January 24, 2012

Photography and memories, questions...

There are debates as to whether photography provides false memories. Some say that photographs diminish true memories, replacing organic, expansive memory with an image that might provide a different truth than reality. Others suggest that without photography we may not remember very much about the past, without a concrete image, things slip away. I tend towards the latter - I have a notoriously terrible memory especially with names and even with faces. I can remember being in a field at three, the spun flowers, the dancing insects in the shafts of sunlight. I cannot recall what I had for lunch yesterday. I can remember how I felt looking out my parents' screened porch windows at about eight, the full scan of the sky through the screen's mesh; I can recall vividly whom I loved and how much I loved them; as for my share or more of difficulty, fortunately the sharpness of sorrows and pain are recalled but in a rounded, softer-edged way. There is such grace in the passing of time. But I love photography because within every image of every photograph I have taken, I recall the entire moment, the sounds, smells, feeling, which I would have otherwise lost. I once didn't recognize a woman from a baby group I was in - she was in a dentist's parking lot and out of context I had no idea who she was and why she was talking to me. But show me a photograph and I can tell you every detail. My life savers, my heart's documents, my snapshots. A photo of my daughter's tiny pink and green sneakers on a bathmat in an old apartment - and I remember for that rounded moment of perfect grace, my daughter as a very young child and the sounds outside the window and how much fun the day had been. Such a gift. She, curiously, has the same rotten memory as me (and my older son and husband, we don't know yet about the youngest boy) and she too has the same gift of photography and time capturing. How about you? What do photographs bring to your table?


chuckography said...

Photography is a time machine.

I was looking at some photos of my daughter as a toddler poolside. I remembered the swimsuit. The sunny day. The smell of chlorine.

I felt I could speak to her by walking into the next room.

But she was 40 years older now and living on the West Coast.

I could walk in to the next room.

Susan said...

Exactly. It is amazing how it calls up the days past.