The Longest Photographic Exposures in History
Michael Wesely, a German photography artist, has created some of the longest photographic exposures in history using his own self-built pinhole camera. Each image is the result of an ongoing exposure of the same piece of film which was held in place in a pin hole camera. Some of his work has been captured over the duration of three years, which causes the exposure of the light to become a visual time capsule. Wesely claims he has the ability to do exposures indefinitely – upwards of 40 years.
The below picture documents the construction of The Museum of Modern Art in New York. The picture was taken using 4 cameras set up in 4 different corners from 2001 till 2004. The shutter was open on all cameras for a little over 34 month.
The result is a surreal documentation of the passage of time; destruction and construction happening simultaneously, the movement of the earth around the sun producing traces in the sky.
The next picture was taken at the Postdamer Plaza in Berlin over the course of two years.
The next picture was taken over the course of 14 months at the Leipziger Platz in Berlin, which at the time was the largest construction site in the world.
Both of these photos create a haunting incapsulation of time; the oldest parts of the buildings were exposed the longest, creating crisp and dark lines and clarity. The newer parts have a ghost-like transparency to them. You can actually see the passing of time – the progression of development.
My favorite Wesely photo is a modest one, but one with a very specific and eerie tone to it. It is a one-year exposure of an office which he took from 29 July 1996 to 29 July 1997.
These photos appeal to me on both a humanistic and cerebral level. Humanistic in the sense that technology and digital products did not play a part in Wesely’s process. He created very unique art with makeshift modifications to old techniques. His control of light was done using real film and real talent, the same way that music use to be recorded using analog tape and real human beings. Art created in this fashion has always endured and enjoys a much longer shelf life, and I believe Wesely’s work will live on. His work is cerebral in the sense that there is a haunting quality to these images. It is almost disturbing to know that the passage of time can be captured and documented, capturing people and places who are frozen forever in black and white photographs that may not be developed till after their death/construction. The tone and mood of these photographs are bittersweet, as they thematically explore a universal theme: life and death, birth and re-birth.