Sometimes, when you get hammered with something from all sides, it begins to sink in. Last week Susan Galassi (Curator at the Frick and Picasso scholar) discussed, among other things, Picasso’s concern with time, which was a new one for me. A few days later, while chatting with artist Glenn Bodish about his work, he told me that a major theme throughout his career has been time and the way it structures our experience through change and the opening and closing of possibilities (at least that’s how I read it; there was a lot of interesting stuff in there about quantum mechanics and chaos and four dimensions and Eastern philosophy). Then, the next time I had a camera in my hands, I was at a small waterfall seeing nothing of particular note — until I had the thought that a photograph there could be about time.
At the risk of belaboring the obvious, I recognize several scales or layers of time implicated in the photograph above. There is the time that the camera shutter is open (less than a second), which results in the blurring of the falling water. There is the slower time (day or days) of the icicle formation. The coexistence of water and ice implies the yearly passage from a warm to a cold season, and the broken rock suggests the century-scale breaking down through the action of water and ice. The rock itself, of course, was formed over far longer ages.
I imagine there are perceptive souls who might launch on such a train of thought while contemplating this photograph. Probably most would not, at least not at first. The initial, and really the main, appeal to me is in the contrasts — dark and light, solid and fluid, still and moving — and the way they play out in the shapes and tones. That may not be so different from previous work in my waterfall project (more recent posts here and here), but the idea of involving time definitely had me thinking differently. Although I made a previous series of pictures of a waterfall in ice and snow, I didn’t find, looking back, any such stark presentation of the fast and the slow against the immobile. Those rates of change seem to be the very essence of the notion of time: what is time if there is no change?
Brief aside: While we’re here, I do have one question relating to perception: do you prefer to view the image against a white background as above, or against a gray one as below?
And for you: has time itself been a subject in any of your art? Is the time it takes you to create a work an important aspect of your medium? Can you tell that it took some time to make this picture at Lost Creek Falls?