Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Photographing The Future

It's easy to see or to photograph the past: just look up at the night sky. Because of the immense distances and because light can travel at no more than 299, 792, 458 metres per second, everything you see up there is a message from the past. Our views of the Moon from Earth are 1.28 seconds in the past. The Sun is, on average, 8 minutes 17 seconds in the past. The nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is 4 years 80 days in the past. And so on. The deeper you look into the sky, the deeper you look into the history of the universe.

But photographing the future is much harder. I've been trying to capture scenes illuminated by future light using a large format camera at maximum aperture in a completely darkened box subject to different temperatures, pre-exposure protocols, etc, but so far I haven't been able to resolve anything. It isn't because there's a lack of light - of information. It's there, but it's scattered, and each photon is subject to interference from uncertainty 'ghosting'. As a result, almost everything we think we perceive is due to pareidolia, as our brains try to impose order on vague and random structures mostly drowned in lightfog. So far, our few glimpses of the future have been little more than consensual hallucinations, which is why I think my naive photographic experiments, sponsored by the Mundane Science Fiction Society, are important. After all, to paraphrase the motto of the society, it is important to prevent imagination from influencing the truth about what hasn't yet happened.

 The future, earlier today.


Blogger Henry Farrell said...

Flann O'Brien's description of De Selby's experiments taking advantage of the “appreciable and calculable interval of time between the throwing by a man of a glance at his own face in a mirror and the registration of the reflected image in his eye” may provide some useful guidance on taking even better photographs of the past.

De Selby, ever loath to leave well enough alone, insists on reflecting the first reflection in a further mirror and professing to detect minute changes in this second image. Ultimately he constructed the familiar arrangement of parallel mirrors, each reflecting diminishing images of an interposed object indefinitely. The interposed object in this case was De Selby’s own face and this he claims to have studied backwards through an infinity of reflections by means of a ‘powerful glass.’ He claims to have noticed a growing youthfulness in the reflections of his face according as they receded, the most distant of them – too tiny to be visible to the naked eye – being the face of a beardless boy of twelve, and, to use his own words, ‘a countenance of singular beauty and nobility.’ He did not succeed in pursuing the matter back to the cradle ‘owing to the curvature of the earth and the limitations of the telescope.’

November 27, 2012 3:34 pm  

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