‘A Hair’s Breadth of Time’: Photographs by Hamish King

Photographer Hamish King tells us about the thinking behind his exhibition, ‘A Hair’s Breadth of Time’, on show at the Art and Design Library until 26 February.

Fine Art Jan-Feb 16

…Man’s life lies all within this present, as ’twere but a hair’s breadth of time. As for the rest, the past is gone, the future yet unseen.

Marcus Aurelius

The quote, from which the title of this exhibition is taken, seems to me to sum up something that philosophers, mystics and contemplatives having been telling us for millennia; that they key to happiness is living in the moment.

A photographer may or may not be much of a mystic, but we all know about that hair’s breadth of time, given that most of our work is done in about 1/125th of a second. The great Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt once joked that he’d never known a project that took more than about 5 seconds to shoot.

More seriously, at its worst photography can be a barrier to seeing, but at its best it can help us cultivate ways of experiencing the world afresh. Apart from anything else, you need to be able to see what’s there in front of your lens, rather than what you want to be there or think is there.

Here, then, are a few hair’s breadths of time, when I hope I was focused enough (if you’ll pardon the pun) to see the possibilities in an ordinary scene.

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