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Photography in Film and Video
Stephen Gordon
Photography in Film and Video
The still image occupies an important place not only in artists' film and video work but also in film history.

Still images are at the very core of the evolution of film. The initial experimentations with the moving image were usually limited to sequentially ordered, photographic still images projected through the use of the lanterna magica or 'magic lantern', the forerunner to the modern slide projector.

Classical film theory argued that photography and film demand entirely different ways of seeing and perceiving. For many early 20th century film theorists, such as Bela Belazs and Rudolph Arnheim, the question of photography and its relation to film was deemed irrelevant. Their main concern was to highlight the uniqueness and autonomy of film and cinema in relation to other artistic forms such as photography, theatre and literature.

The question of photography's relation to film is approached from a theoretical perspective by Andre Bazin and Siegfried Kracauer. Influenced by the realist movement, for Bazin and Kracauer the relation between photography and film was fundamentally structural. Therefore, the sole purpose of photography and photographic technology is to recreate reality, divested of artistic interpretation. However, film is deemed somewhat closer to reality as, unlike photography, the film image enables the spectators to look beyond the frame.

This dominant way of thinking about photography and film as separate, autonomous, self-defining media has permeated discussions on still photography's relation to the moving image for many years. Nevertheless, still photographic image practices within time-based media became central through the growth of experimental filmmaking, the theoretical ideas of László Maholy-Nagy, first published in Produktion-Reproduktion (1922), in films such as Manhatta (1921) by Paul Strand, through photographer/ cinematographers such as Helmar Lerski, along with many other photographer/ filmmakers such as Raymond Depardon, Chris Marker, William Klein, Hollis Frampton, Robert Frank and Helen Levitt.

A still from Fractal Dread by Stephen Gordon
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