Comps Profile: Sarah Abdel-Jelil ’16 experiments with time-lapse photography

3 March 2016

Passionate about dance and film, senior Sarah Abdel-Jelil, a cinema and media studies major from Northfield, incorporated both of these interests by using time-lapse photography for her Senior Comps project. Her film, titled “kerkethen,” is approximately five minutes long and features multiple strings of photographs of students dancing from sunrise to sunset in the Arb. Fragments of a calm, female voice speaks about creation and process in a sonic backdrop complementing the visuals. Though separate from the scenes, the voice gently seeps in.

“I love videos of flowers and plants growing because you realize they really have a life of their own, but our perception of time doesn’t allow us to see the movement of these things,” explains Abdel-Jelil. “So I wanted to explore how the world is moving around us and how place is living in a way like it has its own life. The world breathes on its own.”

She first got the idea of using time-lapse photography on a Carleton-funded trip to the National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas last spring. There were multiple booths of companies advertising their products, and a GoPro brand stand had a display on time-lapse photography. Looking at the collection of their work, Abdel-Jelil was inspired to put meaning and intentionality onto seemingly impressive but empty motions.

“Time-lapse photography is a really original idea, especially since that I had never seen other Comps projects similar to this one,” says Camille Sanchez ‘17, a fellow CAMs major from France and one of the featured dancers in Abdel-Jelil’s film. “The way Sarah edited the photographs worked really well and gave an impression of continuity. Even the broken dance moves looked continuous since Sarah made sure of continuing the motions steps by steps.”

Abdel-Jelil additionally wanted to talk about time, specifically about the theme of change, as she looks forward toward graduation. She aimed to bring attention to how space changes after time; sometimes even when the space remains the same, we assume that the space has also changed since we changed ourselves.

“I wanted to bring attention to all these levels of time and how we perceive time in a certain way. Time lapse speeds up things, so you see movement in things you normally perceive as still, like plants growing,” said Abdel-Jelil.

She invited her friends and family to be the part of the process. Her friends were featured in the film as dancers and the anonymous female voice in the background is, in fact, her mom. Though she edited the sounds to make it more ambiguous and fragmented, the content remains the same.

“You know time has changed and have to embrace it, but sometimes you don’t want time to change and you resist it, so I wanted to show the hesitancy by repeating her voice and the flow by blocking it,” she explains.

Featuring her mom in the film was purely coincidental, and also perfect timing. When Abdel-Jelil was on crunch time with her rough cut and did not have any sound yet to work on, her mom happened to telephone. Since Abdel-Jelil had her sound equipment on-hand, she asked her mom to simply talk about what she loved and recorded the conversation. Her mom talked about being a parent, and as luck would have it, her words fit well with the footage that had been filmed. Their discussion of parenting also resembled the process of creating art and the importance of letting it off to grow on its own.

Though she does not have concrete plans after college, Abdel-Jelil hopes to pursue both dancing and film. One of her plans is to get a grant to further work on the theme of time-lapse photography in dance and another is to teach after she gets more experience in film.

“There are a lot of options,” Abdel-Jelil says with a smile.

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