Movement in photography

On this article, I will focus about one of the pioneers of visual movement in photography, an innovator of the medium. His name was Gjon Mili, an American photographer, born in Albania.

Born in 1904 in Albania, Mili moved to America in 1923. He trained as an engineer and was self-taught in photography. He is most famous for his images that captured Picasso drawing with light.

Picasso by Gjon Mili ©Magnum Photos

Mili attended MIT shortly after he moved to America, where worked with Professor Harold Edgerton utilizing electronic flash to refine strobe photography. Since the late 1930s, he used a rapid-firing sequence technique in his photography, which allowed him to catch multiple images in a single frame. His photographs of dance, athletics, and musical and theatrical performances were then able to show the graceful flow of movement too rapid for the naked eye to distinguish. In 1939, Mili became a freelance photographer working for LIFE.

Mili was a pioneer in the portrayal of movement in photography. Not only did his engineering of photographic lighting tools and techniques in the 1930s change the possibilities for depicting movement, but his photographs themselves altered the public’s general understanding of motion in general. Through the sheer number of his motion photographs and their frequent publication in Life magazine, Mili revealed the mechanics of human kinetics to postwar society.

Mili died at the age of 79 of pneumonia. His work changed contemporary visual understanding of movement, and left a great precedence for all action photographers to follow. 



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