An accidental photo taken with a 60 second exposure inspired photographer Mark de Paola to explore the abstract space between dream and reality. His work feels like poetry in motion, capturing the fluidity of sensuality and the haunting energy of intimacy. Stripped of the conventional constraints of photography and working without control of context, his images dance evocatively with the feeling of living in the moment.
“60 Seconds,” the culmination of De Paola’s recent work, opens June 16th at Leica Gallery in Los Angeles. De Paola has an extensive background as an editorial photographer and art director (his very first assignment was a cover photo of Henry Fonda) and continues to work successfully in that arena, while also translating his artistic talent and sensibilities to film work, directing and producing multiple feature films. The sharp certainty of his editorial eye and unwavering respect for his subjects is felt deeply in all his work as a photographer.
His most recent project, “60 Seconds” represents a new and experimental creative direction for De Paola. The conception of the project was an act of divine discovery, a blessing disguised as an artistic accident: he was playing around with his beloved Leica camera in the middle of the night, intending to take a few photos. When he pushed down the button on the camera, he realized the exposure time was set for 60 seconds. This left De Paola with two options: to set the camera down or to try to remain as still as possible for the next 60 seconds as the camera captured the scene. He chose the latter, found himself intrigued by the results, and the concept behind “60 Seconds” was born. He refers to the project as a union between himself and his camera, a collaboration between man and machine, between the rigidity of the technical and the curiosity of human instinct.
Each photograph was taken handheld with a 60 second exposure, and the result is surreal and hypnotic upon first glance: a study of the fluidity and sensuality of motion captured in still images. “60 Seconds” moves quietly into the blurry, dreamlike realm of the abstract – colors leak together, figures are dreamily distorted, edges are softened and blurred, long lines of light and shadow run like rivers through the images. The photos embrace both light and dark, filled with shadows and the warm yellowing light of early morning, soft with sleepy intimacy. They are saturated with reds and yellows, colors that evoke an overwhelming energy you can’t quite put your finger on. De Paola cites the feeling that you get when you stand in front of a Rothko painting as his inspiration for the color work.
Each photo consists of a woman’s naked body, typically faceless, in a variety of sleeping positions in bed, on her stomach or back or curled on her side, naked except for a white sheet thrown over her leg. The images are striking in their pure simplicity. The abstract fluidity of the long exposure means that the photos are blurred and the figures surreal, but the expressive sensuality of the female form is still powerfully felt. The images are drenched in a vivid and aching vulnerability. The viewer is immersed into these moments of raw intimacy without any context or bearings, which creates a dreamlike space for the viewer to project their own feelings onto the work. Intimacy and vulnerability, and the heightened state of emotional consciousness they allow us to enter, is at the core of De Paola’s work.
“60 Seconds” challenges the traditional limits of still photography, finding the moments of poetry at the crossroads of stillness and movement, the fluid elegance in the abstract, the trembling energy of intimacy. De Paola’s work embraces the otherworldly beauty of the female shape, felt fully even through the blur of abstraction, and celebrates naked vulnerability, the evocative art of laying it all bare, ultimately reminding us of the importance of getting lost in the moment.