Typically with timelapse photography, a series of photographs shot over a long period of time is played back at high speed. This gives the impression of hour-long events like sunsets happening in mere seconds. But forget this standard: in the timelapse photography of Boston-based artist Pelle Cass, hour-long events seem to happen in just one frame.
In his “Selected People” series, Cass overlays hundreds of photographs taken from the same location in a way that is at once believable and dubious. After setting up his camera and photographing people in public places for some time, Cass returns to his work station to assess his images. Starting with a frame empty of distractions, Cass slowly masks people, one by one, into the Photoshop frame until he’s formed photographs that document everyone who’s passed through a city point during the day, but not exactly at the same time. Through this process, Cass often forms elegant, yet humorous scenes that leave the viewer questioning what’s real.
At first it can be hard to find the magic in Cass’ work. To show us what makes his photographs exceptional, Cass sent the Creators Project, a list of rules he follows as he creates his “Selected People” pieces. Below you’ll find the highlights.
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.
As doctored as Cass’ photos may sometimes look, no element is ever altered in any if his photos. He simply chooses which elements will remain present in his mashups:
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 6: I never pass up the chance to make a joke, visual or otherwise.
Cass spends hours upon hours studying his images for ironic or humorous points. This attention to detail is apparent in his final products:
The first picture looks ordinary enough: people waiting to cross the street, looking off to the left. 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 8: If twins happen to wander into the frame, I always leave them in so people think it’s a Photoshop trick.
As intricate as you may find Cass’ work, don’t doubt that he’s having fun during every moment of his process:
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.”
In this documentary by the Creators Project, follow Cass to the High Line in New York and listen as he explains the method behind his work:
For more on Cass’ rules of photography, visit the Creators Project.
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