photography and memory

by Chantal

photo by Dean Melbourne

Is a photograph an accurate representation of a memory? It certainly prompts remembrance but these frozen illustrations have a different quality to the emotional response generated from involuntary memories. The kind of memory that cuts through time with its sharp presence, leaving us with an almost tangible sensation. It is something more alive than the visual representation that a photograph records. A smell, a movement that recalls something of moment lived, can evoke something vague but incredibly potent.

“An individual retains memories because they are personally significant. Thus they are organized according to a principle which is essentially different from the organising of photography. Photography grasps at what is given as a spatial (or temporal) continuum; memory images retain what is given only insofar as it has significance” Siegfried Kracaucer. 1927

Geoffrey Batchen paraphrases this quote in his book “Forget Me Not” explaining that a photograph captures too much information. Its “too coherent and too linear in its articulation of time and space. It obeys the rules of nonfiction”. Our memories are less coherent, they focus on subjective details, they are selective and personal to us.