Review: Serene storytelling in ‘Portraits in Motion’ at Mayfest

4-stars 17th May 2016

Mayfest_carousel_Portraits-In-MotionVolker Gerling is a well-travelled man

An unassuming fellow, he still radiates the self-assurance of someone who has lived a life of great exploits. His eyes betraying a deeper understanding (drawn from over 3,500km walking around Germany no doubt) of this world, than you or I perhaps will ever possess.

He is also a storyteller.

Using the form of flick books, he has developed an inimitable narrative technique that, as he quotes St Paul, exposes the essential realisation that “what we percieve has as much to do with what we don’t see as what we do”.

Armed with only an old Nikon F3 camera, Gerling captures 36 exposures over a 12 second period, that he then combines to make his charming books.

Asking his subjects to pose under the pretense of taking just a single shot, he then proceeds to capture a small stop motion film. Producing something that is stylistically somewhere between a Victorian projection box and a more modern film noir.

What he ultimately captures, though, goes far beyond the immediacy of the celluloid.

Despite his natural curiosity, Gerling had to develop a more adventurous side. After plucking up the courage to take his ‘travelling exhibition’ on the road proper, his innate hunger to better appreciate the place and people he encounters has been augmented by a deliberate attempt to becoming a true adventurer. Each summer making  a pilgramge the length and breadth of his home country of Germany and neighbouring nations.

Engaging with as many people as he can on the road, he has almost insatiable desire to tease stories out of them. Catching moments that give a glimpse of something far deeper than purely the moment shared.

He recalls how he quickly noted that subjects would pose awkwardly for the first second or two but that “12 seconds is a long time” and soon their staged veneer would give way to the real them.

Whilst something as simple as a smirk, a sigh, or a yawn can seem almost too innocuous to pick up ordinarily, in the elongated reality of a flick book a mini-second can be something so much more – a snapshot of a soul. The gaps left between pictures allowing for the audiences mind to fill with perceptions of a backstory or other unknown elements – an ability that harks back to an almost lost art of storytelling.

Like a priest at an illuminated pulpit, tonight he presents his books with a customised set that incorporates a high definition camera, a projector and a whole host of flipbooks. The soft and repetitive click of his fingers against the specialist card being all that punctuates the air as the crowd sit in hushed awe as he picks through his favourites.

Poetic Portraits in Motion takes storytelling back to its purest form, in what is a real delight of show.

To get tickets click here.

Kevin McGough