Pushing the boundaries of art with time-lapse

Time-lapse photography is a great way to capture artistic creation but this technique can also be applied to become a form of art in & of itself.

A work of art can take hours, days, weeks, months, and even years to complete. Time-lapse capture is befitting of such lengthy processes as it relies on viewing a sequence of frames at a much faster rate than when they were captured.

The figure of the artist in relation to their work can provide a useful example of this. A time-lapse camera can be easily installed in the artist’s studio – which is where the magic happens. An artist’s working environment lends a personal dynamic to their professional life, while accurately documenting their work.

Internal shot of artist Charming Baker at work
Above: capturing Charming Baker at work with time-lapse.

Check out this time-lapse video of Charming Baker, one of the most dynamic artists of his generation, preparing work for his solo show at Sotheby’s S2 Gallery, London, in 2016.

Additionally, a time-lapse video of a particular artist at work can also take the narrative beyond the point of their personal creative process and into more public networks. For instance, an exhibition of artwork is a fundamental part of an artist’s journey, not simply because it is a celebration of their work but because this is where it may find commercial validation.

We also used rapid interval time-lapse to capture the opening night of Baker’s ‘Sweet Nothing’ exhibition, including the set-up and launch. Both this video and the one before it show how time-lapse can be valuable for documenting a full artistic journey.

But what of time-lapse photography when it becomes part of, or even fundamental to, the artistic process itself?

Time-lapse as art?

As we’ve established so far, time-lapse is an excellent marketing tool, especially for artists who want to get their work out in the public eye.

There is no better place to do this, of course, than on the Internet. The ranks of amateur and professional artists appear to swell by the day, as online media such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook provide platforms from which to host engaging visual content.

Among these is Serbian make-up artist, Mirjana Kika Milosevic, who uses Twitter to showcase her extraordinary body art skills.

Milosevic uses body paint to turn herself into a human optical illusion. This is rigorous and incredibly detailed work to watch and it is through the medium of time-lapse that we can enjoy this. We can watch Milosevic’s elaborate designs – which make her body take on new identities as well as appearing to twist and contort – in a matter of minutes.

As well as the benefit of accelerating this process, time-lapse also gives Milosevic a platform through which her work may be visualised by a large audience. Time-lapse is a fundamental part of the signature style she has developed, accompanied with her own branding and studio set-up, allowing her to effectively communicate her skills to a social media literate audience.

Looking at it another way, time-lapse is a mode of visual storytelling. It allows a story to be told without having to use any language. Without the complication of a language barrier, a time-lapse video opens up the narrative to a universal audience.

As Casey Kiernan suggests, “time-lapse films are captivating to watch because the visuals trigger both the left and right side of the viewer’s brain.

“Your right brain is drawn into an imaginary world, while your left brain is trying to reconcile those images with a world you thought you understood. It’s magic at its finest.”

Kiernan is someone who recognises the true power of time-lapse, worthy of being acknowledged as an art form in and of itself. Kiernan is the creator of the first Timelapse Film Festival which was hosted in California in August, 2016. The festival had over 100 submissions and was attended by some of the world’s top filmmakers, including Godfrey Reggio.

Reggio’s work – the landmark film Koyaanisqatsi (1982) – is credited with starting the mainstream time-lapse movement. The first feature-length time-lapse film, it contained no dialogue, no central characters but its message was able to cross all language barriers through a juxtaposition of commonplace images with time-altered sequences which revealed an extraordinary visual landscape.


So time-lapse is a way to showcase artistic expression of any kind and calibre but it is also becoming an art form in and of itself. A film festival just for time-lapse alone is evidence enough of how this mode of photography has developed in use and application. It is exciting to see where this may take us.

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