’t operate as cinema. I would suggest that ‘suspense’ can be created within the photobook, and that photobooks can be ‘adventures,’ that ‘advance’ and ‘arrive.’ My best examples of this are in the flipbooks although I have made other books that take on these characteristics.
    Others have concepts that question Berger’s position. Keith Smith as we have discussed sees a connection with the cinema and the book. Smith adds to the discussion that, ‘A book exists in time. Therefore time, movement, rhythm and pacing are part of the presentation’. (Smith, KA 2000:22) To me these features of the book seem very filmic
    Later in the book ‘Another way of telling’ (1982) Berger continues with his search for a narrative form for still photography and posits that it may work as ‘memories or flashbacks.’ He concludes with a discussion on storytelling that concurs with these thoughts. He presents a discussion on the idea that the sequencing of photographs, ‘the energy of montage of attractions’, where each image ‘cuts’ from one to another ‘resembles the stimulus by which one memory triggers another’. (Berger 1982:288) Berger claims that in this, the sequence is destroyed and becomes,
    ‘… a field of coexistence like the field of memory. … Photographs so placed are restored to a living context … a context of experience. And there, their ambiguity at last becomes true. It allows what they show to be appropriated by reflection. The world they reveal, frozen, becomes tractable. The information they contain becomes permeated by feeling. Appearances become the language of a lived life.’ (Berger 1982:288-9)
    In my bookwork I strive for an experience for the reader/spectator that carries them from page-to-page and from the beginning to the end of the book. For me considering narrative for a book and designing the storytelling flow is a considered and laboured part of the process. Devices such as blank pages, varied image sizes or diptyches are considered so are double pages spreads. Some books are completed as if resolved, and then re-ordered to refine the narrative and the ‘feel’ that the reader/viewer will derive from an encounter with the book. The strategies I employ often take from the idea of cinema and the Eisenstein concept of the ‘montage of attractions’ that cause the viewer to drawn into the narrative and the onward flow through the book.
    The temporal space of the movie theatre is entirely linear and yet the reader of a book can disrupt the author’s linear organisation by opening the book mid way through or reading from the end. However, even here, a narrative, the reader’s unique and personal narrative may contain the characteristics of cinema that Holleley and Berger see as unique to that particular media.



    See page flips of our books

    • bill purvis said, on October 10, 2011 at 7:05 pm

      While cinema may influence the making of a photograph it wont replace it. See Tracey Moffatts work. Its akin to saying that the painting of the Mona Lisa can be turned into a movie. A photograph needs to be viewed in the same way a painting is.

      • wotwedid said, on October 10, 2011 at 9:02 pm

        Hello Bill,

        The Mona Lisa is not a book and I think the whole issue boils down, not to what we are dealing with as being not one photograph but many photographs – our perception of a book is as the engagement in a narrative that is propelled thru the turning of pages – in the end there is an understanding of an experienced witnessed. Maybe more like cinema than a painting!
        Burns could make a movie from Mona Lisa.

        Cheers Doug

  3. Aron said, on October 10, 2011 at 8:15 am

    Why 40, one minute videos? How about a 40 minutes video!?

    • Andrew said, on October 10, 2011 at 8:36 am

      I was thinking about how well something like that would work after seeing Adad Hannah’s excellent “video portraits” of Russians.

      • Aron said, on October 10, 2011 at 11:10 am

        Adad’s approach works.

  4. Tom said, on October 10, 2011 at 8:57 am

    I think it is inevitable that video will creep into our image making. The challenge is to figure out innovative ways to use video. I’ve been thinking a lot about Robert Rauschenberg’s “combines” and wondering if that concept could be updated to use stills and video in some way. Your idea sounds a little bit like the film “portraits” that Andy Warhol did (although some of those droned on for hours). I suppose everyone is different, but I’m not sure I want to switch gears and try to become a videographer (not that there’s anything wrong with it). But I am intrigued about the idea of incorporating video in some way.

    There is supposed to be a flexible display technology on “the horizon” that would permit the integration of short video into printed material. I’ve seen demos but I’m not really sure when (if) that is going to be practical (or economical). I’m also not sure how durable that technology might be.

  5. Jarrett said, on October 10, 2011 at 8:59 am

    I imagine a video might function somewhat like photographs do. To what extent though, I’m not sure. Maybe in basic serial form, “one following another.” But can they really function like photographs – who knows?
    When we’re sincerely looking at photographs, we’re investigating them – right? Really interesting photographs have lots to investigate, but I feel like this repeating video sort of negates this idea. We watch videos…but do we investigate them in the same form as we do photographs? Regarding this sample, its distracting to constantly recycle – but that’s not to say it can’t be embraced in some form…

  6. Peter Earl McCollough said, on October 10, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Hands down – Absolutely. There are things, like gesture and tacit communication, that can be partially described in a photograph yet thoroughly and succinctly expressed in short form cinema. To be quite honest, photographs are not enough anymore – I want the paintings and the pictures to move and make noise. Storytelling has always felt so empty in fractions of time with no sounds or movement – there’s just not enough room for the imagination.

    P.S. I think your photographic vision would take on a new and much needed brilliance in the filmmaking landscape. I’ve always hoped you would make that crossover.

  7. Girl Skaters (@HelloSkaterGirl) said, on October 10, 2011 at 11:56 am

    I’ve thought the same thing — moving stills or still life with motion is the way I think of it. It’s an experiment still — but, the creative challenge is to find a way to turn a still image into something with a little depth, a time element without losing the integrity of the photography.

    I’m curious what people think.


    • bill purvis said, on October 10, 2011 at 8:19 pm

      I think your video is a great success. It goes quite a way to support the concept being discussed in my view. I love the depth your movie gives to the environment of the still without as you say losing the integrity of it.

  8. Ashley Morgan said, on October 10, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Have you seen this?

    I think movies, in the past, were approached in somewhat the same way we approach photography. Banal scenes of everyday life; you have to see the entire documentary to get the full meaning.


  9. Ashley Morgan said, on October 10, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Sorry I thought it would only post a link…

  10. Bob said, on October 10, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    I think it would be like reading a book is to watching a movie, both can be enjoyed, but the book allows you to delve deeper into your own imagination and a movie directs you.

    If you view a photograph for one minute your eyes would scan all over the image and you would would create a story in your mind.

    If the same image was used in a video your eyes would focus on the movement (and sound) and i guess you miss the image as a whole.

    Therefore it would function the same if you videoed a scene for one minute with nothing moving and no sound.

    Does that make sense?

    Imagine if you showed 40 one minute videos of your holidays instead of 40 photographs !

  11. David said, on October 11, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    I think it would work really well, actually. An old acquaintence of mine, Richard Mosse, has made a number of stunning videos that feel (at least to me) very much like moving photographs. You can watch them here:

    I have a stack of books next to my bed, as many of us do, and I like to pick up a book at random just before I turn out the light and either read a page or two, or look at a photo or two if it’s a photo book, as it’s an interesting way to end the day, reflecting on a few choice words or a choice photograph. I imagine picking up an ipad or kindle or whatever and watching a minute long photograph or two would be a similarly interesting and cozy way to end the day.

  12. Don said, on October 11, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    I like the physical permanence of a book, not so much a video. Books are forever, movies, videos, blu-ray are always changing formats and something you make today in one may not be playable in the future whereas a book will always be readable, reasonable care taken with both.

  13. Mark said, on October 11, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Photography and video have a very clear dividing line: time. Watching a photographic scene move for one minute rather than looking at a photographic moment for one minute & letting people fill in that space, for me, comes down to the artist’s trust (hope?) that someone will actually look at the picture and create. I think the time frame would reassure the photographer that someone is looking, but I’m not sure it yields anything more productive.
    I’m not dismissing the idea, but I really like Lewis Baltz’s quote about photography: “a narrow, deep area between the novel and film”. I think the question for us now that we have movie cameras built into our cameras is how do you continue to attack that narrow deep area, and for a few reasons: 1) digital proliferation seems to negate photography’s narrowness and depth, 2) there is considerable pressure to reinvent the medium anew in some new digital “form” that is something more than a new frontier of old analog practice, and 3) time… there’s no possible way all photographs being created can be looked at as long as we wish, so the temptation arises to control that time via video/film.
    Also, video is much more viewable. I have only seen physically a fraction of the books I’ve studied, I own a horribly smaller percentage. But I can see, download, buy, almost any movie or video. So in one sense you just trade one digital proliferation for another.
    In closing, a jump to video should be just that, a jump or switch, and not a derivative (of a less successful format at that!) One thing to be sure of though, I’d have to see it to really know, because no frontier should be avoided… I’m just not sure why it wouldn’t be film (cinema) at that point (if that’s the case, bring it on!)

  14. Mike Fleming said, on October 12, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Those this video would most likely be described as “action sculpture,” to me it feels very connected to a lot of contemporary photography.

  15. niloo said, on October 18, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    I think No !
    because short film has a loup,
    but in a photograph time is infinitely & it is magic of photography that to can follow your thouth with out limit.

  16. Ariel said, on October 19, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    I can totally imagine it. Of course it would be different, but I think it would be lovely and wonderful and transfixing in its own right. And I think the loops would actually be weirdly meditative. It’s funny – now that it’s so easy to take videos on phones I’ve been filming many more small moments around the city. I always wanted to string them together, but as a “film” it always seemed like it would be too disjointed. As a “book” though, I think it suddenly makes sense. You should make one!

  17. Alex T. said, on October 26, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    I think — in a way, when photographs are placed in a book, it ultimately still functions in a similar way to a movie, since both formats feature sequential images.

    There is the argument of how time functions in both mediums, and this presents both formats with characteristics that are unique to itself.

    I personally think that it is possible to create a “book” or a compilation in which short videos, or GIFs. As long as the story fits the format. Maybe it’s just me, but I am a firm believer that the format in which a story is told should fit the medium that it’s told in, so why should we limit ourselves the ways in which we can tell stories?

    But at the same time, it is good to be conscious of what each medium brings to the narration. I agree with Mark and Doug, but at the same time, I think “short videos” brings in another concept / idea of time that is unique to its own format, especially with the emphasis / consideration of the loop.


  18. jacobo said, on October 29, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    that image is great, but the limits have to be set. I dont think you can have the best from both worlds, photographs have the silence of stillness. The reflection that motion does not allow. I vote for “still, still”.

  19. jacobo said, on October 29, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    as long as its fun

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