WNPR

PIVOTAL Hartford Celebrates People Who Are Moving The City Forward

Apr 27, 2017

A photography and film event called PIVOTAL Hartford: Faces of Change opens Thursday in the lobby of The Bushnell Performing Arts Center. 

It features huge life-size black and white photographs of people who are working to re-imagine and re-shape the city of Hartford as it grows and evolves. 

There's an interactive element, too. Using smartphones, viewers can watch the still photos become, so-called "motion portraits."  The event also includes a 30-minute film.

The creator of PIVOTAL is photographer Ruedi Hofmann. WNPR reached him by phone at his home in Newburgh, New York to talk about the project.

WNPR's Diane Orson: What is a motion portrait?

Ruedi Hofmann: A motion portrait is an interesting thing to discuss now in that photography has evolved. And because of technologies and expectation, our phones are capable to doing so much. For many years, I studied the idea of doing portraiture, classically, as the still picture -- often black and white. But with film and the accessibility and the ability to work with film on your own, it became interesting -- the idea of combining those two.

And when this project started, this PIVOTAL idea, it happened at a time when there was a new app that I had learned about through a developer called Live Portrait.

What Live Portrait allows me to do, is to meet someone, do a still picture, and then in that same time we move in front of another camera and then do a film of them. And then, in a third situation we move away from the cameras and just speak, and hopefully we try to speak to the point of the project.

The motion portrait then takes all three of those and combines them, and when you either look at the book or you look at the exhibition or anywhere you see the picture, by using this application called Live Portrait, you're able then to see the culmination of all three. The still introduces you to the motion, and in the motion, you get the interview -- the audio portion.

One of the photos at the top of a staircase in The Bushnell.
Credit Ruedi Hofmann

Talk about PIVOTAL. What the focus of that project?

I moved to New York in the '80s. And it's funny -- looking back now, you’re not even aware when you’re part of it, about things that are evolving around you. The studio and where I lived was in the meat market, which went through a tremendous change in the '90s, so much so that we were pushed out.

We went to Harlem, and loved that neighborhood, and started to feel some of the same things that were going on, this change of economy and industry and people living there. Finally, in a third place, also because of change -- you start to wonder: why? And I wanted to tell a story about it.

What were you looking for when you came to Hartford to create this PIVOTAL Hartford project?

There’s a quality to this story that’s happening all around the country. People have moved away from certain cities into others, and now they’re moving back. And some of these communities -- because of these movements, they’ve gone through rougher times.

I’m still learning about Hartford, since I’m not a native there. But it has an incredible diversity of people, and it was important to discover who these people are, to bring forward this community that often is not seen.

Some things: Trinity College, institutions that have been there for 100 years and more -- they’re in our minds considered pivotal because of the way they’re engaging the community and helping move it forward.