Time: the daunting, intangible boundary of our humanity. Time is a constant reminder of our mortality as it taunts and teases us out of the moment and stretches us simultaneously into the past and future. It is unseen as at swirls around us, tugging our hearts and minds toward leering deadlines, pulling us from sunrise to sunset in a single, swift sweep.
Fine art photographer, Stephen Wilkes, captures the passage of a day in a single frame (well, about 15,000 frames compressed into one image) in his series, "Day to Night." His pieces are stunning and intriguing -- mostly because of their underlying fantastical elements. Wilkes makes time tangible by juxtaposing a day's first moments with its final moments. At the origin of the time vector Wilkes creates, you see sunshine. As your eye travels throughout the scene, the darkness is always looming. Wilkes beautifully, yet terrifyingly, diminishes a day's infinite moments down to a single photograph.
One self-made critic voiced an interesting opposition to Wilkes' work in the comments section of a National Geographic article outlining Stephen Wilkes' creative and investigative process. The commenter, Bryan, says, "I’m not a fan. The images are eye candy that make me feel nothing. Too much tech dilutes the soul and robs each image of its essence."
Do Wilkes' photographs "rob" the images' essences as Bryan suggests? Or are his pieces just surreal representations that exploit a moment's essence beyond our mortal minds' capacity? Though we, as humans, try to grasp the concept of time -- past, present and future -- and the possibility of eternity coexisting with the present, it is simply impossible. Yet Wilkes' images compete with this impossibility and present viewers with a contorted view-frame, heavily influenced by technology.
Even though I do not think Wilkes' artwork should be written off merely because he utilizes technology to fabricate his photographs, I do think that Bryan hints at an important notion. Technology "dilutes the soul." More specifically, it dilutes time, which can be directly seen in Wilkes' work.
According to an article on Science Alert, technology is dragging us through time at what feels like an accelerating pace. According to the article, people who are more invested in technology are more prone to "feel stressed because they [are] more likely to feel like time [is] running out."
Time is humankind's greatest constraint, and while technology is speeding up our ability to complete tasks, it is also speeding up our perception of time. Stephen Wilkes visually accelerates time. In his Ted Talk, he says, "Time is this extraordinary thing that we never can really wrap our heads around, but in a very unique and special way, I believe these photographs begin to put a face on time."
Wilkes, with the accompanying manipulation of technology, indeed puts a "face on time." But his work also eerily hints at how humans are racing through time, propelled by nothing other than technology... from Photoshopping pictures to convey a perfect instant to texting on iPhones rather than communicating in real time.