Photo ‘Time’

Image of clock inside of a slice of a petrified seashell by Jim Austin.

Having no alternative, the Florida sun was shining above us. My neighbor in line asked “Do you have the time?”


For some time her question seemed to hang in the air like a basketball player making a shot. We moved towards the front door of the Bass Museum at Collins and 21st street in Miami Beach, Florida.

Photo of the entrance to Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, Florida by Jim Austin.

Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, Florida

“Yes,” I said, quickly retracting my 30-times zoom and glancing at my ancient Time piece, to answer her. It was 11:58 am, on January 14th, or so it seemed.

We looked inside the museum, to see a security guard glancing at his watch. He started to unlock the museum doors. A sense of déjà vu came over me. Perhaps it was just a glitch, as in The Matrix, but had I stood here before and told this woman the Time of day, just like this, at some Time in the past?


From birth we photographers are keepers of Time. We also experience Time’s illusions. Each one of us has a unique chronological autobiography. We order our emotions and passions by Time. Yet, Time is illusory. Like the Boreas wind, we perceive its motion and its effects. Unlike our pictures, we cannot see Time itself. Holding and looking at our watches and seeing precise numbers, we reinforce temporal illusions.

Image of hands holding an open pocket watch by Jim Austin.

Keeping Time


Back in Miami Beach now, in the Bass Museum store, a clock made of plastic sells for $140. Its malleable design got me thinking of the flexible clock we have inside us.

Image of wrist watch comparing time with Big Ben, London - Four Twenty Five O Four by Jim Austin.

Big Ben, London – Four Twenty Five O Four

Sometimes Time inside our minds drags quite slowly, and Time “out there” around us races past. At other times the world around us drags like molasses, and our minds race at warp speed. Clearly, we have internal clocks in our brains and our cellular structures. These are always active. Their chronology feels a lot more immediate, say, to our lives than the short shutter speed times on our camera dials.

Time is plastic. It seems to slow down, and speed up. It even seems to freeze.


Exploring Time’s paradoxes is a part of being a photographer.

Our consciousness is self-winding. Faster and faster, we dire up our drives and speed our photography. We think in 0 to 60 mph terms.

If, instead, we let go of our frenetic speed, we could change the pace of our photography. For instance, doing our photo walks, we stroll along at 3 miles per hour. But what if we moved from 3 mph to 0 mph? As the band, The Eagles, advised in their song, we might “Learn to Be Still.” Our photographs would improve. Being still, we might see more deeply, living fully without fewer time references.

Kings College Sundial Clock, Tower Cambridge, England by Jim Austin.

Kings College Sundial Clock, Tower Cambridge, England

We’ve all made photographs that touch on the timeless. As we craft these photographs, they rarely come from using methods that are based on speed or convenience. Effort-filled, emotional photographic experiences are the timeless ones, and the ones we recall best.

As glimpses of timelessness grace your photographs, your prints become touchstones. They are not copies of objects, but stories that embody your emotions and intentions, and how it felt to make the exposure, develop it, and craft it.


Perhaps, as photographers, all we have is slices of Now. The facts of our future are merely guess works; we cannot feel the future, nor touch it, hear it, see it or photograph it. So, to search for any Time but now is to chase a ghost.

Freezing Time with a Minolta Subminiature Camera by Jim Austin.

Freezing Time with a Minolta Subminiature Camera


The more we concentrate on speed, to photograph, the more the pleasure of the scene before us will elude us. We do not need to rush. We have no need for faster gear. What we truly want, perhaps, is to caress the Time we have. We can move our photography, eternally, reaching this joy, as long as the sun continues to shine.

by Jim Austin
All text and photos: © 2014 Jim Austin. All rights reserved.

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

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