"Stretch your arm from the elbow forward, and clutch your fist. Shift slowly your weight from one leg to another, while rotating your fist." A dancer can translate this sentences into a movement almost instantly. But how to translate contemporary dance into photography? If one enters "dance photography" in Google Image Search, hundreds of images turn up, tack sharp, showing one or more dancers with at least one leg stretched high in the air, dressed in classical costumes. If we add "contemporary" term to the previous search, only costumes change, while the dancers are still caught in "the decisive moment" of leaving the floor. As André Bazin said "the photographer creates a real light moulding, a cast with the help of a lens... opposed to the film that manages a paradox of adjusting itself to the time of an object, while at the same time creating a casting of its duration." Is there a possibility of inscribing the movement and the passage of time into one single photograph?
7 1/2 Minutes Solo contains 15 photographs of a dancer performing a set of movements, which form a contour of a choreography. Each movement lasts for 30 seconds and resembles vocabulary used by contemporary choreographers such as Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Mathilde Monnier or Jérôme Bel. The movements were not simply taken over, but transformed to emphasise its trace on a single negative. Just as Bel uses "ordinary movement and non-dancers", the performer in this piece is not a professional, but a person with higher than average motor activity. His red trousers and striped T-shirt echo the outfits worn by two dancers during rehearsal in Claire Denis film "Vers Mathilde".
The duration of the exposure corresponded to that of the movement and was exactly 30 seconds per photograph. Through long time exposure, the whole move is recorded, both in its shape and its duration. In contrary to the film image, the motion and the time did not surrender offhand to this inscription. While they were captured on the negative, they eroded two qualities of photography: sharpness and exact colour rendition. The movement attacked the sharpness, effaced it from the whole motive and pushed it to its very base: the grain itself. Time took advantage of another weak point of the negative: different sensitivity of three colour layers to light, when exposed for a longer period of time. Where there was grey, it inscribed blue-green in the shadows, and yellow-red in the midtones. It exposed the negative as three, not as one.
What is left of the image, when the erosion was done? If we think of erosion as washing away, then with the lack of sharpness and neutrality of colour, the movement became clear in its ephemerality, unable to be caught, emphasised as a trace left. It is a remembrance of what moved, touched us when we perceived that movement, from the moment when the last toe left the floor until the first toe touched it again. Movements form vocabulary, where repetition is encouraged. Instead of being labeled as candidates with one of them included as the pick and others left as rejects, similar motives possess equal value with their own rhythm, timbre and tone.
1 André Bazin, Qu ́est-ce que le cinéma?, (Paris: 1975), 151.
2 Duration has inscribed itself in the title of the work and changes with the number of images shown or submitted. In this particular stance the total span of movements and exposure for 15 images was 7 1/2 minutes.
3 Sanjoy Roy, “Step-by-step guide to dance: Jérôme Bel”, The Guardian, November 22, 2011,
4 Vers Mathilde, DVD, directed by Claire Denis (2005; France: Why Not Productions, 2005)