More than 80 million photos are posted every day on Instagram. But what if we ran in the opposite direction? What if you could only be photographed four times – in your entire life?

Barbara Davatz’s photography book, “As Time Goes By” (Edition Patrick Frey, 2016), is a rumination on this question. When she started the project in 1982, she could not have predicted that the collective imagery of the world would explode in a mushroom cloud of microcommunication, exaggerating the effect of her series. Initially she was just looking for fringe couples who exuded an indescribable synergy. She gained the trust of 12 willing pairs – people who were lovers, friends or kin – and using a large-format camera, methodically took their portraits.

Then, six years later, she revisited them. And again in nine years, and finally once more after 17 years, for a total span of 32 years from first to last photo. The result is a fast-forwarded version of each person’s relationships, relieved of the messy conflicts and footnotes in between.

Davatz, who started the work at 38 and is now 72, leaves the details of her subjects’ relationships to the imagination (See: The Mysterious Disappearance of Rico). But themes still emerge: How do the subjects’ presentation of themselves change over the years – in clothing choice, posture and energy? How does the dynamic within the couples shift? If a couple separates, what does that look like, and what is the ripple effect? How do you transition out of youth, and what does getting older mean?

AD
AD

As they aged, some were more comfortable with having a present-day portrait of themselves made than seeing that same image in the context of their sequence. The new implications of each subsequent cycle made it increasingly difficult to convince some of the subjects to pose. But Davatz says that over the course of the project, only one person, a new husband, turned her down in the end.

One of the most uplifting parts of the series is seeing a new generation crop up. The 2014 cycle included 15 young faces completely new to the series. And over the span of “As Time Goes By,” a few have grown up entirely – embarking on relationships, families and stories of their own.

More In Sight:

AD
AD