Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lecture Highlights

Missed Christina Seely's lecture? Can't decide if it's worth it to sit down and listen to the mp3? Here are some highlights to spark your interest.
Seely started her lecture by discussing the NASA photo that inspired her project, saying: "About 5 years ago I became kind of obsessed with this map, really intrigued by it and interested in it…the information on it is unique in that it’s us--in the form of light." She went on to point out that though the concentration of light in the US, Western Europe and Japan (the three regions on which her project is focused) indicate the creation by those regions of half the world's CO2 and consumption of two-thirds of the world's resources, it is also, indisputably, a beautiful image.
This is partly because "since the dawn of electricity, man-made light has represented hope and ingenuity and romance and progress and basically fundamentally positive and hopeful things." Speaking of the history of man's use of electricity, Seely used a photograph of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair and a small-town newspaper description of the wonder of streetlights, demonstrating some of the historical research behind her project.
Having laid the groundwork, Seely moved on to discuss the details of Lux, which she shot using an old analog camera complete with "dark cloth" over her head and exposure times of 1-4 hours. Utilizing a somewhat archaic form of photography to capture the effects of modern technology is part of the "tension" and "back-and-forth" to which Seely returned at many points in the lecture and sees as fundamental to her project.
Viewers might be interested to learn that there is absolutely no extra lighting or daylight involved in her images and that they are lit by the cities' ambient light and moon/starlight alone.
Seely spent the last part of her lecture discussing individual images in the Lux project, but you'll have to listen to the full lecture to hear her interesting and sometimes hilarious anecdotes about her adventures in shooting.
As part of her efforts to get viewers to think about these metropolises in different ways, Seely avoids identifying which photo is of which city and including iconic buildings or monuments too prominently in her images. For instance, she shot New York from Hoboken, New Jersey instead of using the iconic postcard shot that the view from Brooklyn provides.
See if you can spot Edinburgh Castle, Brussels' Justice Palace, Berlin's Potsdamer Platz, St. Louis' arch or D.C.'s Capitol Building. All are somewhat visible but not obvious in Seely's photographs.
Other interesting points to note are the streaks of planes landing at Newark airport in the New York image, the moon going in and out of clouds in Paris, a Christmas star in Phoenix, the streak of a passing ferry in Seattle and a graveyard in Yokohama City.
While only 10 of Christina's 45 Lux photographs are on display at CCAS, you can get a sense of the others on her website.
The final audience questioner made the point that for all that the project draws attention to energy use and man's effect on the planet, in Seely's beautiful photographs "it doesn’t look like something you would want to turn off." It a tension that Seely acknowledges and welcomes.
There are many more insights into the images and Seely's work in general to be gained from listening to the lecture, so be sure to check it out if you want to know more. And of course, come down and see the show in person at CCAS!

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