Audemars Piguet has a mobile website.

Switch to mobile
The Vallée de Joux
March 3, 2012 Royal Oak 40 Years

Time is the final judge of excellence

Through his work, Dan Holdsworth redefines the current models of photography and incites the viewer to reconsider his relationship to the passing of time.

RSS

Architecture, techonology, nature and light are the building blocks of Dan Holdsworth’s work. The 37-year-old British photographer seeks to define the outlines of a new, modern spiritualism. His work has been shown at Tate Britain, the Pompidou Center and the Saatchi Gallery. Here, he shares his ideas on excellence, especially as it relates to watchmaking.

What does the notion of control, of excellence mean to you as an artist?
First of all, I have to understand a range of technical equipment and processes in order to carry out my photographic work. At each stage of production, I have to be in control of a number of elements in order to create the final image. From identifying the right location in the landscape to work with, to defining the right light, controlling the light to film (I still use large format color negative film), through the scanning and print production and the final print selection. Editorial control is key: One has to maintain a very rigorous self-discipline to make sure that the right images are selected and published. The process continues right up to the final production for exhibition, the consideration for dimensions of the image and the specific framing materials. It’s a finely tuned balance. To achieve a level of excellence one must explore the unknown and redefine the current models. This requires experimentation and taking risks with the image-making process. One can understand the outcome of an experiment clearly if one understands the process.

  • The Vallée de Joux
    The Vallée de Joux
  • The Vallée de Joux
    The Vallée de Joux
  • The Vallée de Joux
    The Vallée de Joux
  • The Vallée de Joux
    The Vallée de Joux
  • The Vallée de Joux
    The Vallée de Joux
  • Dan Holdsworth
    Dan Holdsworth

Do you think that you have already achieved excellence? If so, when and in what way?
Excellence is a hard thing to achieve—one is always striving for it. For me, this means redefining the process. One has to be very critically self aware and conscious of all that has gone before historically, and also aware of what is happening at the moment in terms of one’s peers. One must understand the photographs that have defined the medium up to the point we have arrived at in photography now. Excellence is also external, a judgment by one’s peers and the public. Certainly, I would like to think that I am judged to be one of those who are achieving excellence in their field, but beyond public and peer recognition, time will be the final judge of excellence.

How do you play with the codes of photography?
Photography, the process of making an image, is a language full of codes. To give an example from my work for Audemars Piguet, when I photograph under moonlight I use a long exposure to give enough information so the field of view is visibly recorded onto the film. As a by-product of this we see the movement of stars in the image as trails of light. We also see an unusual level of contrast in the image that we understand cannot relate to daylight, so we are dealing with another sense of light. We all understand that the length of an exposure in a photograph can create certain effects, and so we comprehend that we are seeing a volume of light gathered over a period of time—a measure of time recorded in light. We perceive that this must be a landscape illuminated by the light of the moon and this displaces us from the everyday and induces a sense of time beyond that of the everyday.

In this example I’m interested in asking the viewer to consider time and re-imagine their relationship to time as manifested in a particular kind of experience with light. The viewer thus thinks of a deeper sense of time in which our Earth is bound up in the processes that extend far beyond into a cosmic sense of time.

What do you think about excellence and control in watchmaking? Do you see any similarities with photography?
Like photography, watchmaking is the product of science, an art projected as a vision contained in an object. One of my earliest childhood memories is of being completely fascinated and absorbed by my grandfather’s chronograph watch. I sometimes reflect that this was the introduction to my thinking about time, and that this has led to my becoming a photographer whose work is about exploring the nature of our relationship with time.

Time controls everything; it’s the value that defines our lives. To have a measure of it in the form of a technology that is so precise and beautiful transforms that technology into something spiritual. One can see in the history of Audemars Piguet the importance of this spiritual relationship to time. Their watches consequently become powerfully symbolic objects.

Dan Holdsworth is a celebrated English photographer renowned for creating images in which nature, architecture and technology merge with light and space to produce powerful visions of the contemporary world. In his most recent work Holdsworth explores the natural world, defining a modern spiritualism; reconstructing the notion of the romantic sublime for the 21st century. Dan Holdsworth’s photographs are represented in many major collections, including the Tate, Centre Pompidou, Saatchi Collection, and Victoria and Albert Museum Collection. His photographs have been exhibited widely including BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Patricia Low Contemporary, Geneva, Gagosian Gallery, London, Tate Britain, Centre Pompidou, Frankfurt Kunstverein, and Fotomuseum Winterthur. This year a new book of Holdsworth's work will be published by Steidl and in March he will be present in an exhibition in London at Brancolini Grimaldi.

- More information about the 40th anniversary on our dedicated section.