Video? Bah!

Last week I mused about the value of photography when everyone's snapping shots willy-nilly. In the age of YouTube, Vimeo, and countless other outlets, does video provoke the same questions?

Nope. Video is not photography in motion. Moving pictures are different.

Okay, I know someone out there is going to bust on my ontological parsings. Someone's going to assert the obvious: videos and photographs are certainly closer than tomatoes and bulldozers. Fear not, this is not an academic deconstruction.

But video and photography not the same.

This is to say that video's ubiquity reflects a different phenomenon. Where photography freezes time, video extends time. Video is not so much the capturing of a moment that can be repeated in motion, but  a technique for reliving an experience, or experiencing it vicariously. When time stops for a photograph, we must stop too, even for an instant. We spend time with photographs considering single, immeasurable instants. No matter how briefly we flip through photographs we always spend more time with them than the asymptotically short amounts of time it takes to freeze that image.

Moving pictures have no such gravity. They're ephemeral, like sound. Unless they have either an unusual value afforded by some rare scene they've recorded or (and this is more to the point) a particularly refined aesthetic sense about their presentation, video is just a time-suck, a drain in the day, a deadening thickness of air.

Wait. What? Video? Time-waster?

Yes, video IS one of the biggest parts of our production company. And…why, yes, we DO think we're really, really good at it.

But video demands consumption of time differently than photographs. If you turn away from a photograph you've just seen, the singularity of that image has already been imprinted. If you turn away from video…you're missing it as it happens. People watch video while doing other things, no doubt, but they're not watching intensely, deeply. You cannot ponder what you do not fully sense, and you cannot fully sense visual media without seeing it.

So, does video ever have a place in fine art? Does video ever matter? I believe it does. But it's not the same as a photograph in motion. Video excels at telling stories, at narrative trajectories and passage of time. Photography captures feelings and moods. No doubt each discipline can steal air from the other's balloon: video can evoke moods while a picture can tell stories in single frames. But if you're asking someone to invest time in a moment you consider important enough to share, be sure you've chosen the right tool for the job.


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