Photograph vs. Motion Picture: LINDSAY LOHAN Causes Controversy

Lindsay Lohan is one of those pop culture figures who I want to see do well for reasons that have never been clear to me. As a pop bubblegum whore, I appreciated her first album, Speak, and I am a fan of the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap she did, but otherwise I know her only through the tabloids. Still, this seems to be enough reason for me to want her to do well. That, or I’m just being a contrarian — the rest of the world would like to see her die a violent death, preferably on a reality TV show, so I want to see her come back and earn an Oscar.

So, every time she gets headlines for something she does that’s controversial rather than for something she does creatively, I die a little inside. And, even when the controversy’s not exactly her fault, I feel a little bad. Case in point: Justin Case’s (JPG Magazine) beef with Jonathan Jones (The Guardian) about the power of the motion picture versus the still photograph.

First, here’s the motion picture that inspired Jones to make the comments he made:

Second, here’s what Jones had to say in The Guardian:

The moving image is much more artistically interesting than the still photograph, to me anyway. The photographic image is not as rich as a painting or a drawing – until it starts to move. The films of Alfred Hitchcock and Luchino Visconti offer poetic images that go far beyond photographs.

But another example of the way moving images are more complex than still photographs is the genre of the filmed portrait. Richard Phillips’s 98-second film Lindsay Lohan, which is about to be shown at the Venice Biennale, is an interesting example of this modern kind of portrait.

And here’s a bit of what Case had to say in response:

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but just because you can capture multiple frames of a subject in motion doesn’t mean that motion portraiture is superior in any way to a well done still. Jones’ contention that this piece, in particular, is any kind of standout example is simply misguided.

Now, I’m a big fan of motion pictures of all sorts, and I actually really like Phillips’s work here, but to say that “The photographic image is not as rich as a painting or a drawing – until it starts to move” is just ludicrous. I know this isn’t the greatest collection of photography in the entire world, but just check out my favorites on Flickr for just a snippet of some of the awesome still images I’ve found on the Web.

The beauty of the still photograph, as I see it, is all in its limitations. It can’t — unless we’re in the wizarding world of Harry Potter — move, it exists in two dimensions, and it can be stared at for hours (or even days, if a viewer can stay awake that long). It has to tell a story or communicate a feeling without all of the other tools that a motion picture has at its disposal, and it has to do so with all of its flaws right there in plain sight, unmasked by motion. The photographic image simply requires more time and attention from its viewer than does the motion picture, and that doesn’t make it any less rich than its moving cousins.

But, anyway, poor Lindsay: she’s always in the middle of nonsense like this. Can a girl get a break?