Laszlo Gaal is a Budapest based film colorist, but he’s also enjoying experimenting with other visual arts, be it photography or analog video glitch art. He wanted to begin a new photography project - titled Timeless - that is using ultra long exposure times to make the audience “see” time. The first city that he explored with this technique was Singapore and his vision is to explore many more cities in the future with the same style.
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Click on the picture to see the exhibition on magazine format.
How did you get interested in photography?
When I was a child I received an analog film camera. I don’t know why I got it from my parents, but after I received I took it everywhere and tried to get to know how this little box – that can freeze time – works. I understood none of the technical side, but that curiosity is what I carried with me all my life. I was very cautious about taking photos back then because I know it is expensive. When I received my first digital camera I was trying to explore different techniques as much as I can so that was a “click more/think less” period, but it was helpful to learn about post processing which lead to my current job, color grading. Now I’m trying to always shoot like if I would be shooting on film, even if I’m on digital. This makes me think twice and look at the image more. Also it’s easier to decide; is this is really the good angle, time, place to shoot that image?
Where did the idea came from for this project?
A few years ago I wanted to create photographs where cities seem totally empty, using ultra long exposure times instead of Photoshop. So a single exposure of 1 hour would get rid of anything that moves, cars, pedestrians, etc . Then Covid came and the lockdowns made it very easy for people to shoot photos like this, so I abandoned the idea, but the core idea turned into finding ways to create photographs that manipulate, bend time. Andrei Tarkovsky calls cinema, and his movie making process “Sculpting in Time”, and I wanted to explore this idea with other mediums. This led to me exploring ways to take a single image for a very long time.
That’s how the photo project “Timeless” was born, using ultra long exposure times and combining them with another love of mine: architecture. If you’ve seen night photographs of a highway filled with cars, you’ve already seen ultra long exposure pictures that were taken at night, but I applied the same technique during the day to the sky as our natural highway, and clouds became the trails of brake lights of cars and trucks. All the images you see are single exposure images, that’s why it was so time consuming to wait for the perfect balance of clouds moving with the right pace and sunlight coming from the right angle.
Where did you start this project?
The city where I started this journey is Singapore, which was a perfect place to experiment with different settings,weather and this city state is filled with amazing architecture. After the first few weeks I got to know what kind of weather I’m looking for, where should the sun be, how strong the wind should be and you can see the results. Singapore is full with vibrant colors, but I've chosen to shoot black and white, as it brings out the contrast between the sharp details of the buildings and the smooth clouds. In the span of around four months I spent 107 days, 615kms of walking, 1734kms of commuting to finish the first city of this series. I’ll publish a few other galleries from Singapore, and hopefully - if time and budget allows it - next year I can continue the project in other cities.
What were the challenges you faced?
Taking one photo took several minutes as the long exposure effect is fully created in-camera. That’s something I have to explain to some people who think the sky is Photoshopped. Compared to snapping a quick photo of a building, this complicates everything as I can only take photos from positions where I can fix the camera for minutes. You can quickly snap an image from a great angle while crossing the street but if one image is exposed for 15 minutes, you will have less angles to work with. Also weather is very important, because for the perfect image I had to wait for the right amount of clouds with the right speed, but with sunlight.
Which were your favorite buildings?
To be honest I didn’t expect to find so many unique buildings, and it was also a nice surprise to see inspiring buildings that are residential - for example The Colonnade, Interlace, Reflections -, cultural - Lasalle College of Arts, Church of Blessed Sacrament, Lee Kong Chian National History Museum - or office buldings - Marina One, the Asia Square Towers.
Also it was refreshing to see government projects that made my jaw drop, the view from the newly opened Sky Garden at Capitaspring, or even a simple but very nicely organized community centers like the Our Tampines Hub.
Is there a photographer that inspired you?
Yes, and not just with his photographs but his life too: Sebastiao Salgado. The documentary about him - The Salt of the Earth - explains his life in great detail and it’s worth to watch the whole film. His images made me realize how much a single photo can tell about someone, something. Before him I thought photography is a limited tool compared to cinema, video, but now I think it can achieve the same effect on people. And his life made me realize how privileged we are compared to some very poor countries in Africa, Asia. Also Steve Mccurry’s life made an impact on me not just his photos, but the background stories, the persistence of his work, the transparency of his life detailed in the “Life in Pictures” book.