Spotlight: Naoto Somese, Cinemagraph and Time Lapse Photographer

By Kaley @ WPO

Naoto Somese Cinemagraph
© Naoto Somese

On the forefront of utilising cinemagraph and time lapse photography is Naoto Somese, a Japanese freelance photographer who has been active in the photographic industry for more than twenty years. With his work highlighted in international publications including Cosmopolitan, Elle and Marie Claire, his work has also been featured in numerous Japanese editorial spreads. Somese turned his eye to new forms of digital expression early on following their inception and has since created numerous cinemagraph, time lapse and panoramic imagery.He speaks with WPO about his transition from still to moving image.

What inspired you to experiment with time lapse and cinemagraph photography?
The movies I saw during my teens primarily inspired me to create time lapse and cinemagraphs, specifically work by filmmakers such as Nobuhiko Ohbayashi, Seijyun Suzuki, Nicolas Roeg and Brian De Palma, who were referred to as “magicians of film.” I’ve also been inspired by the history of photography and films.

Have you encountered any challenges in making the shift from traditional photography to experimenting with the likes of cinemagraph, time lapse, and panorama?
In my exploration of new forms of expression, I’ve experimented with a lot of different things, including cameras, equipment and applications. A lot of 360°panoramic virtual reality equipment and software is European, and I struggled to understand specialist information in English.

© Naoto SomeseWhat advice do you have for photographers looking to branch out into cinemagraph and time lapse photography?
The advice I’d give to photographers who are about to branch out into cinemagraph and time lapse photography would be to overcome the barriers of photography and moving images, and to give free rein to the imagination. If there were a key during this process, then, in the case of cinemagraph photography, that would be to look for the subject’s movement that’s to be looped. By successfully incorporating this into the photograph, you’ll end up with a sophisticated result.

When it comes to time lapse, I’d suggest selecting, as the primary motif, a subject that undergoes dramatic change. Also showing, in compressed time, the process of something emerging or appearing from nothing can result in a work that moves the viewer. 

How do you think the emergence of these two new platforms will affect traditional photography?
Once photography is released from the spell of paper and expressed through a digital device, it can only continue to evolve and become more diversified. I also believe that there will be new value attached to traditional photography during this process. I think there will be a co-existence between photography, moving images, and a new form of expression which lies between these two.

Can you share a bit of your thoughts on the marketing and distribution of time lapse and cinemagraph versus traditional still photography?
Traditional photography becomes valuable in the world of ‘art’. Meanwhile, new forms of expression, such as time lapse and cinemagraph, 360°panoramic virtual reality, object virtual reality, 360°panoramic video, and gigapixel images are also ‘art’, but I see them more as forms of expression which will become increasingly popular through easily accessible media such as websites, SNS, digital signage, e-books and text books.

What messages do you wish to share through your photography?
Through my photographs and moving images, I want to convey emotion filled with surprise in a way that is unique to moving images. I hope that I can convey the sort of emotion that the Lumiere brothers, Georges Jean Melles and Eisenstein did so many years ago, but in a contemporary context.

Inspired to create and share new imagery following Naoto Somese's insight? Just last week, WPO launched the Cinemagraph and Time Lapse Competitions, sponsored by Sony PlayMemories Camera Apps. Enter your cinemagraph and time lapse creations today!

To see more of Naoto Somese's work, please visit his website here.

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© Naoto Somese