60-second slices of present // Frankfurt 2013

This year in summer I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days in Frankfurt. Considered Germany’s financial centre and paired with the largest hub-airport of mainland Europe this city should be an interesting place to explore, I assumed.

So I prepared and packed my equipment intending to take some longtime exposures there. I did a bit of research in advance on when and where to find patterns of human motion that would best fit my purpose.

One of them should be to find crowds of employees during rush hour in and around Frankfurt’s financial district with the central station being the city’s largest public transport hub.

In the end I was lucky I happened to be in the city at the right time for the Ironman European Championship 2013. This, of course, was a great opportunity to merge the aspect of human motion with the cityscape subject again.

Speaking of scale I was impressed that distances in Frankfurt are rather short. The reknown skyline along the river Main seems to indicate a large urban core, but surprisingly the historical centre and the financial district are pretty walkable.

These are a couple of the best results I got.

60-second slices of present // London 2013

© Robert Herrmann

As part of my ongoing project ”60-second slices of present“ I filled a couple of rolls when I had the opportunity to shoot in London early this year.

I have just finished editing down a huge bulk of images to what you now see below. Enjoy and stay tuned for more of this year’s slices to come.

60-second slices of present // Urbi et Orbi // Rome 2013

As mentioned in my previous post I spend Easter time in Rome this year. I had a very particular image in mind I wanted to take – the masses of people gathering on Saint Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’s Urbi et Orbi Message.

So this is my selection of shots I took in and around the Vatican on Easter enthusiastically studying the collective motion patterns of the crowd.

It always starts with an image in my mind …

At some time early in March this year I felt the urge to get out and capture some collective human motion again. With my longtime exposure project 60-second slices of present in mind and the intention to extend it beyond Berlin I asked myself where to go this time.

Inspired by the news reports on the election of the new pope, an image instantly popped up in my mind – the image of Saint Peter’s Square packed with people. So then, why not go to Rome for Easter? Surely I could find what I was looking for during the Pope’s Urbi et Orbi Message on Easter Sunday.

Sketch of Saint Peter's Square

Built between 1656 and 1667 according to the planning of Roman architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini Saint Peter’s Square itself marks an oval with an obelisk in its centre. Symmetrically framed by two curved colonnades at both ends of its major axis it lies in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica – the heart of Vatican – and opens up to Via della Conciliazione, which belongs to Roman territory already.

I was aware of the fact that the image I had in mind was a bird’s eye view and thus, a rather impossible one to get from that vantage point. It was infact similar to the iconic photograph that National Geographic’s Thomas Abercrombie took back in 1966 of another highly symbolic and religiously charged place – the Kaaba in Mecca.

Abercrombie’s image is fascinating not only because it conveys a sense of place but also because it depicts the motion of the masses which in itself is a part of the religious ritual of the Hajj. So this similarity ultimately leads me back to my own photographic essay on collective human motion.

Of course, I couldn’t really get a high perspective on Saint Peter’s Square. Even more so as I was late for the Urbi et Orbi Message after having documented the masses on their way to the square. So I wouldn’t get in anymore. Then instead I hurried and fell back on finding myself an appropriate point of view on Via della Conciliazione.

With Saint Peter’s Basilica at the vanishing point and the camera set in an angle slightly above the crowd these are the two best shots I got:

Urbi et Orbi

Right after Urbi et Orbi on Via della Conciliazione

I shot two rolls at that point during the Pope’s message and afterwards. Then it was overwhelming to see the masses leave the square and move towards me. The motion wouldn’t end for more than an hour and all these people where walking along the main street to finally sprawl into the centre of Rome at the other bank of the Tiber.

Considering the result it might not exactly be corresponding to what I had imagined in the first place, but I find it at least as beautiful. I am happy I found a way to react on the circumstances and in the end, of course, nothing beats the experience of actually being there.

Well, and it always starts with an image in my mind …

60-second slices of present // Warsaw 2012

2012 was a fruitful year as to continuing my photo project “60-second slices of present”. In my last post on the selection of 60-second shots from Berlin I mentioned that I plan to extend this work with photos from other cities around the world, too. So here’s a start at that: last year in October I spend a couple of days in Warsaw and these are the fruits of that trip:

To me it seemed present Warsaw has a fast pulse. The images reflect on this city’s young past, its uprising economic power and its vast infrastructural spaces with lots of buzz and motion in them.

I remember having very much enjoyed the city’s vibe. Besides using 25 ASA black and white negative material I also tested out Fuji Velvia 50 for my purpose to see how one Warsaw minute would look like in color.

I like the colour shots, too. There is a certain subtlety to them the monochrome ones don’t seem to have. But still, for the future, I decided to keep the project in black and white just to keep it consistent.

Here’s a shot from behind the scenes. It was taken while I was exposing the first shot of the twelve shown above. I think it questions how limited our concept of time is and what happens if, for a shot, the timespan is extended out of the conventional frame of human perception.


60-second slices of present // Berlin 2012

Now that 2013 has just started, I’d like to present a selection of last year’s “60-second slices of present”. This sparse, yet compact selection of works is part of the eponymous ongoing series that I started almost three years ago. It has become a pleasure to reflect on the project’s development since.

What, out of sheer curiosity, started as a rather simple experiment to depict man-made, yet manless space has now become more than just some sophisticalaborate longtime exposure photo trickery. I’d like to consider it has become a kind of research about how we as human beings perceive time.

It seems that above our spatial scale we also possess a temporal one. And more a side product it was, that with a haphazardly chosen timespan of 60 seconds I found out about the beautiful sculpturality of frozen collective human motion.

And in the end, to be honest – taking daylight longtime exposures has grown to be an obsession. Having a delicate glimpse into the future besprinkled with a pinch of well-guarded lunacy I not only want to examine Berlin’s urban space, but other cities, too. I want to find out about the scale of other cities and I want to elaborate a way to capture their pulse.

As 21st century’s citizens are going to be mostly urban inhabitants and the phenomenon of highly populated and high-density agglomerations is predicted to extend around the globe it will even more be interesting to establish an archive of 60-second material that will allow comparisons.

New 60-second slices of present

Some time ago I introduced my idea to a conceptual series I named 60-second slices of present. What had started as an experiment about two years ago has ever since been becoming a long-term photo project. Here comes a selection of last year’s results.