When writing to a friend about Ulysses, James Joyce said: ‘There is no past, no future; everything flows in an eternal present.’ In this series we use photography to represent the concept of the “eternal present”, “The Now”, the “right moment” which the Greeks called Kairos – καιρός – to differentiate it from “time” – Chronos –.
The challenge lay in translating into photographic terms an abstract idea such as the “eternal present”. But two photos of the Great Buddha of Kamakura gave us the key:
we put together two portions of two consecutive photographs which represent a past and future moment with respect to a present time. The “eternal present” is depicted by the line between the two pictures. The perception of this line, like the fact of “seeing the present”, can be somewhat noticeable, but the less visible it is, the further from the truth our reality is.
When human beings focus only on the past or only on the future, they are unable to see “The Now”. Only Buddha, in his eternal meditation, seems to exist forever in “The Now”.
As explained by St. Augustine: ‘… we are drawn into the past by our memories and extended into the future by our expectations. This does not allow us to experience the “eternal present” which is the only truth in our perception of time.’
Time is a key concept in photography. The very act of taking photos captures a portion of time, placing it in an infinite, frozen timeframe. But mixing different times in a single image and showing the present as a single line brings us closer to the true nature of time in the physical world: the time that we experience is not real. Like the images we see in the photographs of this series, time is a mere human construct.
The concept of time is just a tool we need to interact with the world we are part of, because hiding from us there is a far more complex reality that we cannot directly perceive. As the physicist Carlo Rovelli states, we are ‘beings of time’. We see our world flowing in the asymmetrical structure of time, but the “eternal present” depicted in literature or philosophical traditions reveals to us the same truth that modern physics does: reality is an atemporal set of events interacting with each other. To perceive the effects of these events and be aware of our reality we need a rough approximation, a blurred vision of the microscopic reality achieved by interlocking memories, entropy and perception. This is what time is for us.
‘Things are transformed one into another according to necessity and render justice to one another according to the order of Time.’