When Past Meets Present: Capturing the Passages of Time

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    Sally’s beauty is evident despite a 46-year passage of time (Photo by Bobby Neel Adams)

    (Text and Photos by Bobby Neel Adams)

    THE photographs in Bobby Neel Adams’ series, Age Maps, document the passage of time by juxtaposing and merging portraits of the same individual as child and as adult. These portraits telescope the slow process of ageing into a single picture. The point at which the images are physically torn together becomes the boundary line, or bridge, between the decades of passing time.

    The resulting images suggest that much of our nature or “who we are” is established at a very early age, and that our character traits remain unwavering throughout our lives. It is the same conclusion reached in the studies of many behavioural scientists.

    A photograph is a strong trigger for memory. The Age Map portrait simultaneously looks backward and forward, showing where we have been and where we are going on our life journey. It is the collective passage of humankind shared by all who join our ranks.

    Most people share a fascination for looking through a family photo album and watching the trajectory of a child growing up. Were they shy, outgoing, athletic, handsome, thoughtful? Did their nature or bodies dramatically change over the years? What if one photograph could encapsulate the various stages of growth and the passage of time? Could this photograph represent the past, present and future of an individual?

    These were the questions I asked myself when I began to produce this series of photographs.

    Sally’s beauty is evident despite a 46-year passage of time (Photo by Bobby Neel Adams)
    How little we change. Kathy is juxtaposed at six and 36 (Photo by Bobby Neel Adams)
    Richard’s youthfulness at 50, against himself at the age of five (Photo by Bobby Neel Adams)
    Christian at six years of age and at 41 (Photo by Bobby Neel Adams)
    Simone’s joie de vivre stretches across 24 years (Photo by Bobby Neel Adams)

    Read the rest of this article in No.86 Issue 1/2012 of Asian Geographic magazine by subscribing here or check out all of our publications here.

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