La Vida Brinca

Overview

La vida brinca—life jumps—and yet we strive to capture its passing moments by creating images. One of the simplest yet most evocative techniques for image-making is pinhole photography. Using a tiny aperture without a lens to shine light on a piece of film, pinhole cameras accumulate light until an image forms. Bill Wittliff calls the cameras he makes tragaluces, "light swallowers." By controlling only the size of the aperture, the distance to the film, and the length of the exposure, he makes images that forsake...

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Overview

La vida brinca—life jumps—and yet we strive to capture its passing moments by creating images. One of the simplest yet most evocative techniques for image-making is pinhole photography. Using a tiny aperture without a lens to shine light on a piece of film, pinhole cameras accumulate light until an image forms. Bill Wittliff calls the cameras he makes tragaluces, "light swallowers." By controlling only the size of the aperture, the distance to the film, and the length of the exposure, he makes images that forsake the documentary realism of traditional photography to disclose instead the presence of the mystical in the everyday world.

The tragaluz photographs in La Vida Brinca record iconic images of Hispanic life. Wittliff photographed fiestas, religious observances, street scenes, people's faces, and enduring rural landscapes. But with the soft focus and surprise elements that typify his tragaluz photographs, these images become dreamlike—scenes from a world where, as Stephen Harrigan says, "reassuring touchstones are likely to dissolve, and where the unseen is always startlingly on view." The accompanying essays by Harrigan and Elizabeth Ferrer discuss the history and techniques of pinhole photography, as well as Bill Wittliff's artistic choice to work in this medium. As a work of art, La Vida Brinca reveals that pinhole photography is an ideal vehicle for finding profound meaning in the commonplace, for seeing beyond what the eye can see.

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Editorial Reviews

The Bloomsbury Review
Wittliff has succeeded in bringing a new, but very old-fashioned, viewpoint to his exciting work.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780292713208
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2006
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 12.20 (w) x 12.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Bill Wittliff, of Austin, is a distinguished photographer and writer whose photographs have been published in the book Vaquero: Genesis of the Texas Cowboy and exhibited in the United States and abroad. As a screenwriter and producer, his credits include The Perfect Storm, The Black Stallion, Legends of the Fall, and Lonesome Dove, among others.
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Table of Contents

Bill Wittliff's Hidden World
Stephen Harrigan
Light, Accumulated: Bill Wittliff's Tragaluz Photographs
Elizabeth Ferrer
Photographs
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2008

    The Language of Light

    Bill Wittliff is a man of many talents: he is a screenwriter and producer of such films as 'Lonesome Dove', 'Legends of the Fall', 'The Perfect Storm', etc as well as a photographer and writer whose works have mad the rounds of museums both in the United States and abroad. The broad scope of his communication with the visual image adds a degree of fascination in his latest portfolio of photographs, LA VA BRINCA, and among the reasons is the manner in which he elected to capture these images. For this collection of Hispanic imagery of the simple life in Mexico balances with his exploration of the rituals and festivals of the people whose faces and personalities he captures. Using a pinhole or 'tragaluces' camera (a simple box with a single hole that absorbs light from an object in accordance with the amount of time of the exposure, the distance form the object, and the artist's wishes - 'tragaluces' is translated as 'light swallower'), Wittliff enhances his interesting images with the distortions this technique allows. The results are central statements in focus that seemingly float in a gradually blurring atmosphere. Or, in other words, the final images are more mystical or magical, a characteristic that enhances his choice of subject matter. Another aspect that makes this particular portfolio exceptional is the design of the layout of the book. Each full-page image is balanced by a blank page facing it. The resultant space given each photograph invites the viewer to concentrate on the mystery of the image, encouraging a personal interpretation by the viewer to participate in the at times bizarre imagery. Stephen Harrigan and Elizabeth Ferrer provide essays that explain the history and use of the pinhole camera as well as the particular position of the artist Bill Wittliff in this field of creativity. It is a fine volume that goes beyond the usual portfolio of collected photographs. Grady Harp

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