How the artist turns a random crowd into an extraordinary series of coincidences.
Time-lapse videos are addictively watchable because they function like magic, allowing us to view change and evolution at rapid-speed, regardless of Grandfather Time's rules.
It's obvious that time-lapse projects play with, well, time. We can watch a girl learn to dance over the course of a year in a mere two minutes, or watch someone grow older instantly. Few of these works, however, toy with space as creatively as photographer Pelle Cass.
The Boston-based artist tackles time-lapse from another dimensional perspective. He chooses a specific location -- a public park, a street corner -- and takes hundreds of exposures of the spot over a day, allowing him to layer passerby after passerby, car after car, creating chaotic and often hilarious environments.
The photograph series, titled "Selected People," is more than trick photography though. While our documentary illustrates why his photos are worth a double-take, Cass also sent us a list of rules he follows that prevent his work from falling into shtick or gimmick. Call them his 8 Commandments of Photography:
1. I don't change a thing and I never move a figure or doctor a single pixel. I simply decide what's stays in and what's left out.
2. My work looks real because it is real, even though it's based on a trick. 3. I use Photoshop to increase imperfection, not remove it. 4. When I go out to photograph I like to have a plan because I can always bag it when I get back to the studio and do something completely different. 5. I try to have some context so I'm not just taking pictures in the dark, as it were. So I try to read a million books, see a ton of movies, listen to all kinds of music, and go to every gallery and museum I can find. 6. I never pass up the chance to make a joke, visual or otherwise.
7. People tend to clump, so I look for birds and kids to fill the high and low spots.
8. Rule: If twins happen to wander into the frame, I always leave them in so people think it's a Photoshop trick.
We asked Cass to expand on his photo tips with specific examples, and he sent us the following.
Rule 1: I don't change a thing and I never move a figure or doctor a single pixel. I simply decide what's stays in and what's left out. See photo above.
"This is my main rule and all the pictures illustrate it, no matter how improbable the arrangement of figures turns out to be," says Cass.
In the photo above, for example, I knew that eventually people would form a perfect “X," even if it wasn’t simultaneous. More cosmically, maybe we are in a multiverse in which everything possible has happened/is happening at the same time. Ask those kooky physicists.
Rule 3: I use Photoshop to increase imperfection, not remove it.
"It’s a common amateur’s mistake to have something obscuring the main subject matter," explains Cass. "A pro has total control--so this image is all mistakes."
Rule 6: I never pass up the chance to make a joke, visual or otherwise. See above.
"The first picture looks ordinary enough: people waiting to cross the street, looking off to the left," says Cass. "But it turns out that it’s all men on one side, all women on the other. It turns out something does arrive. It’s the second picture, which is made up from the same set of exposures covering an hour or so, which shows families holding hands. It’s as if they procreated in the middle of the street."
Rule 7: People tend to clump, so I look for birds and kids to fill the high and low spots.
"Frog Pond" (above) shows that dogs are also handy compositional aids, too.
8. Rule: If twins happen to wander into the frame, I always leave them in so people think it’s a Photoshop trick.
"I do it because I want to cast doubt even on myself by occasionally telling the untricked-up truth instead of always presenting a trick," says Cass.
For more time-lapse focused art check out past articles from The Creators Project: