The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino

The Flow
Adam Magyar
Kontinuum
Ed Barnas
Photo by Adam Magyar . Source: saulgallery.com
Adam Magyar, "Stainless #14536, Paris" 2011

Adam Magyar is intrigued with the drama of our transience: the finite bit of time we spend in the infinite flow of time. On display at the Julie Saul Gallery are two separate bodies of work: Urban Flow and Stainless. Each deals with urban life in a way distinctly different from classic street photography.

Photo by Adam Magyar . Source: saulgallery.com
Adam Magyar, "Stainless 7492 New York" 2010

Creative photographers must address the question of how best to capture their individual subjective perceptions of events in time. Most do it with off-the shelf cameras and software. However, like Eadward Muybridge over a century before, Magyar has cobbled together a mix of existing hardware to serve his vision and come up with some rather astounding images.

Photo by Adam Magyar . Source: saulgallery.com
Adam Magyar, "Urban Flow, 1865" New York, 2015

In Urban Flow we are presented with six still images in aspect ratios ranging from 1:3 to 1:9. However, these “panoramas” are not one broad expanse of space caught in one singular moment of time but rather one static single pixel-wide bit of space captured over a flow of time. Viewed from a distance, the human element occupied the lower part of the print and appears dwarfed in the composition. Individuals are recognizable, but their bodies (especially the feet) take on odd shapes and vehicles in the background shrink or expand depending on how fast they move. It is an effect familiar from sport photo-finish images and Magyar is not the first to adapt the slit-scan technology for artistic purposes. However, he has applied it in a way I had not seen before and developed custom code for the post-processing and removal of artifacts. The effect also emphasizes the vibrancy of the urban street, implying continuous motion in the distorted figures––the feet often looking like blades!

Removing the distracting effect of color, Magyar has processed the images into black and white; the result reinforces the commonality of urban experience, be it in New York, Hong Kong, Rome, or any other city he has photographed. A video clip at Magyar’s website gives a snapshot of the process as data is captured and processed.

Photo by Adam Magyar . Source: saulgallery.com
Adam Magyar, "Stainless #14536, Paris" 2011

In the Stainless series, Magyar went underground to apply this technique to commuters. The result is much more static. Standing on the platform, he photographed train cars as they entered the station. In a post 9/11 world, Magyar had to abandon the tripod and handhold his camera, necessitating writing more code to smooth the resulting image. Oddly, these do not exhibit the distortion of the Urban Flow images, perhaps due to the uniform speed of the trains. In marked contrast to the activity of Urban Flow, commuters seen through windows adopt similarly stoical attitudes, either staring blankly or self-absorbedly into personal electronic devices,

In addition to the stills in Stainless, Magyar flipped his viewpoint and photographed the commuters on the platform from the moving train. In place of the slit-scan technology, Magyar adapted a high-speed video camera used with production line quality control to expand a few seconds of time into many minutes of slow motion video. In the gallery separate sequences are projected floor-to-ceiling on opposite walls of a darkened room, accompanied by the drone of a rumbling low frequency sound track, (as if the sound as well as time had been was slowed.) We see the commuters standing almost motionless as the camera passes by them. The focus is sharp in the middle ground, those close to the camera somewhat fuzzy while those further away less focused, creating a strong 3-D effect. As with the people glanced through the train windows in the Stainless series still images, there is little distinction among commuters– whether they are on the platform at Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, Beijing's Xidan, or New York’s Grand Central Station. While some appear to interact with another, most stand quietly within their small personal spaces, alone on a crowded platform.

While the Urban Flow set, despite the smaller scale of the people, strikes me as the more vibrant and full of life, both series present the viewer with evidence of a shared urban experience, reminding me of the humanist outlook of Steichen’s seminal Family of Man.

Adam Magyar
Kontinuum


Julie Saul
535 W 22nd St. 6th Fl
Chelsea         Map

212 627 2410
saulgallery.com

Thursday, February 12 to
Saturday, April 4, 2015
Hours: Tue-Sat, 11 to 6
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