So our Summer Project’s theme is Dreams/Reality. AKA: A brief so wide even M&S refused to sell it in the knicker department…
One of my immediate ideas for this project was to look to a form of photography called ICM: Intentional Camera Movement. There’s no big reveal here, ICM means exactly what it says and involves combining long exposures with camera movement to create images that bear a fleeting resemblance, if at all, to the subject shot.
I love photographing the natural world and ICM lends itself well to this. In fact, it was this shot of “The Bluebells with Beech Trees at Ashtead Estate” that first drew my attention to ICM. Involving a vertical tilt during exposure; the swathes of merging colour and long “strokes” verge on Monet-esque, if such a word exists.
The second image is the same scene shot conventionally and, while perfectly acceptable, is ultimately forgettable. Sorry, Colin.
ICM focuses on expression and interpretation versus reality. And how you get there is up to you. There are no set rules as to how you move the camera while the sensor is exposed. Depending on your subject it could be a pan, a tilt, a twirl (is that a photographic term?)… whatever works best. Sometimes the effect is almost painterly, impressionistic even; at others quite abstract and surreal. But there’s a dreamlike quality, regardless.
Imagine that feeling where you’re almost awake – but not quite – and able to connect with your slumbering, stumbling imagination. An unreal “Wonderland” where nothing is quite as it seems or, indeed, should be… yet, you still feel you can reach out and touch it. That, for me, is ICM.
And if you’re more prone to nightmares than fairytales (more del Toro than Disney, say), then picture a slip-sliding mashup of The Upside Down and 1Q84. (Accepted, if you’ve never heard of Stranger Things or Marakami, I’ll have lost you now, but you’ll catch up.) Yep, that’s ICM, too.
The British photographer, Chris Friel – described by the journalist, Carol Cooper, as dwelling “in the smudgy borderlands between dreams and reality” – takes ICM to another level. The first time I saw his work I felt like I’d been punched. How could these be photographs? How did he do it? How could I do that? So many questions.
It made sense to discover that Chris was once a painter. What did not make sense was the discovery that he’s red/blue colour blind and initially stuck to monochrome photography because he had no confidence in his use of colour. Yet now colour streams through his images; piercing the darkness, demanding attention and pulling you into his world.
Friel uses multiple exposures and long exposures with ICM with the aim “of trying to interpret a scene rather than just represent it”. He works with a Canon 5D MK III (which has a multi-exposure function and 4 blending modes), sometimes with a tilt-shift lens to control perspective and allow a specific focal area amidst the blur. Exposures are typically 3-5 seconds, handheld using manual focus and ICM.
My untrained eye had presumed Chris must ace Photoshop, but – get this – it’s his idea of hell. He creates nearly everything in-camera (hence the 5D MK III), resorting, at worst, to a quick 5-mins in Adobe Lightroom.
I think he is a fricking genius.
Read more about Chris and his techniques here: