Friday, December 7, 2007


Bryan and I have a running discussion about The Grid Project. We both agree that for a nine year project, it feels incredibly rushed. Each month comes and disappears in a heartbeat and there never seems to be enough time to explore each grid fully. And that is OK, because it's simply the nature of such a huge undertaking.

The general time scale of photography has a similar tension. It takes no time at all to make a photo. In a 500th of a second the exposure happens. You can do this hundreds of times in a day, and raw creation can happen much more quickly than with any other art form. Compare it to painting for example. A single painting can take weeks or months to finish.

But of course taking the photo is only the first step. To finish the photographic work the film must be processed, an exposure (or scan) made, a certain amount of retouching or tweaking, printing, matting, framing, etc, all of which doesn't even get into the most time consuming process: the editing.

Compare again to painting. Although a single painting can take weeks, when it's done it's done and the artist can start in on another one. After a few months or maybe a year, a series of similar works is complete and ready to show the world. You don't often see painting shows which span more than a year or two, unless it's a retrospective or something. But in the photographic world it's quite common to see work that spans 10 or 15 years, all in the same series. Now why is that?

One explanation is that photography more than most art mediums is shaped by editing. This is why most photographic series take years to complete, from shooting through editing through presentation, whereas something like painting is much more about the work itself, not the work's selection process.

Another explanation is that time is central to the nature of photography. Every photo is connected to a specific moment in time. So spreading those moments over the course of years can often create an interesting narrative. Things change over time, and it's in the nature of photos to show that. They can't not do it.

The third and most likely explanation is that photography is on a spaceship speeding very quickly away from Earth, moving
close enough to the speed of light to create a relative shift in time on the ship compared to the earth, where most painters reside.

Just seeing if you're paying attention.

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