Effect of photography on time at SF MoMa

What is a photograph ?

Imagine a scene. Freeze a moment when the scene is at the height of its narrative arc, capture it with a camera. The decisive point. This moment selected is put on a medium. The medium transforms the moment snapped into a visual experience. Thus a unique point in someone’s timeline where something happened is captured in one of many ways inside a photograph.


How does one pick a fictional scene ?

Photographer McFarland is a maker. Combination printing is a technique of joining multiple negatives into one continuous photographic fiction. McFarland practices the technique with large format films. Each of his compositions culminates into a photograph which juxtaposes several points of view existing across temporal and spatial discontinuities into a single photograph.

Andrew Davidhazy invented the slit-scan photography. He used conventional 35mm cameras. In slit-scan, the aperture of the lens is reduced. The scene is captured around a rotational axis. The morphed lens navigates the scenes and jumps angles due to the mod aperture. The shapes of the objects in the photographic scene lose roots in reality. This form of photography is used in movies such as the 2001 space odyssey.

Nancy Burson worked with computers. She is known for her work in extrapolating existing photos of human faces subjects in time to render the same photographs in a version in which the human faces have aged. She made a sequence of self-portraits. The first photograph was from when she was eighteen. In the sequence one can see how her face transforms visually. The change between two photographs was acheived through clothes and makeup. The work is a time simulation of herself beyond the boundaries of present time. She has also created Human Race Machine.

How to create a fantastical moment ?

Shimpie Takada is an artist who works with analog photographic techniques such as the one which involves silver halide oxidization with electromagnetic radiation. He collected soil samples from the ground of the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima Japan. He packaged those soil samples in photographic film. He created a time lapse of the images. The work visualizes the powerful nuclear force and the disaster in a single photographic memento.


How can one engineer a scene ?

Roy Lichenstein’s Drowning girl which reflects a scene from DC Comic’s using old and Magna paint is a prolific artwork. I was imagining the motley of modern mediums and devices that must have been used as facilities to capture the some of the outlandish photographs. The exhibition has many works from Pop art. A movement which arrived in the US during the 1960s. It challenged abstract expressionism by depicting commonplace things from a paradoxical lens. Merchandise like coffee mugs, key chains with visuals and photographs arrived along with this movement.


A gamut of tools to create visual artworks opens uncountable possibilities. Each tool can be imagined to have control knobs. An example is a photo where a subject is replicated with different tones, so the tone is the control knob. Another way to engineer a snap is to take the same color and copy the subject multiple times. One such photograph can show a high-level narrative with a snowflake like detail all the way down.


Sol Lewitt founded conceptual art. He argues that idea alone is a work of art. The execution can wait and apply itself based on the idea. One of his compositions is the forms of a cube. In each form a section of the cube volume is made from a random selection of points. The photos are mind bending. Each of his artwork installations is his rendering of an idea. Then he leaves instructions to render his creations on top of its previous version. The instruction is the idea. The same art takes different forms across installations because of local conditions such as the handiwork of the people who carry out the instructions at the museum.

Why photograph ?


Many times the intent and the perspective of the photograph is foreign to our mind and imagination. This forces our thoughts to question and interpret in new ways. It is a way to describe many forms of art, I think.