Like a heart beat struck by love.
There's a soft sigh of regret
(Or is it relief?)
As the world vanishes.
Taking me with it.
Gone is nothingness.
Gone is emptiness.
Only a distant echo remains,
Of a soft sigh of regret.
(Or is it relief?)
Here are three photographs.
And some words.
Feel free to stop reading now. The rest is likely to be pure prattle.
I have an affinity for abstraction in art and in photography but rarely does a photograph come to me where the finished image perfectly matches the reverie that preceded its creation. As such, these three pictures, created on two separate occasions, are oddities for each has, to some extent at least, matched my antecedent, fanciful, abstracted musing.
Like much of my photographic work, there is nothing original about these photos in terms of technique. Motion blur is a common enough approach. These images were made in broad daylight and the blur came from camera motion rather than subject motion. I used a neutral density filter (among other filters) and, a little ironically, I also used a tripod to capture them. At least with respect to the first two images. The third image was handheld and taken using my phone.
It is unlikely that anyone else looking at these images will see them in the same light as me. However, some may recognise a beach, the sea, the sky – as vaguely as these are depicted – seemingly painted in long horizontal strokes with an old frayed acrylic brush. And then there is the third image, a different beach, a different sea, a different sky. A water colour perhaps, painted in a restricted palette of earthy tones.
The notion which these pictures help illustrate is hinted at in the text immediately below the images. It would be a poem if I was even remotely poetic but these ill-constructed phrases will have to do for now. What follows is an attempt to expand on those words but I must point out that in spite of regular contemplation about this topic, I have a conspicuous lack of clarity as to what it is I’m contemplating. I am not sure that it will make any sense, perhaps even less than the pictures themselves so as per my earlier warning, feel free to stop reading. I assure you that you won’t be missing out on much.
I made the first two images a few weeks after returning from California. I had plans to make images that required a tripod and long exposures but on this particular day, the world decided not to cooperate and my original intent was left unfulfilled. And so, there I stood by my camera-mounted tripod, wired-remote dangling in the lifeless air like a useless appendage. It was August, the day was clear and the weather cold. Few people were around, most simply walking along the beach, children and dogs occasionally chasing seagulls who would rise into the air like a feathered wave only to return to the sand once the disturbance had passed. Soon, my eyes became transfixed on the calm water of Moreton Bay and thoughts of my recent family trip bubbled up. Wonderful memories of sights and laughter and good food and fun times. But were they memories of a time that had been, or imaginings of a time that never was?
Every morning, upon waking up, I often feel grateful (sometimes even surprised) that I get to have another go at living. Not because I’ve been told my days are numbered (though, technically, they are), but because each new day feels like it’s my first day and memories of yesterday are nothing more than an extension to the dreams I just had. And memories from further back are even more phantasmagorical.
It is said that time is the only true measure. But time slips, it stretches, it contracts, it stops still only to rush forward again. Always forward it seems. As I stand there on the beach, perfectly still, I imagine time speeding up, faster and faster, one moment merging into the next, faster and faster. I try to imagine what I would see, what the world would look like but I cannot, and yet, for some reason, I have this irrational gnawing deep inside telling me it’s important, that I need to know, but my imagination fails me. Instead I grab the camera remote, release the shutter and pan the camera to the left then to the right and back to the left and back to the right, until I hear the shutter click shut. I move further down the beach and repeat my action. I review the EXIF data and notice that the exposure was only two seconds each time. It felt longer which is ironic since I was thinking about time speeding up. I pack up my gear and forget about the photos.
Two months pass and I am on my way home from work on a Friday afternoon. I decide to walk part of the way, taking a new route. It’s October now and it’s already unseasonably warm. I come to a pedestrian tunnel and stop to look at the mural painted on its walls. Colourful paintings depicting a surreal impressionist landscape of trees with detached leaves and a forest floor littered with bright coloured blotches depicting a carpet of flowers. Along with the shade provided by the tunnel, the painted scene is cooling and refreshing. A thought occurs that I need to get home, that I mustn’t waste time. Waste time? I question inwardly. Something tells me it’s not possible to waste what is nothing more than a mental fabrication.
At that moment a memory pops up, taking me back to the last time I used my camera. A thought of time speeding up, moments merging.
When was I last standing on that beach? Two months ago? Or was it just yesterday? Did it ever happen? But of course it happened, I’ve got photos to prove it, don’t I?
I don’t have a camera this time but I take my phone out of my pocket.
If time was so fast that two months ago was two seconds ago, what would I see in those two seconds?
I sweep my phone across the two-dimensional impressionist landscape of the tunnel, left and right and left and right with the shutter open.
Two months in two seconds, would the world look different? Would a forest become a beach? And if time speeded up even more, would the world simply vanish?