‘A Sentimental Bond with the Product’: The Veneer of Time

Helen Grace

Sometime in the early eighties — before gentrification had descended on the suburb where I then lived, bathing it in heritage colours and greenery — I came home one day to find my shared house had been trashed, my camera bag gone, along with my Polaroid SX70 camera, cheap jewellery, the new Betamax VCR and the TV. Of all these objects, so often stolen then in endless break and enters, the one whose loss I mourned least was the SX70 because the cost of stock curtailed the delicious pleasure of shooting randomly and seeing more or less instantly what you’d done.

Helen Grace
Untitled (from the series ‘Imitation of Life’)  1996/2013
Cibachrome print, 86 x 121.5 cm
Artbank collection, purchased 2013

"...Instagram was a force yet to be released."

In the future, if time proceeds the way it has always done as long as anyone can remember, image historians will ‘date’ these conglomerations of data we still call photographs by referring to the app through which they were processed. So, instead of identifying an image as a tintype or calotype for example, we will note that the SX70 filter framing of an image observed over 2009 to 2010 belongs to Hipstamatic, or more likely the popular iPhone app ToyCamera, as Instagram was a force yet to be released.

Perhaps we don’t care about these things now because new apps keep appearing and we are so immersed in the present, so absorbed within duration itself that we experience time as a continuous instantaneity, barely disrupted by intervals marking the transition from one moment to the next. It now appears that the life cycle itself has become a subspecies of the news cycle, with constant updates, even when nothing is happening.


Read in full via the online issue