“The Showcase” is a publication featuring a photographer that has caught our eye here at The F STOP. I’ve asked Adam Magyar to answer a few questions about his incredibly complex and time consuming photographic projects.
You’ve done two very unique and different projects, first tell us about the concept behind Urban Flow.
At the beginning, I wanted to record a massive stream of people in big cities. When seeing the first images, I realized that there was much more to it than I had previously expected. I wanted to show our simple experiences in a complex and structured world, but it suddenly turned into a project about time. You actually see the events of a few minutes here on a sharp, still image. It’s the things passing by the camera that would turn into an image, just like it’s the things happening to us that would turn us into beings.
How were these images created?
The same as photo-finishes. I built the camera from scanner components. I scan only an extremely narrow fragment of space during my exposures, just as photo-finish cameras record the finish line. Everything passing by my camera is literally scanning itself into my images. Dynamic, or so to say, moving things appear almost as they are in reality, while static things turn into stripes and lines. This technique sometimes generates bizarre distortions which I don’t really like. It’s because my aim is to show things as clearly as possible, instead of blurring them. So, I always spent a long time to find the right location for each of my compositions.
Now tell us about Squares, where did that idea originate?
It started at the same time and place as my Urban Flow project. I actually took the images for the first square on the very spot, where I made my first scanned image. It was in front of a bank in Shanghai three years ago. I was looking for places where I could take photos of a huge number of people from far above. As I did not find a place like that, I decided to generate these places artificially by putting photos of pedestrians on sidewalks together. It also allowed me to create extremely detailed, 300-400 mega-pixel images.
How were those images created?
I took the photos from a few meters high. After some pre-calculation, I took images of the very same segment of the sidewalk from different points of view to have perspectively correct images. So, people on the right side of the squares were photographed slightly from the left and those on the left were photographed from the right. The post-processing is quite complicated. I usually work one month on each image. I had to write many automatization scripts, otherwise it wouldn’t be possible to work with this much data. I’m talking about gigabytes here where only opening the file takes twenty minutes. One of these scripts for example, calculated the perspectively correct positions of people, which I fine-tuned afterwards. A great deal of handwork was also needed for composing and retouching. When a square is ready, I re-model it in 3D to create the shadows and lights.
Is there a singular message behind these two bodies of work?
There is an interesting opposition between them. Scanned images look unreal but they are the direct transformation of reality, while the Squares look real but they are unreal. They work well together, because they are about the same thing only from different perspectives.
Both depict people simply walking in and then out of the image. To me, it’s sort of a meditative observation. I am questioning my own importance. If I were in these images, I would be a pedestrian just like anyone else.
Why do you choose to create images using these rare photographic techniques?
I am a gadget guy. I like being in a research process, and then I like it when things finally work. Concept-wise, aesthetically and technically too. And of course, I am also satisfying my non-conformity.