Lichtaffen Atomicus

Our second six-week project this term was to recreate a studio photograph, then make an interpretation of that image. I chose Philippe Halsman‘s jumping pictures, and made I think an ok recreation of this image of Marilyn Monroe (I haven’t checked whether the model minds me putting the image online yet). This was my interpretation:

Lichtaffen Atomicus

It’s an homage to Dali Atomicus, based around Albert Einstein’s nickname for photographers as ‘lichtaffen’ – german for ‘light monkeys’. The Einstein image is by Halsman too.

I kept friends and family up until late on a Sunday night trying to take this shot. I had my mother holding the chair, Abi throwing beads from one side, Ben throwing monkeys from the other and Dad trying to press the shutter at just the right moment. The project had to be on film, so we took about 70 shots on digital to get roughly consistent results, then 36 ‘blind’ shots on black & white film. My legs caved in a few shots from the end!

None of the shots came out quite as I wanted – in the above you can’t see the camera around my neck and the yellow beads are covering a little too much of Einstein – but there are so many variables that something’s always dodgy, and I’m happy with the end result. The final black and white print is different – I’ll get the negative scanned in at some point – but similar enough to the above that you get the idea.

We had the critical assessment yesterday and people seemed to like it, which was nice. I liked someone’s description of it as a ‘box of madness’ 🙂
Other final shot possibilities are here, and outtakes here. Thanks to everyone who helped with this – no way I could have done it without you!

Dali Atomicus water confusion

Bleurgh. Cold. Inevitable really, given that everybody around me has been going down for weeks. Lemsip ftw.

I’m giving a presentation on the photographer Philippe Halsman this Friday. This is probably his most famous image, Dali Atomicus:

Dali Atomicus

A collaboration between him and the pictured Salvador Dali, it’s possibly the most famous surrealist photograph1. If you look at a larger version, the position of the cats mirrors their image in the left-hand painting. It’s a wonder the shot took ‘only’ 28 attempts (with a darkroom development period between each). I always feel sorry for the cats.

But here’s what’s confusing me: the water. If the picture truly is a one-shot affair with no manipulation, it’s a very odd result – the path of the water doesn’t conform to Newtonian gravity. The obvious possibility is an assistant with a bucket moving the path, but the shot’s apparent short shutter-speed seems to rule this out. The most plausible method is suggested here: the person threw the water then got the hell of out the frame. That seems unlikely, looking at the scale of the room, but might be possible. Or maybe the water was released above the frame? Would water retain that kind of a path when falling? Given the disruption of the stream by the uppermost cat, the water must have been ‘spread’ from left to right. It’s much thinner towards the bottom left, which is curious.

There are wider-angle shots, but nothing that gives any hints. I think I need experiments to figure out how this was done, but they might not go down well in the university studios…:-)

  1. prepared to be proven wrong on this []

World Jump Day

World Jump Day (Stratford-upon-Avon, UK)

At 11:39 this morning it was the official time for World Jump Day!

It has been scientifically proven that if at least 600,000,000 people jump simultaneously on July 20th, we can stop global warming, extend daylight hours, and create a more homogeneous climate! Help drive the earth into a new orbit!

Obviously it’s not entirely serious 🙂 I’m currently the only photo in the World Jump Day Flickr group. I hope it’s not a big conspiracy to make me look stupid.