Part three : Traces of Time…

Part three: Traces of Time – An introduction

This part of the Expressing Your Vision (‘EYV’) course is all about tracing the development of photography through the introduction of ever faster exposure times.

The art of capturing and recording the world around us dates back to early man with wall drawings.  These captured scenes of daily life, landscapes and events which were used for communication, education and story telling.  Photography’s story starts circa 400BC when the Chinese and Greek philosophers explored and reported on the basic principles of optics. The rest, as they say, is history.

‘Drawing with light’ i.e. Photography, as we know it today, was born in the early 1800’s once we figured out how to fix an image for others to see and in c.1826 the first photograph was produced.  At this time exposure times were around 8 hours long, which made capturing anything moving impossible.  The subject had to be static for 8 hours for the ‘photograph’ to be successful so could not be used to capture people.

It wasn’t until c.1938 that exposure times had reduced significantly enough (to a few minutes) to capture a person. Daguerre’s ‘Boulevard du Temple’ is always quoted as the first photograph to capture human form, although it has been argued that this was staged nonetheless it was a significant point in the history of photography.

In the course notes a number of people have been referenced as pioneers of freezing motion and examples of shortening exposure times and what this meant in terms of how we see the world around us;

Muybridge (1830 – 1904) an English photographer who in 1877 captured movement as a series of stills, breaking down motion, allowing us to see what our eyes couldn’t fro example, a horse galloping has at one point all four legs off the ground at one time.

In 1906 Worthington (1852-1916) an English physicist and educator pioneered high speed photography through his work on fluid mechanics and the recording of drops and splashes.  He published a book on the subject titled “A Study of Splashes”.

In 1939, Edgerton (1903 – 1990) an American engineer was working with a photographer Gjon Mili who was using stroboscopic equipment which could flash up to 120 time per second.  This allowed Edgerton to capture a very brief moment in time which provided significant information on the behaviour of materials and substances, famously capturing in 1957 the ‘Milk Drop Coronet’ which shows how milk behaves when dropped into itself, enabling an alternative way to assess it’s properties and structure.

The projects within this part of the course explore exposure times and in particular; ‘The frozen moment’ – capturing a moment of a moving subject, ‘A durational space’ – capturing a trace of movement within the frame i.e. time as it passes using motion blur and ‘What matters is to look’ – explores the concept of the ‘decisive moment’.

To see the exercises to accompany this part of the course please head on over to Exercise 3.1.


OCA, 2014. Photography 1 Expressing Your Vision PH4EYV260814

Wikipedia. 2016. Eadweard Muybridge – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 29 August 2016].

Wikipedia. 2016. Arthur Mason Worthington – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 29 August 2016].

Wikipedia. 2016. Harold Eugene Edgerton – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 29 August 2016].

Michael Langford, 2010. Langford’s Basic Photography: The Guide for Serious Photographers. 9 Edition. Focal Press.



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