Cindy walking, leaving our Airbnb. Osaka, 2018

Space and Time in Photography

Cindy walking, leaving our Airbnb. Osaka, 2018
Cindy walking, leaving our Airbnb. Osaka, 2018

Dear friend,

A philosophical idea I got when reading Kant’s “The Critique of Pure Reason”: Photography can be simplified into two variables: Space and Time.

Space

Selfie shadow with RICOH GR II x ERIC KIM NECK STRAP, Osaka 2018
Selfie shadow with RICOH GR II x ERIC KIM NECK STRAP, Osaka 2018

I think one thing that fascinates me endlessly in photography is this concept of space. When I say ‘space’ I mean depth, three-dimensional space.

The funny thing about photography is that the camera doesn’t do a good job capturing space. This is because most cameras only have 1 lens (whereas human eyes have two eyes, placed horizontally). Us humans can perceive space and depth so well, because of our two eyes. Whereas the camera (with only 1 “eye”) cannot do this well.

Therefore it is a fun challenge for us as photographers to capture a “sense of place”, and to capture a sense of “space” in our photos.

We try to do this by creating depth/layers, by putting figures in the foreground, middle-ground, and background. We try to capture space by using wide-angle lenses, changing the depth-of-field in our photos (our aperture/f-stop), and where we stand and the angles of our camera.

Red and blue abstract, shot from a high staircase, looking through slits, and capturing things far away in the background. Osaka, 2018
Red and blue abstract, shot from a high staircase, looking through slits, and capturing things far away in the background. Osaka, 2018

Time

Cindy in living room, with clock in background. Osaka, 2018
Cindy in living room, with clock in background. Osaka, 2018

The decisive moment” is all about timing– clicking your shutter at a specific moment in time which has personal significance to you.

As photographers, we are always battling against time.

iPad and Procreate shadow abstract of curved shadows in Cindy’s face. Lisbon

On one hand, we are trying to immortalize certain moments/places/people in our photos by capturing them. On another hand, everyone is afraid of death, and many of us think that through photography, we can immortalize ourselves as artists through making immortal and timeless photos.

Depth/layers of cindy, shot with a flash. Osaka, 2018

Depth/layers of cindy, shot without a flash. Osaka, 2018

As photographers, timing is essential. The moment in which we hit the shutter determines our photos. When we see a scene or are making a portrait of someone, we click the shutter when we identify something that interests us– a hand gesture, eye-contact, or certain body language.

First photo, photograph of Cindy's hand covering her face.
First photo, photograph of Cindy’s hand covering her face.
Osaka, 2018 #cindyproject
Second photo: shot vertically, more dynamic composition, with Cindy’s head tilted, and this time no hand covering her face.

In practical terms, we must shoot a lot of photos of a scene, because we usually don’t know what the best moment is until afterwards— when we analyze our photos after-the-fact. We must shoot a lot of photos, “work the scene”, and then afterwards decide which photos to keep or ditch.

Cindy sipping sake. Photo 1
Cindy sipping sake. Photo 1
Cindy sipping sake. Shot 2
Cindy sipping sake. Shot 2

Conclusion

Uji at night.

As a photographer, constantly consider these two variables, and see how you can manipulate both space and time in your photography.

Practical ideas:

a. Perceiving SPACE in photography

Sunset in Uji, 2018
Sunset in Uji, 2018
  1. Try to create photos with more depth by shooting at f/8-f/16, and focusing at what is furthest away from you (pre-focus to 5 meters-infinity), and put subjects in the foreground, middle-ground, and background.
  2. Before you take a photo, pause, and just look at the space in front of you. Think of how you perceive space, when you are in open courtyards, when you are inside big hotel lobbies, or even when you look at a landscape or a city skyline.
  3. When looking at photographic scenes, experiment closing one eye at a time. What does a scene look like with your two eyes open, versus one eye open?

b. Perceiving TIME in photography

Cindy sunset, uji, Kyoto.
Cindy walking by the Uji river during golden hour, 2018
  1. Take a lot of photos of the same scene, and afterwards when you go home, just choose 1 photo of the scene, and ask yourself: “Why is this moment the most significant or important to me?”
  2. MEMENTO MORI in photography: you will die. What moments do you want to immortalize in your photography? If you knew you were going to die tonight, which photographs will define you? Which photos of yours will show what you found important, significant, or beautiful in your life?
  3. When you perceive/identiy a moment that is personally meaningful to you, don’t censor yourself: JUST SHOOT IT!. Shoot more photos of your everyday life, and never self-censor yourself.

NEVER STOP SHOOTING,
ERIC


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