December 13th 2012 by Andrew S Gibson
This article is part of a series of interviews with long exposure photographers to celebrate the release of my ebook Slow. You can keep track of the interviews by clicking on the Long Exposure Photography Interviews link under Categories in the right-hand sidebar.
Moises Levy is a photographer from Mexico City. He is by profession an architect, and his interest in photography grew out of an appreciation of the relationship between light and architecture. He is drawn to landscape work as a counterpoint to his work as an architecture.
How would you describe your photographic vision? What kind of look do you try and create in your photos?
My scope is to create something that generates curiosity, interest and awe, to bring the spectator into the image and become part of it, to challenge reality and break the boundaries we usually look within.
Name three photographers you like and why.
Alfred Stieglitz: In my opinion fine art photography is not complete until having a print. I think that this process has being left aside due to the influence of digital images. Stieglitz was the first photographer that brought the importance printing deserves. Considering the print as a work of art by itself is something I appreciate and creates a bond with him. I print myself all my work in platinum palladium and photogravure.
Michael Kenna:He is the first contemporary minimalist photographer, and the first to challenge the foundations of traditional framing.
Sebastião Salgado: His images are very powerful and with a profound social commitment. Images that in many cases have changed political views and the understanding of society about actual circumstances in the world, and doing it with very high aesthetic achievements.
Long exposure photography – what’s the attraction and why do you do it?
Creating long exposure photography allows me to play with time and that is something that the human eye is not capable to synthesise. Initially I was only capturing natural landscapes, but I discovered that its boundaries are much broader. People movement is something that may have a lot of meaning in long exposure photography, it is something that aesthetically has not been widely experimented with.
Why black and white? What’s the appeal?
Black and white images are conceptual. If you get rid of colour you eliminate many elements that cause distraction, then you can focus on the conceptual message, shapes and textures. It’s more timeless and forceful.
There are a lot of seascapes in your portfolio. What is the attraction of the sea for you as a subject? What is your favourite place to take long exposure photos?
I enjoy loneliness when photographing at the sea. The link I establish is magic, deeply concentrated but at the same time deeply relaxed. You realise nature’s greatness and uniqueness. Time gets a special dimension, as a photographer you know that a minute is very important, but in contrast you also know that days and months pass through without affecting nature. Is a contradictory sensation that brings a lot to think about.
I like to have enough time to photograph, think properly about the message and framing. I don’t perform well when working against time. That is why I like to photograph nature with time to spare.
Your profession is architecture. How does this affect your approach to composition and design in photography? Both are creative activities – are there any links between the two?
In my opinion architecture and photography are one thing. Both are formed by light, scale, composition, texture and sensations among other things.
The creative process is very similar, and both share the same creative elements.
Both require a very rigid and technical side, contrasting with a very creative and flexible side. I really enjoy moving from one side to the other, which forces me to use both hemispheres of the brain.
I can see from your portfolio that you are widely travelled. How important is the contribution of travel to developing your portfolio from an artistic point of view? How has travel helped you develop as a person?
It is curious, sometimes I am not aware if I travel to photograph, or photograph to travel.
I enjoy acquainting with people, with different ways of living, thinking; and learning about their customs that are influenced by the surrounding landscape. That is why it is important to know about the landscape as well as its inhabitants. This undoubtedly will enrich you as a person because you become part or a universe and not only of a corner of the world. I believe that as a photographer you share some responsibility with the world to transmit its diversity and to preserve it in an artistic way.
Sometimes you use a film camera. Sometimes you use digital. Tell us a little about why you might to decide to use one or the other for a shoot? Which do you prefer using, and why?
I love to photograph with my Hasselblad. The sensation that every shot counts is invaluable. You have to think carefully before shooting, and take care with your composition. Framing with a large viewfinder is very helpful. Measuring light is a ritual by itself and you become conscious of the lighting conditions, something many photographers are not aware of, or at least they are not really conscious of.
On the other hand digital cameras have certain features that are very helpful when shooting and post-processing. You can create faster and more efficiently on digital, even though analog has its own charm. I am back on photography’s duality.
Particularly on long exposures film has its own advantages, because quality is not affected by time of exposure, but issues such as reciprocity, developing and scanning are more complicated.
I am thinking about getting a digital back for my Hasselblad to keep on enjoying the advantages that medium format brings.
How important is light in your imagery? What types of light do you prefer for long exposure photography?
For me a good image must have three elements:
If you have all three you can’t be wrong.
I love to photograph in low light, very early or just before sunset, when light is very amicable and the contrast is easy to manage. Dawn and dusk are very relaxing and full of energy.
Light is not everything, but is very helpful when you have the other two variables solved.
I see you like to work in the square format. Is this something forced on you by the camera you work with (ie a Hasselblad) or is it something you like? What’s the appeal of the square format for you and how does composing in a square frame differ from the aspect ration of your digital SLR?
As an architect, the square has always had a high relevance as a composition element. In a macro and micro level as well, it is a perfect shape by itself. That’s why I feel that a good squared composition is very forceful. The natural format 3:2 of digital SLR cameras is too short compared with a panoramic or too long if compared with a square. I’d rather use a 1:1 or 4:5 relationship.
Here are some more of Moises’ photos:
If you’d like to learn more about long exposure photography, my ebook Slow takes you through the creative possibilities of using slow shutter speeds, from blurring motion with a shutter speed of 1/30 second all the way to long exposure techniques using shutter speeds of five minutes or longer.
All photos in this interview are protected by copyright. Please contact the photographer for permission to use in any way.