Recently, I have undertaken the task of converting old super 8, VHS and other analog media from my past into a digital format. I have been a photographer in one form or another, most of my life, doing whatever I could to slow life down, to savor it in any way I could. (I have kept a journal since I was in the 6th grade!) It was only when my wife and I had our first child that I invested time and effort into capturing moments with a video camera ( and, of course, continuing to enjoy using my Cannon AE1 film camera to capture stills). The video camera was a well built, mechanical device with many moving parts, all meticulously synchronized to work together upon pressing the little record button in an ergonomically convenient location. We used that recorder for many years. The digital revolution suddenly invaded our lives with the advent of smart phones. The cameras and video capture features improved with each new model of smart phone. The brick sized analog video recorder was set aside, with the tapes, not to be be picked up again, until now, 22 years later. With my converting project, I use the video recorder as a player, connected to my laptop, watching, reviewing and editing down the old tapes.
Life is connected moments. Still photography captures those moments and freezes them forever. When those images are viewed later, and time erodes the memory of the surrounding circumstances, the viewer surmises details of what might have been said or felt at that time. Video documents segments of sound and movement ,and when viewed later, there is no doubt what happened, what voices sounded like, if there were birds in the trees chipping or crickets trilling in the grass on a hot summer night. The sound and movement is missing in still photography.
One is not any less valid as a medium of capture than the other. Still photography simply allows more room for interpretation. Video capture fills in the gaps with the reality of the event ,recording or documenting the actual moments strung together.
One of my favorite photographs of our daughter, Caroline is the one below. It is hanging on our wall and I pass it every day on the way out the back door. I know it was taken when she was about 8 years old. I like her inquisitive, open expression. It stands alone as a photograph to interpret and enjoy regardless of the what, whens and wheres.
One day last week, I came across a clip of tape from the time the photo was taken. I must have had the video camera in one hand and my Cannon AE1 in the other! While watching, I was captivated and charmed by the video clip! It was a document of what was actually happening surrounding the photograph!
This discovery of the video clip as a backdrop to the still photo of Caroline doesn’t diminish the image in my mind. It simply provides reference to the event surrounding the click of the shutter. The play Million Dollar Quartet is built around a famous photograph of Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins all at the piano. A freeze of the actors in that exact tableau during the show offers the viewer the anchor to the action surrounding that famous image. Video provides the reality of the event.
Art is something, I believe the viewer is a participant in, bringing their own interpretation to the art experience. Video and still photography are really not comparable with that concept in mind. The capture using each format is unique and has value in recording what we can of this beautiful life.