For a series of photographs titled Water Sculpture, completed in 2009, New York-based artist Shinichi Maruyama used high-speed photography to capture dynamic action shots of the stuff we drink every day. By zeroing in on specific moments, Maruyama showed water in a way that we’re incapable of perceiving in real life, no matter how closely we stare at the tap. His most recent series, however, takes the opposite approach. For Nude, he combined thousands of photographs of a disrobed dancer into a series of composite images, effectively packing an entire range of moments and movements into single shots. Basically, it’s what life might look like if we could set our eyeballs to long exposure.
Both the nudes and the water series show Maruyama’s skill for conveying an urgent sense of motion in a still image. But where the droplets of water, frozen like sculpture, implied that motion, the nudes actually show it. The figure in the image, the photographer explains, is created by combining some 10,000 individual photographs, snapped as the dancer moved against a black backdrop. Where the water shots merely edited time, the nude pictures layer it.
But as the artist points out, his new images show something that never really existed—at least not in a way that abides to time as we experience it. "By putting together uninterrupted individual moments," Maruyama says, "the resulting image as a whole will appear to be something different from what actually exists." The dancer is really making the movements represented in each image, but the form you’re looking at is the sum of all those movements, something we would never be privy to without the magic of digital compositing. Maruyama, who was born in Nagano, says that his interest in exploring different representations of time has its roots in Japanese culture.
Of course, we shouldn’t necessarily take his work as some sort of assurance that we’re all moving through life with a languid, flowing beauty, made rough and ugly only by the way our eyes and our brains force us to perceive the world. Maruyama says he arrived at the gorgeous, painterly flowers, circles and spirals you see here only after extensive trial and error. So maybe keep your clothes on.
[Hat tip: It’s Nice That]