The first part (winter) of a seasonal study of the Hudson river in New York.

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The first part (winter) of a seasonal study of the Hudson river in New York.

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winter | 1990s | independent film | See All (3) »

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Documentary | Short

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27 April 1997 (Germany)  »

Also Known As:

Untersuchung eines Flußes  »

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Stasis vs movement in framing
2 April 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I saw this short with three other of Peter Hutton's pieces, Skagafjorder, Time and Tide, and Landscapes for Manon. For the most part, the approach between these shorts are the same, though of course the topics and focus of interest changes, as well as the way Hutton lets different things attract his eye.

Hutton prefers to keep his movies on film and I can see why. They are essentially moving still landscape photography. The amount of time they are up on the screen is just as important aspect of framing as the borders of the image. While the camera rolls, light shifts, animals find their way across the screen, water laps, or perspective changes from the position of a vehicle (mostly boats). Study of a River focuses on the Hudson, and so the watery nature, nature, and industry along the river are typically the subjects photographed. Though Hutton provides a human relationship with the elements, the screen is mostly devoid of characters or people, and if people appear they are usually diminutive to the landscape or river proper.

If anything, Hutton's range as a photographer is presented very clearly. His exposures are absolutely perfect for the topic he's capturing, and he switches between black and white photography that would make Ansel Adams proud, to color photography that brings out the most enriching details of the landscape. His movies are truly immersive and gorgeous.

Something about the act of having moving "still photographs" is uncannily awkward, though. When subtle movements catch your eye, you become more aware of the space of the landscape, but the camera does not turn and thus the perspective is fixed within the static frame. You become incredibly aware that there's stuff outside of the frame, but you cannot look at it even if you want to. There's something of an undercurrent of violence to Hutton's work, not entirely as an unintended act. Ice is broken to pieces, light cuts through the sky, and occasionally objects slice across the screen at canted angles.

--PolarisDiB


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