All Images Copyright © Mark Lindquist Photography 2000-2017 - All Rights Reserved


Early Mark Lindquist Motion Blur Essay: 2005

MOTION BLUR PHOTOGRAPHY by artist / photographer Mark Lindquist
Definitive works of motion blur abstracts and photography from the early 2000's

Still Moving
, by Mark Lindquist

Revealing an Unseen World

It occurred to me that beneath the surface of the mundane in life exists our mythical realm, the place where dreams come from, or where we find solace in times of meditation or contentment.  When riding in the car on long trips as a child, I would stare trance-like for hours on end as landscapes and buildings whizzed by, transformed by the movement of the car into new shapes and colors.  The speed created blur, the magical tool that put the world in flux.  No wonder, then, that I became fascinated with the odd images produced at the beginning of a film roll, and sometimes the end, by winding the film into place or winding it to end the roll.  Shots were taken, images captured without knowing, and the motion of winding often shook the camera enough to cause common problems for images: blurry captures and unexpected blurred “panning” shots. 

I was captivated by the melded colors, the odd formations that were these “bad slides.”  Mostly those film images went into the trash immediately, but occasionally stunning “pictures” emerged which made me dreamy with wonder.  Back in the film days, it was practically unthinkable to waste film, to just shoot rolls and rolls experimenting.  Always there was a need to be careful in the use of film, as each roll first cost to buy then, of course, to process.  The cost encouraged technical expertise and a “never miss a shot” ethic, other than to bracket exposures from which to select a preferred exposure. 

Early Experiments with Motion 

When the digital SLR (single lens reflex camera) became affordable (for me it was the Canon 10D) the idea of film and economy went right out the window immediately.  The film was prepaid and so was the processing.  No lab costs.  This meant suddenly all constraints of cost were now gone and the idea of experimentation was immediate.  Shoot, shoot without a care.  The images could be quickly and easily deleted, and also could be burned to CDs if there wasn’t enough hard drive space for storage.  The image could be instantaneously processed in Photoshop and printed with results that rivaled anything available from the lab. The workflow became individuated.  Photographer and processing lab became one and the photographer became autonomous.

Experimenting with panning shots, where a moving object such as a car is shot to be in focus while the background becomes a blur of lines connoting speed, became an obsession for me.  Certain images emerged which embodied the best results of this technique such as “The Light Walkers” (I Hear Music, Step into the Light, and Walk Like an Egyptian).  Captured in Vancouver during a vacation trip, the figures move amongst richly saturated backgrounds replete with motion and color.  The point of these photos is that they launch the figure and us into a mythic realm, a place that exists only perhaps to other creatures imbued with special abilities, as dogs are endowed with a sense of smell ten times beyond our capabilities.  When I began to capture these panning shots consistently, it occurred to me that while these images didn’t really exist in life yet were here in front of me on paper or monitor, perhaps the image signified another realm which exists beyond our normal day-to-day perceptions but lies just out of reach.  Considering current string theory, perhaps this notion is not so far fetched.

 Step Into The Light

 Foreground Subject/Background Subject Photography

I began experimenting with reversing the technique of panning a moving object, instead panning the background itself while still focusing on the object.  I see this decision as akin to Brancusi’s recognition of the base as equally as important as the sculpture.  This thinking began forming the basis for what I now think of as “foreground subject/background subject” photography.  Placing an equal emphasis on both aspects shattered traditional confines for me. 

Just as I had built jigs and machines to accomplish certain processes in woodturning and sculpture, I began experimenting with ways to control motion through prescribed paths, using linear motion rails.  Moving Money was an early experiment that allowed the blur of the stationary object to become prominent as a design element in the finished photo itself.  The coin was still and the camera itself moved along a course I had predetermined.  Shooting hundreds of images, I varied the motion, the path, the blur, through bracketing and focusing, until eventually one image emerged that captured the essence of what I was shooting for.  It was like Jacob wrestling with the angel--after days and days of struggling, finally the process gave up the sought after prize.  

The photograph seemed to me to reveal the unseeable effects of light and motion that modern physics explains through theories and formulas.  I settled for the results of the experiment alone, not needing to understand how the universe actually works.  To have a part of it, a meager scrap would do.  The mystery of light and the transformation of objects were illustrated to me by the process I had worked out. 

           Moving Money 


Armed with new knowledge and understanding about how the effects of light and motion allow a glimpse into the hidden realm, I began applying the technique to photography of objects in nature, exploring form and natural light.  The first resulting image that transcended the ordinary, visible world and entered into the real but unseen world was Slit-Screen.  It was shot outdoors using an object of no consequence to transform the components of the here and now into the here but unseen. 

The breakthrough had occurred earlier, actually, when while shooting a dog toy as a still life, I began playing with the motion techniques.  The forms and colors of Dog Toy create a “normal” image that I appreciate as it is.   

Dog Toy 


But as I applied my motion technique, forms which seemed like gifts from the machine (camera) began to emerge, not quite perfect in terms of exposure, but rather, an ideal example of the hoped for process of shooting.  With this breakthrough came the quest to conquer or master the process, that I am to this day still obsessed with.  Early examples from this time follow: Socked In, Icebergs Collide, Sand Storm

                                         Socked In                                                                                 Icebergs Collide 






Although “noisy” (a term referring to digital interference in current DSLR technology) the images confirmed the potential of the process.  As I applied the technique to simple objects, one truth became evident: the process could be used on anything and could unlock the hidden world which lies beyond the evident to yield the unperceived.  This process, while always possible, was and still is extremely difficult and unstable. I think of my yield, the number of useable images per number of shots taken, as a ratio determined by the craftsmanship and vision applied to any given session.  As a craftsman, I understand the determination and discipline required to master technique. To turn wood with mastery involves years of disciplined practice.  To do this kind of photography requires the same commitment to time and practice. 

The Technique 

These early experiments lead to months of practicing, attempting to master the techniques to increase the yield.  Slit-Screen emerged like a strange visitor from another planet.  In my view it was glorious, an accomplishment that was an example of this technique and an image which held its own in the tradition of the abstract photography of Edward Weston, et al, where an image taken out of the context of the realm of daily life became celebrated, perhaps, at least for me, achieving an iconic state. 

In Slit-Screen, the process, unwieldy and unstable as it was gave up an early image that began to fulfill the self-imposed requirements which form the confines within which I currently work.  It is when the image becomes something that was never there, but is instead transformed by the process, that it makes a new essence based on light and motion.  It is a task of pulling light with the camera, or perhaps pushing it, maybe coaxing it along.  It turns out that it must be a highly technical process to achieve consistency or to go beyond mediocrity or cliché, but the results are a kind of drawing with the camera where the tool becomes a stylus of sorts and the photograph becomes more like a painting. 



Gradually, it became clear to me that the camera movement required to achieve consistent results was not unlike the movements I employ as a woodworker, woodturner, and sculptor.  In woodturning, the material moves (in fact it is all about movement) and the tool is carefully manipulated through various angles and pressures against the spinning material.  Slight repetitive motions, applying subtle pressures, accomplish complex forms translating to smooth surfaces and curves in the material. Working wood often involves deft manipulation of a tool such as a plane or a chisel as it carves into the material held stationary in a device such as a bench or vise.

But perhaps the most direct relationship is the similarity of the use of the chainsaw in carving to the use of the camera in this kind of photography.  Subtle motions emanating from the wrist yield profound results at the tip of the tool. When I worked on my chainsaw carved panels I endeavored to create a new vocabulary reflecting the nature of the tool.  The cuts and crosscuts became extremely precise while simultaneously expressive.  It was the line in motion though an imposed curve which fascinated me.  So I began to look for this aspect in my “drawing” with the camera.  I view the current work as a translation of these studied techniques, a craft involving the highest degree of hand/eye coordination. 

Mark Lindquist woodturning at the lathe, circa 1979, Henniker, NH studio 



Perhaps it is the essential aspect of rhythm absorbed from my early training as a percussionist that has formed the basis of my work.  The motion of the wrist, the control of the hand, guided by the eye, enables the personal expression which emerges throughout my development as an artist.  Inevitably, the craft which is imposed upon the process lies in service to my vision.  I employ the tools to that end and view them as an integral part of the process.  Just as the lathe became for me an easel, the means with which to hold the work, so too now does the camera become that extension of my hand that allows me to shape and carve light.   

The interplay of positive and negative space is sublimated through the aspects of motion and stillness. Specular light dragged like the tool steel of the spinning chainsaw tooth creates line and defines form. Color is the palette of natural light.  The division of time into fractions of seconds reveals the colors and enables the shaping of light-form, while the focusing of the aperture determines the quantity of colors and sharpness of line.  Coupling these basic aspects together, the precisely controlled motion of the camera, the correct reading of the light, the careful synchronization of the elements, occasionally the gift from this process is realized.


Selecting and Printing the Image 

It is the referral to painting, drawing, and sculpture in art historical association that enables me to find the images amongst a wasteland of exposures.  Wading through countless captures, the right one reveals itself through conscious observation.  That one lone image becomes separated from the rest, which are the packing of this one prize.  I shoot and reshoot until I capture the image in-camera, as did traditionalist modernist photographers who sought to make perfect negatives, requiring little editing, cropping or exposure adjustment.  One of my goals is to work within these confines, applying sound photographic principles to my work flow.  This quest for purity of image in the traditional photographic sense validates the printed object for me as uniquely photographic, although the final result blurs the lines between many graphic disciplines.  

For me, photography has come of age—it is no longer “about photography”—it has become a tool that enables me to explore light, motion, and form.  While wrestling with the process to achieve my desired outcome, I find this is not unlike any other approach to making art.  It is seeing and testing within a climate of belief and doubt, where light and shadow occasionally dance together but mostly are at odds with each other.  When late afternoon light, personal energy and enthusiasm, sleight of hand, and high technology meet, the stage is set for the serendipitous occurrence.  Then sifting through the hay to find the needle begins. Eventually I look to see many needles and little hay.  That requires a life long commitment. 

I set out to obey photographic rules of proper exposure and to process the images using the most advanced post-processing techniques in Photoshop (the digital darkroom as it is often called) and in the most suitable manner, using the best fine art papers and inks which have the greatest archival longevity.  Keeping the colors in gamut proves to be the most challenging aspect of using the most favored fine art papers. 

I began printing Slit-Screen on Epson Velvet Fine Art paper using the Epson 2200 Ink Jet Printer with Ultrachrome inks as it was the most affordable printer on the market capable of producing archival quality prints up to a size of 13” x 19”. Gradually getting a handle on the digital darkroom workflow I began to achieve museum quality prints which now are the state-of-my-art for the current images.  Eventually, larger prints will become possible, as the images from my cameras (the Nikon D2H and D2X) can yield spectacular results at up-scaled sizes that are appropriate.  The aspect of post-processing the images through carefully managed color workflow is a tricky business.

Reflections on Chainsaw Carved Polychromed Plywood Works

When I began creating chainsaw carved panels on wood, I used techniques that came directly from the world of woodworking but were modified to enable my own avenues of expression.  While swinging the chainsaw across the surfaces, skating the blade, a quick kind of drawing was accomplished, like sprezzatura, a technique that embodies the essence of the artist’s vision in a quick sketch.  The process required highly sophisticated techniques, mastery of process, and purpose of vision. 

“Wetland Series (De-Compositions)” - 1990s 

Photo: John McFadden / Lindquist Studios

In my “Stratigraph” and “De-Composition” pieces, I referred to the work of the Abstract Expressionists and began developing a vocabulary and vision of “a modernist approach to postmodernism.”  The objects vacillate between tenets of high modernism and the ambiguities of postmodernism, exploring the realms of slipping signifiers and pastiche.

So too are my photographs explorations of modernist goals and postmodernist commentaries regarding form, painting, light, and expressionism.  I refer, often, to the approaches of period painters such as Malevitch, making tongue-in-cheek references in the titles of my photographs.  (While the titles refer to earlier artists and historical movements, there are purposely no direct similarities between images.)   

Complex Presentiment: Quarter Figure Wearing a Tangerine and Orange Shirt (left)

Kasimir Malevitch Painting (right)  



The Influence of Ukiyo-e Prints  

While studying Japanese art history with Dr. Penelope Mason in the late 80’s through early nineties, I began a detailed enquiry into the design principles of Ukiyo-e woodblock prints, incorporating into my work such emotive concepts as the steeper the angle the greater the drama within a scene.  Often Ukiyo-e images were tightly cropped, producing a feeling of floating.  The name Ukiyo-e means just that: “the floating world.”  I also studied the influence of the design principles of Ukiyo-e on the work of European painters of the 19th century. 



Just as van Gogh referred to Hiroshige’s famous woodblock print Sudden Shower at Ohashi (left) in his painting Japanaserie: Bridge in the Rain, (right) I refer to van Gogh’s reference in a carved and polychromed panel called “Sudden Reign” (referring to the state of war), creating layers of meaning.  The pseudo-seal or chop mark on the left is a graphic reference to van Gogh’s actual redux painting of the woodblock print.  The carved panel is neither painting nor print but rather woodblock itself reversing theindexicality of the process of making a series of Ukiyo-e prints.  I rearrange the significations of the elements of the original prints; whereas the figures in the prints by Hiroshige are running, covering themselves from ordinary rain, my figures are covering themselves as they run from the rain/reign of terror, indicated by the over-arching cloud-like figure which symbolizes nuclear war, or terror coming from the sky.  Using the “copy” of van Gogh’s copy of a copy (referring to the fact that prints are copies of an original) as a stamp, means I call upon van Gogh’s act of appropriation as a “seal of approval”—if it was okay and good enough for van Gogh to appropriate and refer to the image, then it is likewise okay for me. 

SUDDEN REIGN (Mark Lindquist 1990)  

Photo: John McFadden / Lindquist Studios


 Recently a sculpture of mine from that period has been acquired by the Smithsonian Museum: 


Mark Lindquist, Akikonomu (Ichiboku Series), 1989, cherry and polychrome


Evolution of My Photography

I am pleased to be coming back to photography in a concentrated form at this point in the development of my work.  I began photographing seriously while studying art in college in the late 1960s.  Later, my wife Kathy and I studied photography and fine art black and white printing with Ron Rosenstock, who had worked with Minor White at MIT.  Kathy and I shared a studio and darkroom in New Hampshire.  She became a free-lance magazine photographer, while my interests were in pursuing photography as a form of artistic expression in itself, as well as in producing a record of my other artistic endeavors.  For over thirty-five years, I have practiced art documentation photography, working professionally for other artists and art institutions as well as for myself.


Will Horwitt’s NYC Studio photographed by Mark Lindquist, circa1980 

My early purely photographic works were in black and white shot with a Mamiya M645 or an Arca Swiss 4 x 5 camera and processed in our darkroom, using a cold light and Zone VI and other fine art papers.  This exploration of the black and white print culminated in the late 1970s in the “Zone Line Series,” which are 10” x 14” prints made from 4” x 5” negatives of the surface of pieces of spalted wood less than two inches square.  The images transcended their identity as wood, taking on the appearance of Japanese brushwork, a theme that runs through my work in all media.  A one-person show of the Zone Line Series photographs was held at the Kendall Gallery in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, in 1980. 


I have also used photography as a tool for documenting craftsmanship and technique. In 1977, I assisted Robert Whitley in the reproduction of the presidential desk for the JFK Memorial Library, photographing and patterning the original desk in the Oval Office.




I worked with professional photographer Bill Byers to produce the technical photographic series in my book, Sculpting Wood, published in 1986.  In 1992, I reproduced and photographed ancient clay working techniques for a scholarly work on Japanese art, written by Dr. Penelope Mason.

 In 1996, I began using digital technology, using the Polaroid PDC 2000 professional camera and Photoshop version 4 as an image-editing tool.  In 2004 I began photographing with the Canon 10D Digital SLR, then moved to the Nikon D2H and D2X professional systems, and have all but abandoned film in favor of digital media.

The Common Thread 

A common thread throughout my work, no matter the medium, the subject, or the technique, is the presence of naturally occurring line.  Since my childhood days of working with my father, harvesting and turning spalted wood (partially decomposed wood marked with rich dark zone lines formed by carbonaceous deposits), the use of natural line reasserts itself continually in my work.  I have a trust in the natural formations and graphic patterns that exist everywhere, believing that these natural occurrences are the foundation of graphic art since the beginning of mankind.  Pattern and imagery, like spalting or the cracking that occurs in wood, are all around us both in this world and the unseen world.  Just as airflow patterns are viewed in laboratory wind tunnels by adding smoke, to me the camera and my process expose the unseen patterns occurring in nature.  In many ways this is like cutting the log to expose the grain and, when present, the naturally drawn lines of spalted wood.



The photos in this portfolio are printed on Epson Enhanced Matte paper.  I use(d) Epson Ultrachrome inks in an Epson 2200 color printer.  These photo-abstract images are all in-camera photographs, not manipulated or added to after the image has been captured by the camera.  I use(d) the Nikon D2H and D2X cameras and process(ed) the photos with a carefully managed color workflow on an Apple G5 Dual 2 Ghz Machine with 6 GB Ram.  The works represent 2 years of endeavor with this process, after a lifetime of study.

 Mark Lindquist

December, 2005  Lindquist Studios | Quincy, Florida



All Images Copyright © Mark Lindquist Photography 2000-2017 - All Rights Reserved