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March 10, 2006


2006-03-10 me.jpg

I am tired and our cable connection is out, having fallen victim to the annoyingly loud and somewhat smelly construction happening right this second on Van Brunt Street. With no homework to work on last night, (I had emailed myself my work for the evening in an act of stupidity), I took to reading a book for fun, which is always, well, fun.

Geoffrey Batchen�s is an absolutely (aesthetically) beautiful book that explores the relationship between photography and memory. He looks at a variety of photographs that have been embellished by other mixed mediums, such as paint, matting and frames, flowers, etc. It is a fascinating read.

In his introduction, Batchen asks his readers how they remember their childhood:

Can you remember it? Or do the images that come to mind resemble the photographs you have been shown of your childhood? Has photography quietly replaced your memories with its own? (Batchen, p.15)

I never agreed with this before, however when I really think about it, the farther away in time I get from some of my old photographs, the less I really remember of the context. In fact, when I think of moments in my far off past, I most often recall a photograph. Lex and I have thousands of photographs�many of them snapshots�of our lives. I wonder what will happen forty years from now. Will we remember each of the moments recorded within the stills? Would we have remembered them without the pictorial marker?

Do you think that photography can replace memories with its own?

Posted by callalillie at March 10, 2006 9:48 AM | Inquiry


I definitely think as I get older, my pictures are starting to replace my memories. Remembering overall feelings and moods of events is still easy, but for specifics I need the picture to trigger those.

Capturing the moment is such a big deal for me, but at the same time I'm still trying to find a balance between capturing the moment so I don't forget it and stepping away from the camera and just being in the moment.

Posted by: felicity at March 10, 2006 10:42 AM

Yes, definitely. When I think about childhood experiences, I wonder, "Is that a real memory? Or just the memory of a photograph?" The distinction blurs as time goes on.

Posted by: Lydia at March 10, 2006 10:50 AM

I wonder how you can keep it from blurring, or if you actually can.

An interesting long-term project would to annotate photographs for a period of time (like with a paragraph or two explaining the image, giving details, and talking about how you felt at the time the photo was taken) and then revisit them five, ten, twenty years down the road. I wonder if the written word would aid in keeping the memory salient, or if it would just construct another layer covering the actual remembrance.

Posted by: corie at March 10, 2006 11:34 AM

I have taken to annotation, it seems like the best approach. Looks like your blog will accomplish that for you, to some edited extent.

I just wanted to mention that I am also concerned about the new street-construction odor on Van Brunt -- walking past that area, it sure smelled of rank cat litter. A departure of sorts, I suppose, from the usual squid-diaper smell. Ah, the wafting fragrances of Red Hook By The Sea.

Posted by: jonathan at March 10, 2006 8:34 PM

I always remember certain details when looking through old photos that I definitely would've forgotten had I not photographed the memory. I think the only moments in my childhood are those that I have photos of. Perhaps the recollection is not completely accurate, but at least I have little reminders.

I think that making concrete memories and sharing them with others is what photography is all about.

Posted by: Lauren at March 11, 2006 12:31 PM

This photo/memory blur has just started to happen to me during the last couple of years or so. I talk to my mother about places we used to live and realise that I am describing what I've seen in the photograph rather than what is was.

I find when I'm photographing, I am driven to capture what it felt like to be there rather than what it was visually like. I'm often surprised by what I find in the finished prints.

Posted by: Marcia at March 12, 2006 12:57 PM

Not really.... I paint and I draw. When I get stuck on a painting, �stuck� meaning when my momentum is derailed on a work, to complete the painting or drawing, sometimes I turn to my other senses to help my momentum get back on track again. So what I do is turn to one of a few things that trigger my creativity, and that is; play doe; the second thing is a Crayola crayons. When I open up a can of Play doe, the smell of the doe triggers a flood of memories of that first time of being transported to a child�s imaginary worlds. Back when I kid cameras were in techno color. I can still remember my child hood with photography or the whole looking at a pic to remember thing. But my point is looking at a pic can give me recollections. Not the other way around, I don�t need a photograph to help me remember. Memories are a lot more than just visuals. If you cant remember what visually went on during an event in your past life sometimes a sound or an aroma or even a touch can bring back a memory. Unless a digital camera can record a smell in 8MP's I don�t think visuals are the only thing that can bring the past to a present moment.

Posted by: William Fuentes at March 13, 2006 12:03 AM

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