Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Photograph as Fossil

Recently I've mentioned how I believe my education in anthropology and training in archaeology has greatly influenced my work in photography. I'm still analyzing and working out this relationship, if in fact one exists.

A discussion at yesterday's Artists' Roundtable set me to thinking about geologic time and how so often I refer to it in terms of putting the human situation into perspective. It occurred to me that as much as I rely on geologic time to help keep sight of the overall "picture," I practice a craft that is measured in fractions of seconds. The phrase "frozen in time" is often used to describe both the physical evidence defining geologic time and the image made at the instant a camera's shutter is released. Naturally the notion of the photograph as fossil began running through my mind.

Considering that a fossil is the impression of an object and exists separate from the object itself, makes it very much akin to a photograph. We talk of the "geologic record," and of a "photographic record." It seems there is little or no difference between the two. And there is no doubt that over millennia they will become parts of one even more extraordinary record of time on Earth.

Photo: ©1990 David W. Sumner

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