Just when you think you’ve seen artists and filmmakers do everything that could possibly be done on the theme of time, another brain-box swans in and turns everything on its head to make the subject completely new again. Enter Adam Magyar, the artist/filmmaker who will make you look at crowded commuter train platforms in an entirely new way.
As part of his project Stainless, Adam filmed the arrival of a high-speed train onto crowded platforms at Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, New York’s 42nd St and Japan’s Shinjuku stations, and then slowed the footage down to a rate that makes his subjects look completely motionless. The result is a ghostly, up-close examination of the human condition in a familiar and yet completely absurd setting. The girl running alongside the train in the Berlin edition is particularly compelling.
We interviewed Adam to find out more about his captivating series. Read on below!
What motivated you to begin this project?
The Stainless videos were a continuation of the Stainless photography project, and they grew out of my previous work Urban Flow. I’ve been trying to distill some sort of essence of life on my images by showing existence from a different perspective with capturing certain details that we normally don’t see.
There is a feeling that returns to me occasionally, when you realise “oh, yes, this is really happening to me!” and this is what I try to recreate for others with my images. We tend to forget about ourselves and to live our life automatically. Life is a tremendous fortune, and we waste most of our chances.
How long has it taken you to make this body of work? How did your process evolve?
I incorporated technology and hacking into my process about seven years ago. My “toolbox” has been growing since then, which gives me the kind of freedom that I really enjoy working with. I worked for about two years on both the Stainless photo and video series.
The conversation was still quite strong when I started working with digital on whether photographers should use digital or analogue methods. I was very interested in digital, but I thought about starting a project that would not be possible with analogue.
How did you make these films? What technology and techniques did you use?
The project is supported by Optronis, a German camera factory. They produce high-speed cameras for industrial purposes. I made some optimisations for my project, and these devices serve industrial and scientific purposes. For instance, there is no view-finder, release shutter, or any button on them – instead you control them via the software. I equipped it with some custom-made parts to make it more flexible for my purposes.
How do you feel when you watch them now?
I’m ok with them. I watched them a lot as the post-processing took quite some time. I probably “know” everybody on the videos now. I know the videos are a bit dark and sad, I just find people on them beautiful. It’s not because of me, but because of them. We are so fragile and lost sometimes.
How did you decide not to accompany them with music?
I used the sound of the train, but it’s stretched to the same rate as the video. I’m planning to do collaborations with musicians, but the way the people are presented now keep them in reality rather than moving them into an artistic imagination. The most important message of these works is that it is real.