How to Time Travel
Back to the Future. Donnie Darko. The Butterfly Effect. Interstellar. All these movies have one thing in common — time travel. We know time travel isn’t yet within our capabilities, but there’s actually nothing in quantum theory that states it isnt possible. If anything, we actually have more theorised evidence that time travel is possible, than evidence to prove it isn’t.
When we think about time travel, these classic movies come to mind. The idea of getting into a time machine and flying off around space time like Doctor Who, changing the course of history as we go. But we time travel every day. Sure, maybe not physically, but certainly emotionally. Our memories allow us to travel back and re-live a certain moment in time in our thoughts. The fact that we can do that is interesting to me, because there isn’t anything to say that some version of ourselves isn’t reliving this memory, perhaps in a parallel universe. We’re simply “streaming” the live view. But there’s another way to time travel. One I rarely ever think about as such. And, if you’re not a photographer like me, you probably never think of it at all.
“This pebble has been here for thousands, no, perhaps millions of years. I’m so envious of all that it knows, all that it has seen and all that it will see long after I leave this body.”
Photography is such a beautiful thing. At face value, it’s a lovely way to capture a scene. Perhaps print an image to hang on your wall, make a post card, a keyring. Your average Joe will stop there. But there’s a deeper meaning to it, an infinitely powerful tool. But before we get to that, let’s talk more about time. Robin Williams said it best in the movie Jack, “Life is Fleeting”. It’s hard to really understand why we’re here on this Earth, or why we are given this gift of life. But once the clock starts ticking, it doesn’t stop until the end.
I have always been a deep thinker, a philosophical old soul. I feel like I’ve lived a thousand lives before this one. As a child I often felt disconnected from society and its people and turned inward. Nothing changed when I grew up, except maybe I turned inward some more. You might label me as an introvert. But maybe I appreciate life and all its little intricacies more than most people. I like to philosophise on the why’s. I walk along a beach and think, “This pebble has been here for thousands, no, perhaps millions of years. I’m so envious of all that it knows, all that it has seen and all that it will see long after I leave this body.” I think that’s why I was so fascinated by photography at a young age. Time is constantly moving, and I dont have a time machine. But maybe I do?
Camera’s work by capturing light, much in the same way the human eye does. Regardless of which format you use, digital or film, it all comes down to light. Every image you have ever seen in your entire life, was created by light. A camera has a lens, and a lens has an aperture ring. An aperture ring controls the amount of light that enters the camera. This works in almost the exact same way as the pupils in our eyes. The wider the aperture, the more light’s let in. The smaller the aperture, the less light gets in. Quick lesson in exposure for you there.
Remember those old throwaway 35mm snapshot cameras from the 90's? That’s 35mm film and was single handedly the most popular film format until digital really took off in the early 2000’s. The only real difference between that and digital, is that 35mm relied on the camera to expose parts of light sensitive film in order to create a physical image. Whereas digital camera’s use sensors to detect light and process that light information into pixel information to display on a screen.
tl;dr — light is powerful stuff
So, as soon as the shutter is pressed on a camera, time is frozen still. We can’t travel back to that place in space time physically — not just yet. We can’t stop time as such. But what we can do is look at that moment again and again and again. We can print it, hold it in our hands, touch it, and people who may no longer exist on this plane anymore are still there. Alive, happy and well. Exactly how they looked at that moment. Frozen.
If nothing else, photographs serve as a medium to bolster our memories. Perhaps memories we had previously lost, or forgotten. And there you have it, time travel is real and that is how to do it. Whether or not you’re in love with photography as much has I am, I hope you now have at least a bit more appreciation for time. One day when your soul has moved on to its next adventure, somewhere in an old, dusty box in a relatives attic you’ll still be alive 😊
“If only I had thought of a Kodak! I could have flashed that glimpse of the Under-world in a second, and examined it at leisure.” ― H.G. Wells, The Time Machine