When I was much younger, in the days of film, I would always be eager to open my packet of photographs after the customary 24 hours wait to have them developed. Even now in the digital age, I find it difficult to wait before seeing my images uploaded to my computer.
Now imagine taing photographs that you will never be alive to see developed. That is the fate that awaits Jonathon Keats and his 'century camera'. On the 16th May 2014 he unveiled a camera that would capture the slow, gradual change of Berlin, Germany.
Photographic time capsules
These 'century cameras' are similar to the traditional pinhole cameras, which Keats refers to as photographic time capsules. The exposure starts when a black tab is pulled off. The pinhole focuses light onto black paper and, over the coming decades, the light will gradually make the paper fade. Keats hopes that, after a century, a unique positive image will have developed. If everything goes to plan, such a long exposure will reveal how places evolve over time. Keats believes that "...an old apartment building torn down after a quarter of a century will show up only faintly, as if it were a ghost haunting the skyscraper that replaces it. But what happens if the skyscraper is built directly in front of the camera? Or even worse, that the building that the camera is installed on is demolished. These devices will be hidden after being purchased with a €10 deposit, with their owners keeping the locations secret until old age.
A date for the diary!
Try to keep the summer of 2114 clear in your diary! Keats plans to have the subsequent images exhibited, with visitors being able to witness a century of urban development and decay within a single frame. It is intended to be a commentary on the ubiquity of surveillance cameras. Keats States that, "The first people to see these photos will be children who haven't yet been conceived. They're impacted by every decision we make, but they're powerless. If anyone has the right to spy on us, it's our descendants."
Keats has been pioneer-like in his ambition and yet will not be alive to witness whether the project is successful. Surely it would be more practical to shorten the exposure by around 50 years, even just to determine whether the process works. Maybe if this blog post is still on the web in a 100 years, then someone might like to comment on what the exhibition was like!
Keats century camera has got me intrigued about how the passing of time can be embedded within a single image, and how it impacts on people and place. This is something that I would like to explore further.