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August 4, 2009
Detail of #1075 (2008), London, recorded time: 46 seconds, full image size: 26 x 240 cm
Hungarian-born artist Adam Magyar (now living in Berlin) creates magical, long, thin, stretchy images that look like parades of people all moving in the same direction.
The technique behind the images is almost as interesting as the wonderful images themselves. Magyar, a former computer programmer, designed and built his own slit-scan camera that connects to his laptop and stitches together several hundred individual one-pixel-wide vertical scans of busy urban streets to create the illusion of a panoramic snapshot with slight fun-house-mirror distortions.
The camera operates much the same way as your typical flat-bed office scanner works, but because his camera stays fixed on a tripod while pedestrians and vehicles move in front of it, he achieves effects that are not quite real. For instance, everyone appears to be always walking in the same direction, no matter which way they were facing when the camera scanned them.
This is what Adam Magyar writes about this series:
What you see in my images is not space but tangible time.
I took these photos with a self-developed digital slit-cam; they are not the results of a digital photo manipulation.
With the slit-scan technique, a fraction of a moment is recorded through a 1-pixel wide slit several hundred times per second. The time and space slices recorded this way and placed right next to each other generate an image without a perspective; it is the passing of time itself that turns into space by moving forward in time from the right side toward the left in each image.
In other words, the events recorded on the right side of the image took place earlier than the ones on the left, also meaning that the people in the photos never existed together in the form shown by the image. So the people in the right-hand side of the image had grown several minutes older by the time the people seen in the left side passed my camera.
As a result of this time-space connection, all the people and vehicles in the photos are heading in one direction. The time indicated beside the images is the time it tool to record the image.
This method is capable of recording movement only. All the static objects appear as stripes and lanes, like the windows of city buildings in the background.
Photo-finish cameras operate based on the very same principle, so I could also say I took photo-finishes during the preparation of this series in an urban environment without a finish line and ranks.
Be sure to check out all the images on his beautifully designed website, www.magyaradam.com, which allows you to drag your pointer to magnify any detail of each image.
with his self-designed scanner camera
It's ironic that I met Adam at a four day event titled (tongue in cheek?) "Photography is Dead" at the Rhubarb-Rhubarb photo festival and portfolio review in Birmingham, UK. As far as I can tell, his full-scale images (almost 9 feet wide) have never been exhibited outside his native Hungary, and festivals in Rome and Shanghai.