Last year I lost over 40,000 photographs.
I won't bore you with the details of how this happened but I will share with you how this experience made me feel and some of the many questions and ponderings that it surfaced.
I love photography—always have, always will. When words have sometimes failed me, photography has helped me to capture a moment, express a feeling, communicate with others, and record memories—from taking images with disposable cameras and DSLR ones to snapping shots on my mobile phone.
I like my personal space to be peppered with pictures of people, places, and points in my life that remind me of good times, moments of joy, and fond memories. (How) do photographs and visuals feature in your immediate surroundings?
One of many memorable photography experiences of mine was taking part in a "photography pub crawl" in my late teens when reacquainting myself with my hometown through my new "lens" as an undergraduate student who was weeks into university. Over the course of the night, along with a good friend, I took pictures of the streets of Edinburgh and (with their permission) the many characters who I came across.
To this day, when I look at the photographs that were developed from my adventure on the "photography pub crawl", I feel as though I can hear, taste, and smell that vivid night.
Photographs are memories (?) Memories are photographs (?)
When I found out that I had lost 40,000+ photographs last year (*deep sigh*) my first thought was "which of those photographs meant the most to me and how will my life be different now that they no longer exist (or I no longer have access to them?)" I cycled through different reactions. I thought of the various ways that I might be able to retrieve the images. I panic searched for solutions. I stressed about what the impact of losing the images may be. I reminded myself that they were "just" images (obvs that did not help).
I think it took me at least several months after losing the photographs to get to the point where I could confidently admit to myself that the photographs would never be any sort of "just". I'd miss them. I do miss them. But, the photographs themselves were only part of how I forge and revisit memories. The photographs themselves were never the people, places, and points in my life that they (re)presented.
- (How) are memories that aren't "captured" or "(re)presented" in photographs or visuals different to memories that are?
- What does it mean to reimagine memories that were once tied to photographs that no longer exist? How might the memories differ and why?
- What role does photography/do photographs play in some of your memories?
My 40,000+ photographs are gone but perhaps the fun I had when taking some of these images was always more important to me than the images themselves. This blog piece is a long-winded way of inviting you to share your thoughts (and visuals!) concerning the role of photographs in memories (how we form memories, how we revisit them, how we reimagine them).
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but maybe so are our memories that are never depicted.