The Perfect Frame / by Rob Petit

I’m obsessed with this image. 

littleoldengland.jpg

I shot it, but I didn’t know I’d shot it. Let me explain... It was June 2012… the wettest one on record, ever, and we were right in the middle of filming the Olympic Torch relay. 70 days. 70 films and a metric-shit-tonne of footage from around the British Isles. But not on this day: whatever day it was, wherever it was, it was raining harder than I’ve ever seen it rain before. I was soaked to the core and, for perhaps the first time on the job, actually feeling a bit fed up. 

So I chose not to shoot anything outside that morning, I thought we’d be able to get enough later that day when it as due to brighten up. Instead I ramped up the frame rate and the shutter speed on the camera, stuck it out of the back window and asked my colleague to speed through the towns on the route. I had no idea what I was filming, or whether it would turn out but when it came to the evening edit I found an unexpected delight: a perfect, bizarre, slow moving, frozen-in-time snapshot transect of a whole belt of Midland Britain and amidst it all… this frame. This... perfect frame.

Fibonacci Perfect...

Impressionist Perfect...

Britpop Perfect...

Breakthrough-Indie-Act-Of-The-Year-Perfect...

I don’t know where it was. I don’t know who they are. But it captures the exact moment before the two blokes on the right processed the fact that they were being filmed. It depicts that nanosecond between them seeing the camera and deciding how to react, what mask to wear. It is, in short, the most truthful moment that could possibly be obtained… before the performance: the light - or terror - in their eyes. It’s what Carl Bohem’s character was searching for in Peeping Tom: that moment of truth that he thought you only glimpsed seconds before someone’s imminent death. Well Carl, it turns out you don't need to strap an enormous spike to your camera and go around murdering people to find it; you just need to stick it out the back window of a Skoda and speed through the streets on a rainy day. 

But it's not ONLY their expressions, it's everything else: the man obscuring his face with an iPad works as a perfect metaphor for how technology has replaced our identity, the dominant St. George's cross relegates the discarded Union Jack in a prophetic nod to the impending referendum on Scottish independence (I mean, the DETAIL). Oh and the rest: the sad, damp wig, the carefully-chosen stances (the umbrella man in Hitchcock profile), the red brick, the rain, the INDIVIDUAL DROPS of rain… I could go on. But I won't, I'll just redesign the English flag instead...

But looking at it again, after nearly four years, my eye is drawn to the iPad and I’m struck with a strange afterthought...

Somewhere, on some hard drive, in some house near some B-road through some redbrick town in the middle of England is a digital photograph of a soggy, grumpy director leaning out of a car window, totally unaware that he is, at that exact moment, filming the most perfect thing that has ever been filmed. And he can take absolutely no credit for it at all.