My Photography, Photography Story

From audio to video

Last year when COVID restrictions prevented choirs from gathering together, one I belong to persevered practising via Zoom. When we “knew” a particular piece, we each individually recorded ourselves singing our parts on one device (as best we could whilst listening to a backing track through headphones attached to a separate device) and sent our recorded contributions to our musical director. Then they were mixed together to create a finished product. One piece that was handled in that way was God the Sculptor of the Mountains.

Now, in COVID lockdown, the choir is back to Zoom practices again which means a forthcoming service celebrating creation during a Sustainability Festival will almost certainly have to be via Zoom. The organisers wanted to have the choir involved singing an appropriate piece. So that resulted in my being asked to convert the God the Sculptor recording into a video using some of my photographs for the visuals.

I chose images to reflect one word from each line of the song – 23 in all. Here are five of the images and the lines from the song that they illustrate.

I used an image taken at Interlaken in 2006 to illustrate a mountain:

God the sculptor of the mountains

Then it was an image of a stepson playing the role of Pharaoh in a stage musical.

God the nuisance to the Pharaoh

An image from the Barossa Valley in 2009 illustrated a vineyard.

God the dresser of the vineyard

Then one from Delhi in 2008.

we are hungry; feed us now

And a touch of fun with an image taken in Boorowa in July this year.

God the table turning prophet

Then I set about making the video using Microsoft’s Video Editor software. I needed to create some title slides for the beginning of the video, identifying the song by title, crediting the author of the words and music, crediting the musical director of the choir and crediting my own photography. I was able to use one of the 23 images as background in some of those title slides and found suitable images of the church, the musical director and myself to use in others.

After sharing my “finished” product with the musical director and the liturgist putting the service together, I took up a couple of suggestions and revised the video (using the somewhat more sophisticated Movie Maker Video Editor, also by Microsoft) adding fades between most slides plus one additional image at the very end as the music ended.

This was an interesting experience. I learned a lot and I expect this will not be the last video I create.

Interested readers can see all the images by watching the final finished video at https://youtu.be/jwLirAOX1uE and at https://vimeo.com/600743991

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Reviews

At the point of a singular horizon

Photomedia Exhibition Review

Ren Gregorčič | At the point of a singular horizon

M16 Artspace | Until 4 April

This modest exhibition features a new body of video and image-based work by artist and researcher Ren Gregorčič “interrogating the interface of digitally mediated expressions of structurally mediated environments”. Modest only in the sense that it comprises just a 2:33 minutes video, two digital prints of texture map images – and a catalogue. Not ordinary, unimposing or, for that matter, inexpensive – although much less costly than was recently achieved with a non-fungible token (NFT), another form of digital asset.

Gregorčič is an artist working in the field of sculpture and spatial practice. He explores how various mechanisms are expressed in architecture, infrastructure, urban planning and nature-management. He often combines artistic, philosophic and social research to produce creative outputs.

Here, Gregorčič explores a 3D reconstruction of a garden plot within an internal concrete courtyard of a converted high school building in Canberra. He used photogrammetry, a computational method that constructs 3D digital geometry from photographic data. The 3D rendering produced the video, showing a simulated light source passing across the surface of the digital object at different angles.

The texture maps (images that are applied to surfaces of 3D models to give them colour and detail) are also outcomes of the photogrammetric process. From a top-down view, the digital reconstruction seems complete and cohesive; from other angles, it appears distorted and broken. This structural/aesthetic quality is a result of the software used seeking to make a complete object from incomplete data.

Ren Gregorčič, At the point of a singular horizon (Texture Map No. 5), 2020-21. Digital print

Reference photographs used to produce the digital reconstruction were taken at sunset, fixing native shadows onto the 3D object’s surface. In the video work, a light source simulating the sun moving across the sky has been used to illuminate the digital object. This produced subtle moments where the fixed and projected shadows overlap as the garden plot fades in and out of view.

Despite the few works on display, this is an exhibition worthy of your time, studying the texture maps closely and watching the video again and again, properly taking everything in. In the video, I found I was viewing collages, assembled by the digital processes. Gaps appeared at times, seemingly placing irregularly shaped black holes amongst the green leaves, weeds, rocks and much more. Watching it was a seductive experience.

Ren Gregorčič, At the point of a singular horizon (video still), 2021 -Image 1
Ren Gregorčič, At the point of a singular horizon (video still), 2021 -Image 2
Ren Gregorčič, At the point of a singular horizon (video still), 2021 -Image 7

An excellent catalogue essay by Eryk Salvaggio (an artist and researcher from the USA) describes the body of work as “A total portrait without omissions”. That is an interesting concept to consider. How difficult it would be to create such a portrait of a person. How could we reveal absolutely everything about any one person in a portrait? It would need to be a complex portrait combining many images. Even then it is difficult to imagine there being nothing about the subject that was not revealed.

I recalled reading an article with the same “total portrait without omissions” title years ago. The author, who had been struggling with editing images for a book, wrote about how she could structure text in her head, seeing it somewhat like a 3D form, but struggled to do the same with imagery for a book. That resonates with me. Salvaggio also writes “The once theoretical concept of a life lived through screens moved from cyberpunk fiction to lived experience for much of the world in 2020.” Those of us who have immersed ourselves in Zoom and similar systems all know what he is saying. Just one more thought to consider whilst viewing Gregorčič’s video in this intriguing show.

This review was published by the Canberra Times on 29/3/21 here. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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