{11/06/2012}   The importance of photographs

                I am trying to organise my digital photos.  This is an epic time-consuming endeavour and I haven’t even got around to sorting through ones I’d like to print. When thinking about what I’d save if my home were burning down, beyond any humans and my cat, it’s photos I always say I’d save.  I suppose if I were really clever I’d have them saved remotely, but that’s not what I’ve been thinking about to trigger this post.

                My photos are my proof that I looked the way I did, that I did certain things and they are, perhaps most significantly, an aide memoire for people and experiences.  I have two areas of my lounge wall taken up with photos of friends.  Most people who visit have looked at and commented on the photos, whether of themselves or other people.  I love those photos, though in part because they are testament to the fact that at times I can galvanise myself into action and do things, from getting the photos printed to actually putting them up.

I know that a lot of my childhood memories are triggered or enhanced by photos.  My parents took a lot of slides and photos when I was growing up.  Sometimes I worry that my memories are based around certain photographs rather than what I remember.  But even if that is the case, it’s lovely to have that memory trigger.  I would feel a large part of my past had been erased if I lost all my photos and maybe it would more often make me call into question my memory for their would be no proof to certain things.

Nowadays, despite having a selection of digital cameras, film cameras and a mobile phone camera, I don’t take that many photos.  It seems a bit of a chore sometimes to take pictures.  But then I look at photographs I did take and I’m pleased I did and wish I’d taken more.

Sometimes when I go on holiday I don’t take a camera with me because I feel that without a camera I see more.  I went through a phase of feeling like I saw events through a camera lens rather than with the naked eye; no photograph can ever, I think, capture a moment like your memory especially if it’s a fleeting sight that is never going to translate well as a distant blob in a photo.  Your memory may alter events as time passes, but sometimes, so what.  My seeing dolphins leaping alongside the small boat I was in off Bali could never have looked as good through a lens as it did sitting there bobbing on the sea, with the sun rising, hearing the water break as they moved.  I have heard myself describing a magical sight and feel that the recipient has got a sense of my awe.  I have then showed a photograph of the same thing and felt people kind of sink, probably thinking, “Oh, was that it”.

I think photos of yourself are fantastic.  You can look back on rose-tinted years and see they weren’t so perfect, you can look back at yourself knowing you thought you were unattractive or pudgy at that stage and realise you weren’t and you can see how you change.  It’s fascinating.

I like to think I have a photograph of everyone I’m friends with on my wall, maybe it’s to remind me who and why my friends are who they are, maybe it’s to remind me of good times (it’s not like you take photographs of horrible things, and even if you did it’s unlikely they’d make it onto a “happy wall”) or maybe it’s to project an image of who you are, or at least who you’d like to be, that person laughing with a group of friends for example.  I have one such photo, taken about 12 years ago.  I know it’s not the most commonly witnessed version of me but I am sitting at a dinner table in Japan in the middle of four or five others.  I have clearly said something hysterically funny because everyone is laughing and looking at me, the originator of this great witticism.  That may not be the me witnessed on a daily basis, but it’s nice to see on my wall, and it is a snatched moment in time.  I sometimes like to think of my life, of our lives, based on moments in time.  That way, the bad stuff can be archived and the funny, fun and warm moments can be engrained in our memories forever, a kind of best-of summary!


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