The Time Change

October 29, 2015

In the October, 1989, Herald publisher and editor M.D. Drysdale walked across Randolph Village to Bethany Church with photographer Bob Eddy. Together they ascended ladders to the large clock inside the lower part of the steeple. Climbing out onto the roof, Eddy photographed the clock face with Drysdale's arm poked through a small trap door, gripping the hour hand. In the Oct. 26 issue, it ran on the front page with this caption, "FOREARMED IS FOREWARNED - The end of Daylight Savings Time comes Sunday morning at 2 a.m., and everyone will set their clocks back one hour. For some it's a bigger job than for others." (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

Forgetting Daylight Savings Time can have dire consequences. Many years, I’ve used photography to remind Herald readers to reset their clocks. One image, featuring two pocket watches amidst a loose assortment of coins, was titled, “Time Change.” “Spring Forward,” was the message accompanying a round office clock sitting atop a coiled spring from a truck’s suspension.

Perhaps my most ambitious image announced the coming loss of an hour with the caption, “Time Flies!” I affixed large raven-like wings to an old school clock, and suspended it with fishing line amidst bracken on the banks of the White River. Blurring of the wings resulted from the stiff breeze blowing the paper about. This wing movement was enhanced with some darkroom double-exposure chicanery.

Not For The Newsroom

In news departments, such photographic staging and darkroom manipulation are grounds for dismissal. These were more photo-illustrations, however, and I found them a welcome change from the disciplines of the newsroom.

Herald editor and publisher, Dickey Drysdale, delighted in the light-hearted nature of the time-change images as much as I did. In the late 1980’s, he helped me create this memorable image.

At a glance, we know this is a massive clock. The scale is defined by Drysdale’s arm, curiously poking out from the clock face, grappling with the hour hand in a Charlie Chaplin kind of way.

Close cropping pares this scene down to essential elements. A wooden clock face is surrounded by a round frame, some old New England cut-shingle filigree, and a bit of Greek revival cornice at the top. Add to this a very robust arm, gripping the hour hand for all it’s worth.

An Absurd Image

There are all kinds of timepieces in the world. We have pocket and wristwatches, desk clocks and wall clocks. This Bethany Church steeple clock dwarfs all of these, not simply “telling,” but “proclaiming” the time. With formal Roman numerals, contrasting black and white paintwork, and a large bell sounding the hours, it has done so high above Randolph Village for almost two centuries. Hearing or seeing it from afar, one feels the inexorable sweep of history.

This clock summoned workers to the Sargent, Osgood, and Roundy Foundry, bankers and shopkeepers to their posts. This bell has called folks to worship, marked the beginnings and endings of wars, and tolled the passing of generations.

To this weighty symbol of tradition and power, we add a whimsical human element, an arm. It’s perfectly scaled to the hands of the clock, but couldn’t be more different. While the clock is endlessly meting out minutes and hours, this arm reaches out, apparently to stop everything. Even more than that, this arm is attempting to turn back time!

This photograph illustrates the absurdity of the task at hand. We are reminded here that time will be altered by a full hour in the weekend ahead, and that we fail to change our personal time pieces at our own peril.

Power of Perspective

This is a dynamic image. We feel like we are right in the midst of the scene, and this feeling adds to the drama. What creates this sensation?

The image was shot with a 24mm wideangle lens. Look at the Roman numerals. We can almost touch the ”V” on the face nearest us; it’s twice the size of the “XI” on the upper side. We are not viewing this scene from a distance. Unconsciously sensing this dramatic perspective, we know we are right next to the clock. We also feel this clock is high in the air, and we are up there with it. But where are we standing? The photograph doesn’t give us any clues. We are left hanging!

The drama of the arm wrestling with time catches our eye, then our uncertain vantage point creates unconscious tension.

Time will be turned backward in a day or two! As we contemplate this curious practice; this absurd image begins to make perfect sense.

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