Timefields
Project info

What is it like to experience multiple moments simultaneously? What if you could turn around in time the same way you can in space, looking out on the past and then the future? Questions like these may seem like science fiction, but over the past century, physicists have revealed that time is more fluid than we readily perceive.

“People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” ~ Albert Einstein

I wondered how I could use my camera to explore these concepts. I wanted to reflect the documentary ideal of making photographs that correspond directly to what appears before the camera. At the same time, I wanted to challenge the assumption that a photograph represents a single moment in time.

Over 24 hours, I made 4,608 exposures, one for each column of pixels on my camera’s sensor. I then developed software that sliced a 1-pixel wide column from each exposure and combined them. The result was Timefield 003, showing midnight to midnight from left to right. [1]

While the image was unlike anything I had seen before, it felt cold and oddly scientific. I made another attempt, this time combining rows of pixels instead of columns, and limiting the hours from 3PM to 9PM. An image emerged that was much more evocative of the concepts I was trying to explore. Timefield 006 gives the sense of standing in the present and looking out onto the past. Mysteriously, it could also be mistaken for standing in the present and looking out on the future.

Working on this series has reinforced for me the camera’s distortion of time -- how can time even exist in a “frozen” moment? Although this process recorded the passing of time that washes over us each day, the resulting photographs are of things I have never seen. As otherworldly as these timefields first appear, is it possible they represent time as accurately as a traditional photograph?

[1] http://goo.gl/iNXCTd