Time is exposed.
Early 20th century philosopher, Henri Bergson, separated the way we experience time into two categories; “clock time and pure time”. He urged for more observance of the latter; of time as pure duration, a ceaseless flow with “no instants.” Wary of an ever increasing mechanized and time regulated world, Bergson’s theories on ‘la duree pure’ or ‘pure time’ were, seen to be in opposition “with the cultural construct of quantitative clock time, where temporal units are abstracted and lined up in sequence” (Groom, 2013, p.23). Thus, it should be no surprise that he also rejected the emerging popularity of ‘snapshot’ photography to faithfully record time or events. Rather than describe time, as Bergson saw it, snapshots cut into it, separating it from the perpetual flow
(Groom, 2013, p.23).
But what exactly, does Bergson mean by clock time and pure time? Associate Professor of Media studies at the Pratt Institute of New York, Christopher Vitae, elaborates on this in his blog, Networkologies.
Clock time = sequential evenly spaced time.
Bergson, likens this to pearls on a string, where each moment in time is represented by a pearl on a string. Thus, with every tick of the clock, we shift through one evenly spaced moment (or pearl), into the next.
For Bergson, the clock, with its equally measured seconds and minute hands, spatializes time, and as such, isn’t really so much about time, as it is a form of space. Consider seconds or minutes, each a repetition of the last, always moving evenly, forward, never changing in speed.
Pure time = duration.
Whereas, pure or durational time consists of forces and tensions, contractions and dilations. We feel these contractions and dilations most evidently when the day is dragging or alternatively, is speeding by.
However, in Bersgon’s world of pure time, or lived time, humans don’t experience time as a clock does. “[T]ime stretches when it seems to move slowly and compacts during moments of crisis. We dip deeper into memory at some points (during moments of dreaming, fantasy, reverie), and more shallowly during moments of action.” (Vitae, 2011, para. 2-6)
Bergson then continues with the following, which, in my view, is very pertinent to photography and the work I have been making:
“… both the past and future penetrate the present in the forms of memory and desire.”
(Vitae, 2011, para, 2-6)
Thus, while I agree with Bergson and Sontag that photographs serve to further fragment time; into slices, or now in the digital age we could say bytes, I seek to create photographic imagery that can act both as a slice-of-time moment, and an activator of expansion. I create a portal, where the viewer experiences a dilation of time and the concept of linear time is exposed, or expanded.
Inspired by things – objects and phenomena, that I come across in my daily life or on photographic walks, the following images speak the loudest. They offer up a kind of double edged possibility, where meaning can be twofold and contingent. Like the polarity of clock time and pure time, these works can be read as they are: as slices of time or as thin veils; thresholds, enhanced by the mechanical eye of the camera.