Living in motion pictures: a stop-motion animation photo essay

Trying to capture the way life unfolds before us in frames

Nathan Ching


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Stop motion is an innovative art form. NATHAN CHING/THE VARSITY

Stop-motion animation is perhaps the most surreal form of motion picture production in Hollywood. The production itself requires an extensive amount of dedication to the meticulous craft, and the final result is often a bizarre yet wonderful mode of storytelling.


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The human eye is like a camera. NATHAN CHING/THE VARSITY

Stop-motion relies on moving a static model in small increments per frame. By compiling numerous frames per second, our eyes are tricked into registering motion.

What is perhaps lesser known is that the human eye can only see up to 60 frames per second. In other words, the vessels with which we view the world are actually comparable to watching a smoother stop-motion animation. Arguably, the eye is a camera that smoothly watches life unfold in high definition.


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Film strips play out in front of our eyes. NATHAN CHING/THE VARSITY

We see key moments of our lives similar to the way classic movies are shot on film strips. A film strip is viewed by playing each frame quite fast. For us, life unfolds in frames.


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Consider the idea that our eyes miss frames. NATHAN CHING/THE VARSITY

What missing frames do our eyes not see? Surely, if the eye can only see up to 60 frames per second, there may be certain microscopic movements or — for lack of a better word — frames that our eye misses. Perhaps our brain fills in the gaps between the frames that we do not capture, much like stop motion, creating a comprehensive and understandable perception of what is being shown in front of our eyes.


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With technology, we may blind ourselves to the world around us. NATHAN CHING/THE VARSITY

You may be wondering what the relevance of this is to you. For me, it’s scary to think that when we’re looking at something, we’re missing certain information, and the brain is just trying its best to fill in the blanks. When we’re told to get off our phones and absorb the world around us, we’re not fully absorbing everything we see.

Perhaps this does not matter to certain people since there’s not much point in wondering what those lost frames are. To me, however, it is a terrifying notion. Our perception of the world is limited by our own physical body, and there is an existential despair for how we change such limitations. The answer I have right now is this: we simply cannot improve our limitations.


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Stop motion helps us question what we see. NATHAN CHING/THE VARSITY

So where does one go with that notion? The answers depend on us. The only constant in any response is the need to continuously question our perception. Stop motion challenges our perception of inanimate objects and invites us to imagine how inert objects can spring to life.

And so, these frames are my way of viewing our world as a stop-motion animation. Whatever that says about the world is up to you, but to me, these frames represent the way our eyes see. They dare us to continue to find ways to be creative. After all, despite uncertain changes, we must always challenge what we see and how we understand the world.


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Our perception is not constant. NATHAN CHING/THE VARSITY

Capturing life in frames. NATHAN CHING/THE VARSITY