My final project for Photography I in college involved capturing a moment of realization to show genuine emotion. It was picked apart down to its very core and totally destroyed by my professor—but in a very kind way. I passed the class but my “genius” idea of a final project has haunted me ever since. That’s where Charleston photographer Patrick Hall comes in to stir up some of my old ghosts—but in quite a shocking fashion.
Hall came up with a genius concept: photograph (and record) subjects at the moment they are shocked by a 300,000-volt stun gun. King Dusko on King Street became the venue, and at least 100 locals were interested enough to participate. The video, filmed in slow motion, has since gone viral with almost 3 million views on YouTube and is both intriguing and pretty funny to say the least. Hall shows us this slow building crescendo of contortion and emotion and slows/freezes time for all to see. The video and shots (available on Hall's website) are comical in that schadenfreude kind of way, but can also inspire interest and maybe even a little sympathy. The photos, taken as implied nudes to remove the distraction of clothing, are lit perfectly and show the subjects in various states of “duress” with the occasional hint of a smile (or sometimes only a smile). The project would make a great coffee table book to inspire a few laughs at the very least, but it goes beyond that.
"What's interesting about this photoshoot is there's no way you can fake your emotions and your expression when you get hit with 300,000 volts of electricity," says Hall in a making-of video.
Images from Hall's site.
Portraits can be redundant, and I know that my genuine smile is very different than a smile for the camera. A typical portrait is a façade or a projection of what you look like, not who you are. Hall cuts through those issues with this project, giving viewers a brief view into an aspect of who the subject is, by revealing genuine emotion. Maybe I’m biased because I had a final project destroyed by my professor but, besides the sinisterly funny aspect, Hall achieves something valuable here with the prime use of a camera: capturing light and time. He captures a moment of pure, uncontrollable emotion that is beautifully lit and crafted to aesthetic greatness. Even if people contest its artistic merit, aren’t they just feeding into it? Because in the end it’s still making you think, which is an art all to itself.