The Memory of Time

The Memory of Time

Contemporary Photographs at the National Gallery of Art

(in association with National Gallery of Art, Washington)
  1. Sarah Greenough
  2. Andrea Nelson
  • ISBN 9780500544495
  • 27.30 x 24.40 cm
  • Hardback
  • 172pp
  • 130 Illustrations, 130 in colour
  • First published 2015

The concepts of time and memory have made a strong return in the work of many photographers who seek not simply to reflect the world but to illuminate how photography constructs our understanding of it

'The invention of digital photography . . . forever shattered the medium’s hold on truth, undermined its supposed objectivity, and decimated its evidentiary status, for now nothing in a photograph need be real; everything could be fabricated. If photography was no longer a faithful witness, what was it?' — Sarah Greenough, introduction, The Memory of Time

The Memory of Time explores the work of twenty-six contemporary artists from across the world — Sophie Calle, Moyra Davey, Idris Khan, Sally Mann, Susan Meiselas, Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Carrie Mae Weems among them — who investigate the richness and complexity of photography’s relationship to time, memory, and history.

Unlike many mediums, photography possesses the remarkable ability to represent the past in the present, often cited as one of its essential characteristics. Yet, its relationship to the past is by no means straightforward. Many photographs seem to depict a singular moment in time, when in reality each image contains multiple layers: the instant of exposure, the moment of viewing, and the lapse in between.

From a shared fascination with photography’s past, including early techniques, to an engagement with the literal passage of time and the fleeting evidence of cultural change, these seventy-six works examine how photographs not only evoke our time and place but also create powerful visual histories of our relationship with the land, ourselves, and each other.

Sarah Greenough is senior curator and head of the department of photographs and Andrea Nelson is assistant curator in the department of photographs at the National Gallery of Art. Contributors include Sarah Kennel and Diane Waggoner, associate curators, and Leslie J. Ureña, curatorial research associate, all in the department of photographs at the National Gallery of Art.