Portraits in Motion

In his softly accented English, German photographer Volker Gerling introduces you to unforgettable faces in his quiet but compelling Portraits in Motion. It’s not a play, not a lecture – it’s artistic “show and tell” storytelling as Gerling talks about his 3500 km walks through Germany and Switzerland. On his ramblings, he took photographs of people he met who were kind to him or who were willing to look into the lens of his old Nikon and reveal something unrehearsed.

In Volker Gerling’s tiny flipbooks, great things emerge from small candid portraits of strangers that offer fascinating glimpses into the human soul.

The results are dozens of “flipbook films,” each lasting 36 frames and 12 seconds. In the anatomy lecture hall at Summerhall, Gerling stands in the dark, holding the little booklets of images, flipping them gently as they’re projected on a screen behind him (he also has a microphone that captures the riffling clicks of the pages).

In the black and white photos, mostly close-ups of faces, Gerling’s subjects come to life in sweet smiles, tiny gestures, kisses and waves. He tells a little anecdote about each person or place he captured on film, stories that are funny, odd, sometimes tragic, sometimes sexy (there is a flash of nudity a time or two).

Gerling has a good eye and a personality so gentle that he waits for people to approach him, he explains, as he sits by a fountain in a village square or watches swimmers by a lake. In the shy grin of a chubby boy, in the flirty smile of a pretty woman at a bar, in the dance of a full moon behind a cathedral tower, Gerling catches brief moments of exquisite beauty in real time. His flipbook of lights flickering through the night from the windows of a Berlin apartment block required 17 hours of his standing at a distance, shooting three frames per hour.

“What we see comes from what we do not see,” says Gerling, quoting St. Paul.

Another artist, Vincent Van Gogh, said this: “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

In Volker Gerling’s tiny flipbooks, great things emerge from small candid portraits of strangers that offer fascinating glimpses into the human soul.

Reviews by Elaine Liner

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The Blurb

Having walked over 3500kms through Germany on foot, Gerling took photographs of people he met during his wanderings, creating portraits in the form of photographic flipbooks. Now Gerling recounts the stories of those who let themselves be photographed. Gerling describes great, small, serious and quirky accidental encounters and, for a moment, brings his protagonists to life on the screen. These magical studies inspire gentle, profound reflection upon the transitory nature of the moment and the significance of interpersonal encounters. ‘Volker Gerling’s flipbook movies are artistic miniatures full of life and emotion – a poetic sensation’ (Augsburger Zeitung).