This article is printed in the latest issue of British Journal of Photography magazine: Tradition & Identity. Available to purchase at thebjpshop.com.
Tim Richmond, Jörg Colberg, Joselito Verschaeve, Jessica Gianelli, Moe Suzuki, and Julia Gat reflect on the concept of time
In relation to photography, the concept of time is manifold. The medium is inherently temporal, with the ability to immortalise a moment or memory in an instant. The notion of photographic truth is tried and contested, but images have a unique power to transport us to different times, or equally, to act as portals into psychological landscapes that transcend it. Time can also be a theme in photography. Throughout history, imagemakers have documented people and places over days, months, years and decades, using the camera to record and observe change within communities. And as human beings, time consumes us all. We organise our lives by it, using time as a measure and anchor to celebrate and contextualise our collective human experiences.
Here, Tim Richmond, Jörg Colberg, Joselito Verschaeve, Jessica Gianelli, Moe Suzuki, and Julia Gat reflect on the concept of time in relation to an image from their archive.
This image from my recent book, Love Bites, weighs heavily with the theme ‘Time’. I was photographing nightclubs in Weston-super-Mare and Bridgwater – this one was a poledancing club. It was a damp, rainy January night. The club was empty bar the pole-dancers and one or two solitary drinkers, almost waiting for something, or someone, to enter the club. The woman in this photograph had been there a while when I asked to photograph her. She sat as I took a few pictures on my tripod-mounted camera. Visual clues of time, like empty bottles, body language, and a strong sense of waiting, ooze from the image. We have all been there, waiting and sensing time in a reverie. I love that photographs bring an unwritten narrative to the fore, each of us seeking out our version of what has happened.
I took this photograph in 2019 in Hamburg. But everything about it reminds me of a bar near an apartment building in Wilhelmshaven, where I grew up in the 1970s. Even as the past is irrevocably gone, photography has the uncanny ability to evoke feelings that make us reconnect with an earlier era. It shows the presence of that era in our present.
When I think about the past, there are always a number of very different sensations. Photographs only centre on what is visible. But they often evoke something else: the feeling of rain falling onto my skin, wind blowing through my hair, or here, the pungent smell left behind by years and years of people smoking cigarettes while drinking beer.
Photographs cut a brief moment out of the continuum of time, but often they evoke feelings more than they express facts.
I am interested in the past and future, and timelessness in relation to dystopia. In my images I often try to remove notions of time and space. I do this by photographing subjects that are present regardless of time, or by using black-and-white images that restrain information and give room for interpretation. Eliminating these indicators makes it easier to sequence images from different places and to create a dialogue or flow. This is also how I’m able to create most of my work in my close surroundings, while giving the impression of a multitude of temporal locations.
he first time you meet someone holds a great degree of mystery, tucked neatly into the mystery that is time itself. Two individuals consciously engage in offering a slight opening to their respective personas, and allow the other to see them. This image was taken on the day I first met Lauren, a young woman from Nottingham, who I connected with via social media. Easing our way into the then-recent opening of a post-lockdown world, Lauren and I agreed to meet at my flat in south-east London.
We sit in my kitchen, and an inexplicable familiarity begins to settle between us. She sits, I follow, and we start to do something of a dance, where unfolding exchanges are met by a certain languid intimacy. Through the doublesided mirror that exists between us, Lauren and I somehow become mirrors for one another. We utilise the act of looking as a contention towards a willingness to see, and an ultimate desire for connection. Light enters through my kitchen window, and we are taken through the day by a falling sun – our new friendship sunburnt into 120mm film.
The average lifespan of a house in Japan is said to be 30 years. When the ‘time’ comes – due to natural disasters, the limited lifespan of wooden houses, or constantly renewed urban planning – old houses are swept away and the townscape is transformed. Once houses are demolished, they are overwritten by a new townscape and visual memories that become blurred over time. In this project, I attempt to go back in time, tracing fragmented memories along the narrow alleys of my neighbourhood in downtown east Tokyo, Shitamachi.
For several years, my everyday camera was my grandmother’s old pointand- shoot: a small, handy Olympus. I used it so often that, little by little, it started breaking apart. After spending years in my grandmother’s closet, it found itself over-exploited by an enthusiastic, freshly graduated photographer. Last year, the camera accidentally double-exposed three times the film’s length. For six months, it was rolling back and forth, layering images. Connections were made between various contexts, and this one in particular caught my eye. Both characters are strangely held, in full introspection. The image sums up how I felt during these six months: an incredibly hectic post-graduation phase, with people and work and life becoming fuller by the minute. Those in-between moments, where people around me were taking the time, are the moments that reminded me to breathe as well.
Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and currently holds the position of Deputy Editor. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Elephant, Gal-dem, The Face, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.