Adam Magyar Measures Time in His Custom-Built High-Speed Camera Film Series 'Stainless'

stainlessAnyone who's taken at least one trip on the underground will know by the beligered faces of their fellow travellers slogging to work or elsewhere that, buskers aside, there would seem to be little creativity to be found in underground transit. However, in his Stainless series of photographs, evolved into slow motion urban portrait films, Hungarian artist Adam Magyar demonstrates the hypnotic beauty that can be found in an everyday moment stretched out over a high-speed eternity. Watch an excerpt of how the denizens of New York's Grand Central station make their commute after the jump.

We've all seen high-speed footage before and are by now more than aware of its power to turn a banal scene into somethings cool looking, but what I find most interesting about Magyar's work is the fact that, as an artist, he's not actually interested in the "eye candy" of slow motion, but rather the area that sits between the still and motion. The films which make up part of the Stainless project where only created due to his desire to pursue a concept authentically even when doing so required the development of new technological approaches. This is something he discusses in PDN Magazine's interview with him for their DIY Issue:

If you find that your concept requires a different technology, that’s what you need to use, and if the technology needs some adjustments, you make those adjustments. I’m passionate about the modern world and I’m committed to photography, but I thought my message just cannot be authentically conveyed with devices that do not use the technology and the limitless possibilities of the day. The bottom line is really simple. Each concept needs the right device. If any choice is wrong in the process, the end result will be nothing more than a try.

And speaking more specifically about the camera challenges for the project later in the interview:

The camera I used for the Stainless project was an industrial one normally used at assembly lines for mass production, so it was not a portable photographic device. This camera in itself is not capable of making images, there are additional devices required for it to make it function. I put a portable system together. As I needed a computer for streaming the huge quantity of data - the use of which was problematic in the subway - I had no other choice but to write an iPhone application that made it possible for me to control the system easily.

Here's another excerpt from Stainless, this time recorded in Berlin's U2 Alexanderplatz station:

Alongside the custom camera setups, Magyar also had to write custom programmes for the post-processing phase of the images. In this 20 minute presentation for PopTech, Magyar speaks in detail about that and his love of the "unimportant, ignored moments," which began in his street photography days, as well as his evolving experimentation with slit-scan photography which ultimate led to the Stainless subway films.

If you're wondering how well the full length films hold your attention, then settle back and experience 11 minutes of Tokyo's Shinjuku station:

Still with us? Personally, I find Magyar's Stainless films hypnotically compelling (something about looking out for the slight movements amongst the mostly motionless majority) and I would've no doubt found myself locked in place before them all day if I'd happened to catch them looping on their museum tour. What do you think of his use of his customised high speed camera setup? Are there other locations or events that you think would make good subjects?


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So very cool. Each face is a beautiful story.

January 25, 2014 at 7:12AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


I think it's amazing. Finally somebody who understands what Slow motion can do to add to the expressiveness of human emotion. Not all this water balloon popping bullshit we keep seeing every day in these tests.

I had the chance to shoot with a Phantom HD a year ago for a short i made and this was exactly the approach I liked. I actually convinced the rental company of why I needed the phantom to show human emotion and they loved it so much they rented it for free. The black and white excerpts in this trailer were 1000fps phantom with anamorphic lenses.

Enough self promotion, I wonder how fast the camera dolly was going to create these shots!

January 25, 2014 at 7:42AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


The dolly is a subway.

January 25, 2014 at 7:46AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


that makes so much sense i feel stupid

January 25, 2014 at 7:53AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


I thought it myself for a second :)

January 25, 2014 at 9:48AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


lolol me too

January 25, 2014 at 3:14PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Really nice, well-written article, Mar! Thanks for bringing this here.

January 25, 2014 at 8:18AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Must be impossible to get release forms signed by so so many people :)

January 25, 2014 at 8:19AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Thanks D.B., glad you liked it. I really enjoy watching people break down the progression of a project/idea over time like Magyar does in the presentation, so you can see the logic jumps between the stages of finished work. Thought you guys would dig it too.

January 25, 2014 at 9:22AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


The way the light flickers rapidly and yet the motion of people's hands, mouths, etc are really slowed down.. is awesome. Super creative.

January 25, 2014 at 9:34AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


This also got me thinking – I'm an avid FS700 shooter and love the surreal flickering of slow motion lighting – the power in Tokyo is 50Hz meaning the fluros would be flickering at 100Hz; but in the Shinjuku film the lights are flickering ~5 times per second (roughly) meaning that the footage was shot at around 480-500fps?

Anyway... great presentation and full respect to Magyar for working his way towards these fascinating films.

January 25, 2014 at 12:09PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


So I would have to have a camera that shoots 480-500fps?

February 1, 2014 at 11:34PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Really nice.
Being ripped off for a TVC in 3,2,1......

January 25, 2014 at 12:22PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


So what was the production line camera he was using?

January 25, 2014 at 9:35PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Looks just like Trey Ratcliffe's stuff from 2011.

January 26, 2014 at 1:53AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Yes it is similar but not as focused. And the music gets in the way. Magyar's film is much more engaging. It doesn't matter that someone else on the planet also thought of the same basic idea. The important thing is that the idea is moved on in some way.

January 31, 2014 at 4:46AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Well said. #Execution
Love this article!!! Wish I could do this with my DSLR or my goPro Hero3+

February 1, 2014 at 11:35PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


I've been doing this for ages! And in 3D. And with some nice tricks thrown in. More will be revealed later.

For now, since most of you folks won't have a 3D monitor, here's a 2D sample:

Enjoy! ;-)

October 15, 2014 at 10:39AM, Edited October 15, 10:39AM

Karel Bata
Director / DP / Stereographer

my own slow-mo video, this one with an hv20:

October 15, 2014 at 12:18PM

William Peña Vega
camera operator - graphic artist