The Very Long Story of The Photographer Who Wanted to Portray Time

“person holding black folding camera” by Phil Hearing on Unsplash

Of course A.S. Cyclops was not his real name. He adopted this nickname as a craft name. The nickname, in turn, was due to the fact that people hardly ever saw him without a camera in front of his face. In fact, nobody could claim to have seen both of his eyes at once.

It all started when, as a child, he dreamt he was taking a picture of Time as it passed. He decided, right there and then, that he wanted to be a photographer and pursue this dream.

Time, true to the nature of the one who eats one’s own offspring, turned the dream into an aspiration and this into an obsession that would eventually consume a whole life. For A.S. Cyclops, this achievement would make him the greatest photographer ever.

Although he could see just like everyone else, he was never able to capture anything through his lenses other than events, things happening, never anything that resembled Time itself.

True to the name that had chosen him, he had a camera implanted onto his face. More than a mere symbol, this made him one with his camera and, ultimately, with his art.

…And Time kept going by, uncaught on film.

“selective focus photo of brown and blue hourglass on stones” by Aron on Unsplash

A.S. Cyclops spent years experimenting with all sorts of photography tricks, devices and hacks to finally conclude that the first issue he needed to address was the perception of depth; the foreground, where things happened, covered the background, like the deep river of Time, of which the still surface covers a turbulent everlasting flow.

…And the river of Time kept flowing, no bridges over it. Only the margins could be seen, and those were never the same.

He wrote to the factory that had made his camera, H.G.W. Perception Machines Inc., requesting a new model that would give him a perception of depth, with which he could see in detail all layers of reflected light in each photograph.

The company said they could develop this for him, but suggested he should first try to change his focus, taking pictures of the same event at different depths. He had tried this strategy before, and he tried it again in what was then the present. All he could picture was some person, object, or landscape in different moments, not even two things at the same moment! He replied to the company, telling them of his findings.

After some more unpictured Time, he received his three-dimensional camera. It was quite disappointing at first, as his brain was not prepared for three-dimensional images, and all he could see were two separate images of the same thing, slightly skewed from one another. But then, he asked his surgeon to fix that. The surgeon then summoned a team of optical engineers and they produced a small image processing device that was then carefully implanted into his skull, making all the necessary wire connections to the image processing centre of Mr. Cyclops’s brain.

Although he no longer looked like a Cyclops, as now he had two lenses in front of his face, the name remained, as it had stuck on him.

His recovery Time was unphotographed and nobody knows how long it lasted. One day he found himself fully capable of both seeing and processing three-dimensional images. But these were still mere images of things, people and events, no matter how deep he went into them, Time remained elusive.

He wrote to H.G.W. Perception Machines Inc. one more Time, telling them about his most recent findings and requesting new equipment, or maybe a set of instructions to go beyond three-dimensional photography.

The company took very long to reply, all this Time was still unregistered on film.

Before they replied, Mr. Cyclops wrote to them again, in the most insistent terms. They then wrote back, saying he had never mentioned his wish to go beyond the three dimensions. They then proceeded to tell him that their scientists, all highly reputable physicists, mathematicians, engineers and shamans, had been consulted and they all agreed that a picture taken with a three-dimensional camera would show all the layers of depth on a single frame and that he would be able to move into and out of the picture. But they also stated, in the most conclusive way, that such picture would still be a portrait of a moment, shown as nothing more than the positions of people, objects, landscapes. Time was a whole other dimension, unreachable by such equipment. They also stated that they had never told him about this before because he had never asked.

However, they said, this was not something to get discouraged about, not at all!

Although he could now feel the weight of the Time he had lived, A.S. cyclops followed their advice and, duly un-discouraged, kept on reading the company’s lengthy reply.

They said, again, that according to their highly reputable wise men, there was no doubt that his problem was outside the scope of the three dimensions everyone sees and lives in. It would be necessary to build a new concept of camera, one with which he would be able to take a picture of space-time itself and then, using a special software they would provide with the camera (but still to be developed), he should be able to erase space as he processed the image and have only Time left.

A.S. Cyclops was an old man when he wrote back, ordering one of these magnificent four-dimensional cameras, along with the wonderful piece of software they had mentioned.

The Time he had lived was heavy on his back and knees when he received the reply from H.G.W. Perception Machines Inc., saying that his camera was being crafted, and it would take only a few unphotographed years for it to be ready and delivered.

Hope and excitement kept him company, both on that day and in the following 67 years it took for his camera to be produced, and also for the 29 years it took the necessary software to be developed, tested and approved.

Exchanging his old camera for the new model required a very delicate surgery. The two-lens set had to be replaced by a three lens set plus a Timer, connected to his brain. This way, he turned into a three-eyed photographer. Everything would be powered by a flux capacitor connected directly to his heart.

He couldn’t wait to test the new equipment and his excitement delayed his recovery, which took another 23 undocumented years.

When he finally went out to test the camera, it was a great success. Many great successes, in fact, all documented in strict chronological order.

First, he took a picture of the oldest tree in his city. That single click produced thousands of images of the place and the tree, from the Time it was just a shoot, before there was a park around it. Amazing! But it still did not show Time itself, only it’s consequences. A picture taken in front of the mirror showed him at several ages since his first breath and his first picture, which had taken place at the same Time. He travelled to Egypt and took pictures of the pyramids being built. However, for some unknown reason, those came out a little blurred. He thought this was probably due to sandstorms and dismissed the problem.

Despite being happy, he was not satisfied. First, no device large enough to store all those pictures in memory existed, and every Time he took a new picture, all others had to be erased. Second, because he could not print any of them, as there was not enough paper in the world, he could only see them in his mind. He was deeply frustrated, a photographer unable to share his work, a failed artist, therefore. But his main complaint was that he still could not see Time itself. He could watch all images from a picture in a fast sequence, and it looked like a movie, but such a long one that it got boring after a short Time.

The special software was then put to work, in order to separate space from Time. This should drastically reduce the amount of memory necessary to store the pictures. Extremely excited at the prospect of printing a still photo of Time without anything else in front of it, he started the long process of stripping the first picture of all three dimensions of space. File size decreased drastically for every event erased.

Nearly a thousand years had passed when Mr. Cyclops reached the final result: a picture of Time, still, forever frozen in front of his camera! He could see it, the most perfect and clear representation of Nothing-Ever!

He called for a press conference, reporters who had been waiting for this moment for “what felt like an eternity” flocked to the event.

It took everyone at the conference years to recover from the shock of seeing the picture he showed. It portrayed Nothing-Ever in a way that… despite their efforts, could not be described or even remembered. After that, no one else was able to see anything on that picture. Not then, not in the millennia to come. Not ever.

“architectural photography of glass building” by Soroush Karimi on Unsplash