Sunday, 10 August 2008

The moment in time

Cartier-Bresson had his decisive moment. Now comes the Landscapist talking about the notion of freezing time. Interesting idea, that coincided with earlier thoughts I had on "The Americans". Coincidentally, I was studying Frank's book the night before reading Mark Hobson's post. I then went and looked at his new "Shore Light" gallery. As seems to happen to me frequently, these things all came together in a series of thoughts.

When a photograph freezes a moment in time, is it any moment in time, or a very specific moment from a specific time? How is it we are able to place the picture in space and time? We often, consciously or not, derive whole stories, histories from the contents of a single image. Is the photographer helping us in that effort, or deliberately obfuscating to give only a hint or glimpse?

The stronger thought that came through, however, was the fact that many photographs give a distinct sense of specific place and time both geographically and historically. There is no getting away from the fact that "The Americans" is a slice of 1950s America, and I wrote before that the effort could easily be taken up once a generation without losing impact. It is also clear that "Shore Light" shows a sense of now about the place.

I see two reasons why this is the case. Firstly there are the obvious cultural references - clothes, cars, hairstyles. The second is in photographic style, which is much harder to put a finger on. Some of it comes from materials and technology. Some of it comes from means of presenting the subject. I wondered if this second aspect would work for other subjects? I don't know but it would be interesting to see.

Take a subject well covered over many years but I would think something without an obviously iconic shot. A great landmark that's been photographed since there were photographs. I reckon Mount Fuji in Japan would make a good example. Then take 1000 shots spread across the almost 150 years, and I bet you'd be able to pretty closely mark the timeline. There are obvious differences in processes available from late 19th century to early 21st. But I also think there would be a great deal of difference in the way the subject is presented that would change too. even such a static, simple one as that.

Maybe, then, we are capturing as much about the times of the photographer as the times and moment of the subject.

1 comment:

  1. I think you hit it when you said, "we are capturing as much about the times of the photographer as the times and moment of the subject."



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