Then and now

Wells, L. (ed.) (2002) The Photography Reader. (1 edition) (s.l.): Routledge.
Frampton, B. (2018) MG, Made in Abingdon: Echoes from the shopfloor. (s.l.): Veloce Publishing Ltd.

Estelle Jussim in her essay “The Eternal Moment” (Wells,2002:161-171) discusses various ways that photography affects our understanding of time. In reference to a photograph by John Thomson from the 1860s, she says “We may hold fast to our notions of then and now,but we can only look at an 1860s picture in the now“.By this she means we cannot experience the photograph as we would when it was taken; we cannot help but view it as being something that occurred in the past.

I found this distinction particularly relevant when researching the MG car factory in Abingdon for the ‘Local History’ exercise. Although I grew up in Abingdon with the factory always being a presence, many of the photographs predate me and my time there. Although the factory is an indirect part of my own history, I can no more relate to a photograph of cars leaving the factory in 1929 than I can of, for example, the Wright brothers first flight at Kitty Hawk.

Some of the photographs in Bob Frampton’s book are of places and times when I was around and even possibly present. I don’t feel any more of a connection though to these photographs than I do to the earlier ones. These are still frozen moments, out of time. I am no longer who I was and neither is the rest of the world.

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