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: Ansen Seale : Slitscan Photography

In Feature, Interview on February 27, 2009 at 7:22 pm

Unfolding #10 (plumeria)
Unfolding #10 (plumeria)


“Rather than suspending a single moment, my photography examines the passage of time”

Ansen Seale


From San Antonio, Texas comes a wonderful photographer who captures the “beautifully bizarre” using a stylistic technique known as slitscan. AD Mag recently had the chance to interview him. This is what transpired:


Astronaut by Ansen Seale
Astronaut by Ansen Seale

An Interview With Ansen


Max: First let me say how seductively beautiful I think your work is.  And — when I look at your work, even though it appears to be photographic, the pieces also have a “painted” quality. Is that deliberate; how is it achieved?

Ansen: Thank you. This is 100% pure photography. The reason the look is so different is that I’ve changed the rules about the way a camera works. In a nutshell, still (non-kinetic) things are blurred. Moving things are clear.

Max: On the issue of “slit-scan photography”, I think I kinda have an idea of how this process works, but would you take a moment and explain it to the readers.

Ansen: My digital slitscan camera exchanges the horizontal spatial dimension of X with the dimension of Time. This is done by imaging only the Y axis (a vertical line of pixels) of the same scene over and over again, up to 500 times per second. The internal processor of the camera arranges these pixel columns side by side, building up the horizontal dimension of the picture plane over time. The images are time exposures in the horizontal direction and snapshots in the vertical.

Only moving or changing objects register clearly. Still objects are rendered as horizontal lines across the picture plane. This is the opposite of what you would expect with traditional photography where moving objects are blurred and still objects are clear.

So, in effect, my images violate two of the most important rules of traditional photography—(1) single point perspective and (2) the freezing of the “slice of time”, or what is sometimes called the “decisive moment”. Without these visual anchors, we are free to drift and explore in time and space.

Max: How long have you been a photographer…and artist?

Ansen: I’ve been an artist and photographer for 25 years. I graduated from Trinity University, here in San Antonio, Texas with a degree in Studio Art and Communications.

Max: Do you now or have you ever worked in other types of media beyond photography.

Ansen: I studied printmaking in my college years and I still find it very satisfying. With the demise of the wet darkroom, I find myself gravitating back to printmaking, both digital and serigraphy (silk screen). My most recent work in this area is called “Bloodlines” and can be accessed here:

In this series, I use my own blood as ink.

Max: When I initially contacted you a few weeks back, you and I had a brief email discussion about an artistic articulation, which I call TADAE. At that time you said that you definitely feel into the category of the TADAE creative subset. You seem to embrace the concept. And I think it certainly fits well. But, could you tell us in your own words why you came to identify with this creative understanding…TADAE?

Ansen: I use the computer as a tool, just as traditional artist use brush and canvas. But the computer IS NOT just a digital sketchpad! It can be exploited in completely different way from traditional art making. Adapt or die. This is the way the natural world works and I take it as my own personal mantra. The fact that I grew up “traditional” and became “digital” leads me to believe that we (as TADAE) may be already a vanishing breed.

Max: So, there was a sentence that caught my eye when I was reading over your artistic statement on your website where you say “I tease out this unusual reality lurking just beneath the surface of our everyday visual experience…” It’s a fascinating idea; an interesting perspective. Could you talk more about this?

Ansen: When I decided to explore this strange world of the slitscan image, knew that simple, identifiable subjects would work best, at least in the beginning. When you have a complex visual phenomenon like this, it is best described by simple, time-honored subjects like the nude, the still life, landscapes, etc. The subjects are recognized, but there is also a recognition that the visual rules have changed.

My intention is not to disorient the viewer, but simply to present another version of reality. My images are not manipulated. This is the way the camera sees. I have not touched them up in Photoshop at all. They come from the camera as you see them.

I am fascinated by the idea that what we experience every day may not be reality at all. We know now, for example, that on an atomic level, our bodies contain more space than matter. Our view of the world is hopelessly egocentric. By changing a few simple rules about the way we think a camera should work, I can play with that egocentric notion…the way I see is the way it is!

Time is the real subject of my work. The objects shown are just the “carriers of time” in the same way that a tree bending and swaying carries the idea of wind, even though we can’t see the air.

Max: And thoughts about our digital future?

Ansen: I think the distinction between digital and traditional is nearly thing of the past. The things that still matter most in art, perception, feeling, a connection with the natural world, sensitivity to others, poetry. These are universal ideas hard-wired into our brains and will always find a way to come out. I am also very excited by ideas like SETI@home and other global networking possibilities, but even such an idea like contact with a species outside our solar system only leads us back to our own humanity and our need to communicate.

Max: You hold a beautiful vision, and others would be wise to share your views. Thanks for talking with AD Mag, its been a good experience.  And to the AD Mag readers, be sure to visit Ansen’s website by clicking here.


Unfolding #14

Unfolding #14

View more of Ansen’s work in the AD Mag Artist Galleries.

- Max Eternity
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