The long moment

April 10, 2008

Flickr, everyone’s favourite photo site, just added video, and not everyone is happy about it. But Flickr has been very clever – their video offering is not designed to rival YouTube or the rest as a repository for short films, comedy clips and old adverts. Instead, they’ve limited the videos to 90 seconds to create a new niche: the long moment.

The idea has been around for a while – see the ‘long pose’ meme on YouTube for an example – but Flickr’s smarts are in seeing the gradual amalgamation of digital video and still photography in the same devices, and making a useful connection between the two media produced.

Literature is usually, and paradoxically, perceived as both static – fixed and unchanging on the page – and temporal; spooling along a timeline, occupying an extended period from start to finish. If literature has a photo moment, a pinpointable spot, it is the phoneme, or perhaps the word. Joyce’s great ‘frseeeeeeeefronnnng‘, my favorite sound in all literature, or Keat’s ‘Forlorn!’, tolling like a bell in Ode to a Nightingale.

Is there such a thing as a long textual moment? If there is, I would suggest that it can perhaps be found – again paradoxically – in silence, whether in the Beckett’s brooding pauses, or the crystalline, breathless moment at the end of a poem, when the last words hang in the air and, soundlessly, resound.

Above, my ‘long photo’ of African Wild Dogs pacing their enclosure at London Zoo, taken this bright, shiny morning on the canal.

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