Photographic Time Capsule

The forthcoming bicentennial of the village of Wardsville presents us with an opportunity to use photography as a high-quality means of recording the exact appearance of its citizens in 2010.  We propose to create a temporary photographic studio in which standardized portraits of each Wardsvillian will be created.  We aim to use conventional black and white silver halide film, process it to an archival standard, and create silver gelatin prints from these negatives.  The negatives and prints will be placed into a storage container and included in a time capsule to be opened 100 years hence.  At the same time as the film portraits are made, another image will be created using a digital camera.  An on-site digital printer will then be used to create a souvenir photograph to be given to each person.

One of the essential attributes of photography is its ability to produce an accurate record of an instant in time.  Thus, we are able to visualize places and people from the very beginning of photography in 1839.  The photographic process captures such a wealth of detail that we may come to know much about the world of long ago.

However, the ephemeral nature of modern digital imaging technology means that recent photographs of people and of life-cycle events are seldom shared outside of families.  Their use as historic documents is further jeopardized by  haphazard storage, evolving playback technology and lack of a centralized image repository. Of the millions of images created every day, only a very small portion will remain available to view in coming weeks, months or years.

Because we only anticipate about 350 people will pose for these portraits, we anticipate that all the images could be produced in several hours’ time.  As people queue for the photography, an opportunity for gathering oral histories and other background information might also be available.

Lawrence M. Merin, RBP, FIMI, FOPS, FBCA

Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and

Director, Vanderbilt Ophthalmic Imaging Center

Nashville, TN 37201  USA

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