Time And The Timeless

May 09, 2023  •  1 Comment

When asked what photography is to me,  my reply is always that photography is about time, which is why after so many decades it still holds its appeal for me, more than any other creative endeavor could ever do. 

Photography to me is about a combination of a moment and the timeless, it is about taking time to appreciate the ephemeral and the eternal, it is about eternity and an instant. I can't think of any medium that allows me to savour my time more than photography does, no medium that would make me enter into a time capsule or that lets me create one. 

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Photography is about the fleeting which is transformed into something that is lasting. The evanescent and the eternal nature of this moment. To me this is something magical. I could create a fantasy aided by a computer that would be beautiful, something that would evoke in others a sense of wonder, but I prefer to live in and with a sense of wonder before and whilst creating. I prefer to feel it myself first and foremost, otherwise there would be no point for me in picking up a camera and pressing the shutter release button. This to me is what makes photography such a unique medium and why I prefer it over any other creative endeavor. No medium has ever allowed me to live so fully in the moment with the use of all my senses (even though I have been accused of not noticing much else that might be going on around me when I am photographing).

Photography can freeze time, but the process of photography in which I take my time, can also make me loose track of it. A moment can somehow mean hours have passed without me even being aware of it, hours that would normally just be meaningless, but now have been used in a meaningful way. In taking time, fiddling with the settings of the camera, moving the tripod one centimeter this way and then the other way, spending hours within a few square meters, I loose track of time and the moment I record with the camera, the composition that I create in that timeframe, is like a small time capsule. Something in that moment in time that attracted my attention enough to make me want to spend a long time trying to create something meaningful to me in a way that expresses how I felt, is being transformed into something lasting which lives on in a photograph with everything that came together in that one moment....not just the ephemeral, the fleeting moment, but also the time I spent with it. It is a meeting of the moment, the landscape and myself. 

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No matter how much I can sometimes doubt my photography, sometimes fighting against the documenting nature of it, after decades of creating things that I imagined and made with my bare hands, I always come back to this passion for the moment and the timeless. 

So often these days photography is being reduced to sets of rules, lists of quick tips, gear that you should or should not use, recipes and tricks, which I find an impoverishment of the art and craft of photography. The hunt for gear, the impatient chasing of epic light, the restlessness of those who want to capture something they have visualized but which is not materializing, it all feels like such an unenjoyable process to me. If it can only ever be enjoyable when the trophy shot is in the bag, what is the point of the entire endeavor? 

Time is precious, which is something you probably become acutely aware of when the generations before you have all passed away. Compared to this planet's timeline, to life in general, our time here is very limited and if I can do something that will make me savour this time more, I will do so. Time well spent is much more important to me than any epic shot I could have captured chasing the light. Moments will not come back, even though you might still be at an age that you think they will. 


Even the trees that have been with me all my life, can be here today, but gone tomorrow and the sad fact is....they are disappearing rapidly. Moments that you might be dismissing as inferior, might prove to be the ones that are important in hindsight. Moments become more valuable to me with a camera as a companion. The camera has taught me to appreciate the fleeting, the seconds, the minutes. It has taught me to take my time, to savour time, to appreciate all that it has to offer. I have never been able to feel the same way about any other tool with which I can create. Not a pencil, paintbrush, nor needle and thread have been able to replace the gift that a camera can give me ; the ability to create and live in a time capsule, the possibility to escape the mondaine, the normal everyday life, the option to use all my senses to fully appreciate what is around me. 

A tool might only be a tool, gear might not matter, but a camera is my opening to time and my window to a reality that I wish to live in. Photography might have long been considered an inferior art by many, but I can not think of any better medium to create with time than photography. Instants, moments, minutes, but also decades and the eternal evanescent, all can be revealed in a photograph and all can be experienced whilst photographing. This is the magic of photography, this is what makes it into such a gratifying pursuit for me. It is about me feeling that I am here in this moment, in this place, being aware of what I see, what I witness, knowing very well that this moment is fleeting, but also in the full understanding that the fleeting in itself is eternal. 

As always I would like to express my gratitude for your interest in my photography and writing. I highly appreciate it. I aim to keep writing these essays without sponsorships from third parties to keep my integrity and stay autonomous, but of course writing these takes a lot of time and effort and if you feel compelled to support my work, please consider buying a print or my eBook The Magic of Forest Photography. Prints are now available for many more countries in the EU. If you would like to buy a print and can't find the image in my print shop, please let me know and I'll try to make it available.

My new mentorship program is open for registration, only a few one seat left for 2023

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bob keller(non-registered)
thanks ellen for your always insightful thoughts. i sincerely relate.
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