Fong Qi Wei: Time is a Dimension

“These stunning photographs are not just colourful depictions of city life – they are also part of a visionary attempt to capture the passage of time in still images. Artist Fong Qi Wei was keen to invent a way to show how scenes change over time, without resorting to a video camera or time-lapse photography. So he captured multiple pictures of the same sites over the course of a day, before splicing them together into a single image taken over several hours.
The series is entitled ‘Time is a Dimension’, and aims to prove that skilled photography can show the passage of time just as easily as a video.

Mr Fong was inspired by the way that photographs can summon up a three-dimensional scene even though they only have two dimensions themselves. So he started to think about how it would be possible to display time – sometimes called ‘the fourth dimension’ – using only a static 2D picture.
‘Most paintings and photographs are an instance of time,’ he said. ‘That’s not the way the world works. We experience a sequence of time, and that’s why a video is somehow more compelling than a freeze frame. ‘I work in the confines of a photographic print, because I like to do so. But in a way, I wanted to break out of this restriction of a single slice of time in photography.’

Mr Fong, who works in Singapore, said he regards video as an unsatisfactory replacement for photography, because it requires an electrically powered device to operate. The solution he hit upon involved taking a number of photos over a two- to four-hour period, usually during sunrise or sunset to get the greatest possible contrast in light within a single image. He then uses digital technology to cut the individual photographs together, creating composite images which usually centre on the point of maximum light or maximum darkness.

The basic structure of a landscape is present in every piece,’ Mr Fong said. ‘But each panel or concentric layer shows a different slice of time, which is related to the adjacent panel/layer. ‘The transition from daytime to night is gradual and noticeable in every piece, but would not be something you expect to see in a still image. ‘Similarly, our experience of a scene is more than a snapshot. We often remember a sequence of events rather than a still frame full of details.'” –

















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