The Human Mind’s Wavering Eye, Frozen In A Single Photo

If the human brain considers 40 moments every second, why are our photos of just one image?

It’s a weird thing to think about, but in the face of all we know about physics, time is probably an illusion–like some sort of mass hallucination in the universe we use to make sense of existence. How does this idea reconcile with the snapshot, a single memory of a single moment pulled from this timeline?


It’s an impossible series of questions at the foundation of photography by Isabel M. Martinez. Her collection, Quantum Blink, reconsiders the moment as we know it. Her muse? Electroencephalography (EEG), as she came across research that the conscious human brain operates at 40Hz (or 40 waves/second).

“This piece of information led me to wonder about what things might look like if that hiccup, that blink, that ubiquitous flicker was made visible,” Martinez tells Co.Design. “I began to think about those fissures, tried to imagine them, and pondered over what could possibly reside in the gaps between instants of consciousness.”

The result are the fissured images you see here. They’re not Photoshops, but analog photographs from a specially modified Hasselblad loaded with in-camera masks. “There was a lot of experimentation with countless materials, and plenty of trial and error before I could successfully achieve the results I was after,” she explains. “The negative itself has the stripes, hence the irregularity on the edges and slight overlap which becomes more apparent once the image is printed larger.”

In reality, each mind-bending shot only consists of two exposures taken in quick succession, but with so many vertical slats, it appears as if many more shots are actually part of the final image. It’s an effect that’s similar to lenticular printing, those billboards you’ll see that transition from one image to another as your angle changes, but the intent is that you experience all of the photographs at once in information overload.

Martinez believes that, “Each photograph holds a brief sense of continuity, almost like an animation, slightly cinematographic. Though they provide a notion of movement and progression, you cannot tell which of the two starts it and which one ends it.” And much like time itself, we realize that maybe there was never a chronology tracking beginning to end. That ultimately, there are just moments that we’re wrapping our heads around, somewhere, somehow.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.