Victorian-Era Photography Captures Acrobatic Bodies in Motion

Some of the earliest photographic technology explored bodies in motion: those of humans, animals, and objects. One of these technologies, known as chronophotography, involved capturing the movement of bodies or objects in several frames of a photographic print. The individual print could be arranged like animation cells, as in a zoetrope, or layered in a single frame to show a sort of ethereal movement. Like wet plate photographer Shane Balkowitsch, Italian artist and photographer Manuel Cafini became enamored with this technology from the Victorian Era and decided to update it for the digital age, dubbing his process ChronoPhotography+.

“The evolution (the ‘+’ in the title of the project) from this antique technique is the figure of the athlete or dancer, well-defined and clear at the end of the timing sequence,” Cafini tells Creators. “No one had given importance to this until now.”

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‘Evolution.’ All images courtesy the artist

Instead of using the old analogue technique for his photos, Cafini uses a Nikon digital camera with a flash in multimode. This allows him to get the crisp, final image of his subjects, which tend to be athletes, dancers, and models. Incredibly, there is no post-production involved.

The ethereal movement captured through the original chronophotography technique remains, but Cafini gives the sequence’s final pose a clear, more defined image. While not a total reinvention, ChronoPhotography+ does infuse the 19th century photographic technique a new or at least updated aesthetic touch. And whereas the old technique is in black and white, Cafini gives his human subjects natural color, which makes it seem both modern and antique at the same time.

‘Black Butterfly’

‘Black Swan’




Click here to see more of Manuel Cafini’s work.



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