Mark Summers

Long-exposure portrait of improvising sax player Martin Archer.

Long-exposure self-portrait of improvisation.

Long-exposure self-portrait of improvisation.

Long-exposure portrait of improvising violinist Mark Z.

12 long-exposure self-portraits of improvisation.

Mark Summers

I developed an interest in photography early on after getting a 110 camera with tokens from a breakfast cereal.

I am currently working on images that photographically examine the act of musical improvisation.

Improvisers are given a space and time in which they can play, with their movements creating the image. A static camera makes the image while the musician plays. The length of the improvisation is determined by the exposure time which, by using a pinhole camera, is around four minutes. In effect this stretches standard photographic time (fractions of a second) into musical time (minutes).

The long exposure times mean that an image must be built up gradually. In these circumstances, a relatively brief movement will not appear if performed once, but may become visible if repeated multiple times. For example, a single note bowed on a stringed instrument will be invisible, but a trace of that movement may be seen if twenty notes are similarly bowed. The resulting images are somewhat impressionistic, suggesting (but not directly depicting) the improviser’s movements.

The whole process is a collaboration, so responsibility for the final image is shared between the photographer and the improviser.

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