I recently came across the work of Italian photographer Manuel Cafini over on Facebook, and I was instantly blown away. His Chronophotography project particularly intrigued me, as it’s a look I’ve attempted and failed to create myself a number of times.
Chronophotography is defined as “an antique photographic technique from the Victorian era (beginning about 1867-68), which captures movement in several frames of print. These prints can be subsequently arranged either like animation cels or layered in a single frame.”
Manuel has updated the basic principles and brought it to the present day. So, we reached out and contacted Manual to get some insight into his process.
With a variety of dancers, athletes, and models, Manuel has evolved the process into something that works better with a modern digital workflow using speedlights in repeat flash mode (multimode, or stroboscopic) to produce the final results in-camera in a single frame.
My technique is an evolution of this ancient technique.
The difference is that in addition to all the movement, I have a perfectly sharp subject at the closing of the shutter.
We asked about the equipment he uses to make these images.
Whether using a digital or analog camera, the result would be the same. There’s no post-production so the only advantage of using a digital camera is to save money to print the negative.
I use the flash from Nikon with the multimode function and photography is complete in-camera.
With a background in engineering, Manuel’s not afraid to modify his flashes to his requirements.
I use Nikon flash because I need a very fast flash duration, and because they have already built a great multimode system.
I have changed some of the flash to obtain higher frequencies, as high as even 512Hz. The flashes are fed with a homemade power pack.
We asked Manuel about where his ideas and inspiration come from.
I suffer from insomnia and the images take shape in my mind, during those sleepless nights.
Once the image is created in my mind I try to find ways to achieve them.
Before calling dancers or subjects to photograph, I practice a lot on myself, to understand the limits of the technique and to understand what are the most suitable to play on the technical movements.
When I fully understood, I proceed with contacting athletes dancers and models
It usually takes Manuel about a month between forming the initial idea for an image, and creating the final photograph, with a lot of testing and experimentation in between.
Manuel told DIYP about the biggest challenges with this technique.
The most difficult thing … to find a way to transform a picture in my head, into a real image, to evolve chronophotography into “chronophotography+”.
Get the picture, with the figure of the subject sharp at the end of the movement.
I have to explain [to the subjects] the whole project and the types of movements that are more excellent for the type of project.
Usually I call professional dancers, who understand what I need.
The Chronophotography project is one that Manuel will be adding to for a long time, although it has had to take a back seat for a short wile.
It is a long term project. At the moment the project is stopped because I built a water room in my studio, I do not have enough space.
Well done to Manuel, and models Giampaolo Gobbi (dancer), and Mirko Paoletti (boxer) on the work they have created thus far.
I can’t wait to see what’s next for the Chronophotography project once it’s back in full swing again.
I might even have to have another go with repeat flash myself.