No matter how much the world changes, some things remain the same. Lately I’ve been reminded of the Seascapes images made by the Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto during the 1980s. Each image was square, with sky at the top and sea at the bottom. Sugimoto’s work is always about some aspect of time; I have a print of one of his pictures, a long-exposure image of a candle burning down, so that the image tells the entire life story of the candle, for example. The Seascapes referred to time in a different way. The sea looks the same today as it did in ages past to previous generations. Looking at the sea is a way of escaping time.
The sea isn’t the only example of this, of course. When you look at a starry sky, or at the moon, you are seeing the same sky that everyone else on Earth sees. It is oddly reassuring that no matter what happens on Earth, the sky is unaffected. The stars are just there. And the planets keeping moving in their courses, regardless.
There are also some examples that are more down to Earth, and closer to home. During the past few months it’s been hard to know what to take pictures of. Do I want to record these strange times, or escape from them? So I’ve been taking pictures of everyday things that are unaffected by the pandemic. Blooming flowers on the way to work; light through a wine glass in the evening; a bowl of food as I try a new recipe.
You can’t tell, in these images, that life hasn’t been going on as normal. But at the same time, when I look at some of these images in the future, I will remember the unusual circumstances in which I took them. I can’t control what’s going on in the world, but I can control what I see through my camera. And at a time when so many things are changing, and the future seems so uncertain, it is comforting to focus on the things that remain the same.