Time Passes Photographically in Boston
A photograph is essentially a split second in time captured on film or digitally, a record of what light revealed for the instant the shutter was open. Most of the time when you’re looking at a photograph, you are seeing something like 1/125th of a second captured from the eternal present as it passes before the eye and the lens.
In Keeping Time: Cycle and Duration in Contemporary Photography (through January 25) at Boston University’s Photographic Resource Center, seven photographers focus variously on human, celestial, and photographic cycles, creating images that are visual records not of split second revelations but of temporal processes they have observed or conceived.
Like Eadweard Muybridge’s classic multiple-camera photo sequences of men and animals in motion, the photographs in Keeping Time operate at the intersection of art and science, their aesthetic value inexorably tied to the artists’ little experiments with time.
Stuart Allen of San Antonio, for instance, creates “Light Maps,” creating panoramic chromatic sequences that resemble minimalist paintings by recording the changing color of ambient daylight on a piece of white sailcloth.
Erika Blumenfeld of Marfa, Texas, that little high desert outpost of conceptual art colonized by Donald Judd, documented 93 days between vernal equinox and summer solstice by holding a hand-made light recording device up to the sun every day 6:17 p.m. She then created a looped silent video by sequencing her transparencies based on the timing of her own heartbeats. The result is a kind of hypnotic projection.
Rebecca Cummins of Seattle brings her own tablecloths to cafes and traces on them the shadows thrown by bottles and glasses. Then she photographs the linear records of where light has fallen, or failed to fall.
Chris McCaw of San Francisco uses military reconnaissance lenses and a hand-made camera to track the sun across the sky, overexposing vintage paper such the solar passage is virtually burnt into it.
Sharon Harper of Cambridge, Massachusetts, creates “Moon Studies and Star Scratches” by making multiple exposures of the night sky at set intervals on a single sheet of paper. The images that the star light paints read almost like the tracings of scattering electrons.
Matthew Pillsbury of New York City simply leaves his shutter open during the duration of a little human event such as a phone conversation or a movie to create “Screen Lives,” blurry vignettes of real life in which stationary objects remain in focus while human motion is smeared across the print.