March 4, 2024

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This camera will capture the next 1000 years

This camera will capture the next 1000 years

Video: Watson/Michael Shepherd

An obscure metal installation was recently erected on a small hill in Tuscan Arizona. Next to it is a plaque with a small explanation. The Millennium Camera is the name of the subject of self-proclaimed experimental philosopher Jonathan Keats. It is a type of photo camera, but not in the classic sense. Because the camera only needs to take one picture in its existence. The revelation of this image must take place in the next 1000 years.

Millennium Camera on location in Arizona.

Long exposure is not a new concept in photography. Long exposure times are used, for example, to take photographs at night when it is very dark. Technology can be used during the day to blur movements. Manifestations lasting several days or even a year have also been made, but 1000 years would certainly be a new record.

To make this possible, Keats had to be inventive. The camera has a similar setup as the models you'll need for a year's worth of exposure. It is a pinhole camera. It has no moving parts or locking mechanism, just a very small hole through which light enters. In the case of the Millennium Camera, it's a tiny hole in 24-carat gold foil. But no matter how small the aperture, after 1000 years of exposure, even the most light-insensitive film will soon turn completely white. That's why Keats instead relies on layers of oil paint pigments that fade slowly in the light. A visible image will be created in 1000 years. It is not clear how this will be. Permanent objects such as a mountain range in the background will show up more clearly than houses that can disappear completely.

Keats can only speculate whether 1000 years is the exact exposure time of the pigment. Is the camera still standing or is there someone watching the film? For him, using the camera is more about stimulating thought. Such an image would bear witness to the last millennium, but the camera also has value. Looking to the distant future can bring different perspectives, especially at a time when the immediate future seems uncertain.


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