Slit-scan photography and practicing photographers

03rd April 2021

Introduction

Slit-scan photography is a technique where the film moves past a narrow slit in the back of a modified camera. The image that the camera creates is made up of many narrow slices which lay side by side rather than the typical one shot exposure that we usually gain with a camera. The image is recording a timeline of events occurring in the same position over a slightly longer period. Guerin, J. (2015:94)

Other names that slip-scan is known by are line-scan, linear strip, strip scan, photo finish or streak photography. The technique of slit-scan was first used as a device to look at the finishing line of horse races when photo finishes were needed to determine the winners. Other early uses were for photography and film effects to show movement of subjects. The Star Trek Enterprise in the introduction scene to the show is seen going into warp speed, the warp effect is created by slit scan photography which elongated the back end of the ship.

Ted Kinsman

On the website PetaPixel there is an in-depth look at Slit-scan imagery and technique which looks at the various techniques that create different outcomes. The visual outcomes include panoramic shots to amazing twists such as the bouquet of spring tulips below. Some of the image techniques are quite involved, the image of the tulips for example is made by placing the flowers on a turntable revolving them slowly once for three minutes,

This image was collected in camera by using a Better Light scan back camera which had the scanner parked in a fixed position. The camera has a feature that allows the taking very high-resolution panoramic images. The full image requires approximately five minutes to collect because the camera’s operation itself is slow.

Kinsman, T. (2017)


Fig. 1 A bouquet of spring tulips

Tiina Burton

Tiina Burton used slit-scan images to represent movement and time, ‘Through experimenting with the process of slit-scan I hope my photographs show more of the personality of the sitters through their movement in time, enhancing the conventional process of portrait photography.’ Burton (n.d.).

Her project ‘Family Portraits’ (n.d.) was inspired by the research of Dr Muzaffer Kaser who studies smart drugs and how they might enhance cognitive function. Burton’s theme is that of memories and she uses slit-scan images as a way to capture and recall memories of people that are close to her therefore using portraiture as a way to extend the moment of a photograph as well as showing movement.

Fig. 2 Family Portrait

Atis Puampai

“… time is just a direction. And so that means time can move forward or back, side to side, and I think of it in these terms when I shoot my things. Everything I shoot is linear, moving in the direction of time… The end product itself is how the camera records time and only time. Traditional photography freezes time, but slit scan photos record a duration of time, and whatever is in motion in that time would be rendered a certain way. It captures movement and time in a mesmerizing way.

Puampai, A. (2014)

Looking at Puampai’s images on his website I am particurlalry taken with how the compositions can be so different within this technique. We have already seen above the twisting effect of a rotating object as it is slowly photographed using the slit-scan camera and the linear slices in Burton’s images but Puampai’s images have a mixture of linear stripes and distorted objects and people within them.

I have also noticed that Puampai also creates his own slit cameras so I am definitely researching into the construction of these cameras so that once I have made my pin-hole camera I will make a slit-camera, a prospect i am looking forward to immensely.

Below are a few of Puampai’s images to show how visually different images can be with slit-scan photography depending on how you modify cameras. Objects such as cars as well as people walking and riding bicycles show amazing distortions with strips as their backgrounds.

Fig. 3 – 6

Andrew Davidhazy

These are a few examples of the images contained in the mini-traveling exhibition of peripheral or roll-out portrait photographs made by Andrew Davidhazy with a camera devised from removing the linear imaging array found in a hand-scanner and installing it in a standard 35mm film camera body.

The subjects for these photographs stood on a turntable. While they were turning the linear array recorded the changing features of their heads. These were ultimately displayed as flat reproductions of the whole 360 degree circumference of their heads. 

Since human heads are not perfect cylinders and they can not stand perfectly still as they rotate, interesting distortions of the features of the face are introduced into the portraits. 

Davidhazy, A. (n.d.)
Fig. 7-8 Little Faces (n.d.)


I actually find that the portraits which are elongated are quite disturbing. The faces seem to fuse together in such a way that I recoil at them, a similar feeling that I got as a child when I watched the character Princess Leia sitting on the oversized, slimy and slug like Jabba the Hutt, I just squirm looking at them. Although the portraits using this technique might repulse me, I can see other subjects such as trees really becoming dynamic and strong with their branches interlocking and fusing together.

Bibliography

Illustrations

Fig. 1 Kinsman, T. (2017) A bouquet of spring tulips. [Photograph] At: https://petapixel.com/2017/10/18/role-slit-scan-image-science-art/ (Accessed 01.04.2021)

Fig. 2 Burton, T. (n.d.) Family Portrait [Photograph] At: https://shutterhub.org.uk/everything-i-ever-learnt-tiina-burton-extended-time-through-slit-scan-photography/ (Accessed 05.04.2021)

Fig. 3-6 Puampai, A. (2013-2014) Untitled, Waikiki, Waimano Home Road, Self Portrait. [Photographs] At: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/atis-puampai-slit-scan-photographs_n_5597727 (Accessed 07.04.2021)

Fig. 7-8 (n.d.) Little Faces. [Photographs] At: https://people.rit.edu/andpph/travel-exhibit.html (Accessed 06.04.2021)

Books

Guerin, J. (2015) ‘Slit-scan cameras’ In: Bendandi, L. (ed.) Experimental photography: A handbook of techniques. New York: Thames and Hudson. p.94

Websites

Kinsman, T. (2017) The Role of the Slit-Scan Image in Science and Art. At: https://petapixel.com/2017/10/18/role-slit-scan-image-science-art/ (Accessed 01.04.2021)

people.rit.edu (n.d.) little faces traveling exhibit – sample images. At: https://people.rit.edu/andpph/travel-exhibit.html (Accessed 06.04.2021)

Puampai, A. (2014) For This Photographer’s Eerie Slit Scan Portraits, It’s All About Time At: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/atis-puampai-slit-scan-photographs_n_5597727 (Accessed 07.04.2021)

Shutter Hub (n.d.) Everything I ever learnt: Tina Burton – Extended time through slit-scan photography. At: https://shutterhub.org.uk/everything-i-ever-learnt-tiina-burton-extended-time-through-slit-scan-photography/ (Accessed 05.04.2021)


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