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The Longest Photographic Exposures in History

A friend sent me a link to this photo here today. I have seen it a few times before and it was always (WRONGLY) claimed as being the longest exposure in photographic history. It was taken with a pinhole camera over a period of 6 months by a photographer called Justin Quinnell. It shows the traces of the sun over Bristol's suspension bridge during that half year period. Which is impressive and beautiful. BUT IT IS NOT THE LONGEST EXPOSURE.

The German photography artist Michael Wesely has created even longer exposures. Using large format cameras (4x5 inches) he captured the light of his objects for up to 3 years in monochrome or colour.

In 2001 he was invited by the Museum of Modern Art in New York to use his unique technique to record the re-development of their building. He set up eight cameras in four different corners and photographed the destruction and re-building of the MoMa until 2004 - leaving the shutter open for up to 34 months!

 

The sun traces in the sky give the images a beautiful, painting-like feeling. To me it is very surreal to see the movement of the sun - or more precisely the movement of the earth around the sun in such a way.

The photo below was taken over almost 14 months at the Leipziger Platz in Berlin - which at the time together with the Potsdamer Platz formed one of the biggest construction sites in the world.

I find incredible that you can actually see the passing of time. The older parts of the building that were exposed the longest appear darker and clearer. While the newer parts seem more ghost like. More than 2 years took it Michael to create this incredible time incapsulation at the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin (below).

Wesely claims that he could do exposures almost indefinitely - up to 40 years! Now that's something I would love to see one day.

Here is another image he created. It is a one-year exposure of an office which he took from 29 July 1996 to 29 July 1997.

Here is another one of his mesmerising creations. I don't know exactly how long he exposed it, but I think it is totally beautiful too. The life and death of a bunch of flowers.

 If you are interested in his photographs you can buy his book he published a while ago.

OPEN SHUTTER by Michael Wesely

 

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Reader Comments (97)

Perhaps, stupid question, but how do you keep your lens open that long without totally overexposing the shot? Or is that ONLY achieved with a pinhole camera?

Would like to try some long exposures with my analog camera but unsure... 5 minutes tops?

August 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMagda

Absolutely fabulous. Thanks for enriching my life with these amazing works.

August 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPatricia

I love a long exposure. I make my men keep it out a looooooong time.

August 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKandy Embezzla Blevins

very interestin..especially for someone, that didn't know we can exposure a pic. for so longer. 3 years?

if you explain better how that could be possible, i'll apreciate, especially to comment and explain all my crew,( in the construction )
we are very apart of civilization in the black jungle in the mountains of chiapas mex. in the construction of a Rural City.

in a personal way, i congratulate those photographers that discover such a thing, that feel so good just, to watch the pics. and transport me to another dimension.

my regards

August 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFERNANDO

I love the life span of the flowers. Such an amazing capture.

August 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDemi Pietchell

Great post! It really shows how creative you can be with long exposures.

August 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteranne

The fight to decide who has used the longest exposure is a bit sterile really. On the other hand, it is really interesting to see the results: some of the pictures are really good! The technique shows its worth (independently of the records it is setting, or not...)

http://davidikus.blogspot.com

August 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavidikus

Dear Icy, this is a great story! And yes, the images look ghost alike and if painted with light... Thank you so much for sharing! Laurent

August 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaurent

.... hauntingly awesome.... I'd say they were long expossure photographs.... incredible !!

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHermitbiker

Amazing images I love pinhole photography and long exposures.

August 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterreinaldo

If you could see and move through the 4th dimension (time) at will, the world might look something like this.

August 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErik

Did not now something like this was possible. I thought the film would be over exposed.

September 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMathias

Hey, that's awesome exposure of photography. This work could done by a excellent digital camera. so beautiful images.

September 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAshutosh Ranjan

I am very glad to see such information, resources like the one you mentioned here will be very useful to us, this is very nice one and gives indepth information, thank you for sharing your thoughts and time into the stuff you post!!

digital photography

September 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmina

Absolutely amazing!

September 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBruce

what sort of film do you need to use for this technique? if you overexpose, it just comes out white in the end?

September 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteramateur photographer

Really beautiful. The sun streaks remind me of the passage from H.G. Wells "The Time Machine" when the traveler is moving so fast through time that the sun becomes an oscillating band in the sky. Feel like I'm seeing what that traveler would have seen.

September 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArijit

Excellent work!

September 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterClipping Path

I wonder how he powered the battery of his camera for so long a period in his works. They are just amazing!

September 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBevin

Would be nice to see s/w take as input a video stream (from a steady camera) and pop out a single photo with a similar effect (burn every video "frame" onto the photo using some transition filters)

October 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Birbilis

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