Venezia · Canale della Giudecca · Vaporetto N° 82 · 20.05.2006 · 0:47 – 0:52 h · Zitelle – S. Zaccaria

“A compelling exhibition of never-before-seen images – which in art is a work of art in itself.  The images are beautiful without being bland, abstract yet tangible enough to thrill and it is this that creates the wonderful and exciting atmosphere of the photographs.”

Adrian Prechtel, Abendzeitung München

Project description

FineArt & More


Since the invention of photography it has been a predominant objective to reduce the dimension of time, i.e. the exposure time, to a minimum. At the beginning of the 19th century the pioneers of that new medium had to expose their plates for hours or minutes. But only a few decades later new emulsions and cameras allowed photographers to ban a moment of time into an image. Nowadays it is possible to “freeze” time at a shutter speed of a four-thousandth of a second or less with even mid-range amateur cameras.

For a long time I have been working on different ideas to give the fourth dimension more space in photography, thus making time visible in my pictures.

For the NIGHT TRAIN project I used time exposures to photograph city- and landscapes while traveling at night on trains, tramways, ships or even quite unusual means of “public transport”. The lights passing by draw a multitude of seemingly abstract shapes, colours and structures onto the film. Different photographic techniques allow to create images which otherwise would not have been perceptible to the human eye.

In most cases I use an electronically controlled camera of my own design, that allows precise film winding during time exposures. The resulting “light paintings” are large panorama-like slides in the size of a complete roll of medium format film. Exposure times may vary from a few minutes up to two or three hours.

So the images of NIGHT TRAIN are not computer-generated compositions but classic photography taken with camera and film. They tell of night journeys through Europe by train, through cities by tramways and busses or boat trips on the Grand Canal in Venice – and other surprising rides. At train stations, bus stops and stoplights, ghostly figures emerge out of webs of coloured light – buildings, neon sign, shop windows, and other marks on the landscape – which, on closer inspection, can be traced back to a particular point along the route.

The subtitles that identify precisely the means of transport, the route and the time the photographs were taken, are an integral part of these works and serve to intensify the tension between the seemingly abstract patterns of light and the exact description of their origin. Face-mounted on Diasec® or presented in lightboxes of up to three or four meters in length the pictures of the NIGHT TRAIN project unveil a fascinating impression.

Idea and realisation: Lothar Schiffler
Technical assistance: Nikolai Klassen
Editing: Marion Engels
Translation: Siân Willliams-Hahn

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