Time. We all know what it is and we all know what it means. That’s because we, as a species, invented it. We built sundials to study it, clocks to measure it and iWatches to commoditize it.
Of course, humans have known for several generations that time is not exactly the linear progression we once thought. Relativity shows us that it bends, undulates and curves — particularly with regard to moving objects and their proximity to regions of immense mass. Those willing to shake free of the “time is a dimension” dogma and embrace the “time is a process” notion will develop a better grasp of its true function — though the whole concept of time’s arrows and quantum entanglements don’t lend themselves quite so elegantly to horologists or their implements of Swiss precision.
Photography is often considered as a way to “freeze time” — to suspend a fleeting moment at that tenuous position that lies precisely between the future and the past. But, like time itself, what we accept as truth often isn’t.
I’ve been messing with the idea of time in photos for quite awhile now. In my early years, I would frequently employ slow shutter speeds to photograph moving objects — my goal was not to freeze an object in time, but to freeze its trajectory through time. Slow shutters allowed me to examine something beyond a moment in time — they let me examine the time’s arrow.
A few years ago, after acquiring a Widelux F7, I re-engaged with photography’s unique relationship with time. Because this camera’s lens rotates from left-to-right across the field of view, the photos it takes do not represent a single moment in time. Rather, events on the right-side of the frame have actually occurred after events on the left side of the frame. In this case — and unlike the slow shutter shots — it’s not so much the time’s arrow I’m observing, as it is the quantum entanglement of an arrow in time.
Last month, feeling a bit nostalgic, I decided to partake in a bit of good ol’ fashioned Einsteinian science fiction, and use my camera to fold time. Specifically, I loaded a roll of film into my Lomography fisheye camera and, upon exposing it, re-wound it, then re-loaded and re-exposed it. On this second pass, I would occasionally rewind a random length of film and re-expose it a third time. In essence, I was creating a wormhole, in which overlapping moments of time folded in on themselves.
The results of this process never cease to delight me. Which is odd, considering it’s a rather hackneyed old parlour trick that’s as old as photography itself. But then, if time is relative and its passage merely a construct, can there be any such thing as an old idea? Or is it an idea that’s timeless?
©2016 grEGORy simpson
ABOUT THE PHOTOS:
First, I’d like to apologize to all you physicists out there — be you from the Thermodynamics, Quantum or Relativity schools — for having appropriated your theories and frivolously repurposed them with such grievous generality.
All accompanying photos were shot with a Lomography fisheye camera with a single roll of Tri-X, which I ran, re-ran and re-re-ran through the camera, then developed in Rodinal 1:50.
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