I can’t stop thinking about time and how it relates to photography as a representation of reality. I could summarize part 1 saying that it has to do with the way time affects our own perception of reality and part 2 regards the act of capturing a certain lapse of time with a camera.
Photography doesn’t end here, because there is also the part that affects the consumption of a photo, how a photo is seen by a viewer.
Other forms of art, like music, cinema, theater and to some extent even literature, impose a strict control over the time that a spectator, a listener, or a reader will spend the artwork. A song that lasts 3’13″ will always be heard in 3’13″, if heard in its’ totality; a movie’s length will always be the same. How much time is spent looking at a photograph? The fruition of photography is much more similar to the one of paintings and differs completely from the fruition of a movie.
You can hang a photo on a wall and never look at it, you might spend hours looking at a photo of your family album or a viewer might spend minutes looking at a photo in a museum. There is no way to predict how much time someone will look at a picture.
Light rays, eventually coming from different parts of the world or the universe, expose your film for a certain amount of time, then the time is stretched again from a few seconds to some minutes (too keep it easy). An event that was recorded in a 1/125th of a second now is observed for a longer time, a kiss or a wave last forever, a star trail that took half an hour exposure is viewed for a couple of seconds, or moving people become an indistinct mass.
The information recorded in a photograph is static, it will not change during reasonable amounts of time. This means that the amount of information available to the viewer is immense: how long can you look a person’s face from a close distance without generating some social embarrassment? Not to mention that the person will surely move or change expression. The sharpness of a photo taken in 1/1000th of a second, is not otherwise available to the naked human eye.
Time becomes like an accordion: you take a short or long amount of time and squeeze it in an object that is almost timeless, then the viewer will expand it again to his wish. A portrait can be examined with the rapid glimpse that you would exchange with a passerby on the street or with the same dedication that you can spend studying the face of a sleeping lover.
Is this still a true representation of reality, or has a distortion occurred?