My parents recently visited me. We went out for a couple of outings. While I was busy composing my photographs there, they were happily snap-shooting away. I pointed out that those photographs were not clear, they needed refinement in composition and lighting was also poor. Even the faces were not recognizable at times. Their simple reply stunned me – photographs may not be clear but they will help keep our memories clear! A rock-solid reason and a point well taken.
(Lonely Tree – A photograph that always reminds me of the wonderful trek that I took in these wetlands)
Photographs vs Memories
Today happens to be a lazy day. It’s raining outside. Clouds have covered up the sky completely and even the weather forecast predicts a full day of rains. For photographers like me (who fortunately are blessed with less of work), this happens to be the ideal time to read books, watch movies, browse through old photographs or simply clean the photography equipment…. and yes, enjoy a beer at the end of the day with some jazz in the background!
I started with browsing some old photographs from a trip that I made more than a decade back. The memories filled me up. The hotel room from my 12th photograph, the scene outside the hotel window from my 13th photograph, 14th photograph of some avenue trees with their bright colors in autumn, with the hotel building and its copper drain pipes, and the 15th photograph from a park (a botanical garden that I had visited). But… wait… was I with my girl-friend or my wife? (I hope my wife doesn’t read this article).
Memories of a wonderful trip to the botanical garden are fresh in my mind. I have lots of photographs from there. The tall trees with their yellowing leaves and a pathway underneath, the collection of cacti and succulents in a green-house, a huge arboretum within the garden dedicated to medicinal plants nearby, zig-zag stairs with lines of yellow flowers on both sides, sprawling lawns, gusts of chilling winds from time to time. I remember all those. It was a wonderful place.
What I realized is that I can remember everything that happened when I captured a photographs, but when there are periods where there are no photographs, I can’t remember everything.
(A walk in the garden, on the carpet of yellowed leaves. Autumn is a wonderful time)
Photographs from the garden are there with me. They are sharp, well-composed and beautiful to look at. My guests, when they become my captive viewers, give many Wows when they see these images. When I see those photographs, sometimes I am unable to remember the moments that passed between them.
Sure, old photographs fade away and loose their impact (at least the prints do). Yet, they remind me of the incidents. When I pick up an old framed photograph of my grandfather from a place up in the hills, I remember him and the things he told me there when I was a kid.
No, videos will not do !
Another aspect to this. Don’t create videos. Videos are captivating. They close the doors of our mind. When I watch videos, I am totally engrossed in them. All that I can remember is what is happening in the video. Nothing more, nothing less. A photograph on the other hand prompts the mind to think. It helps the mind remember what all happened before and after the moment when shutter release was clicked. A single photograph brings out a flurry of memories that videos end up suppressing.
If you want to have fond memories, click photographs and not videos. Further on, don’t alter those photographs with digital filters and plugins. Keep the photographs as they are. Get them printed if you want to and relive your moments later on (Fading Memories).
(A photograph captured on an inexpensive point-n-shoot camera, that always reminds me of the juicy fruits and berries that were sold under this roof)
A point well taken
Am I driving a point with this rambling of mine? Yes! Live the moment, since the snap-shooting kind of photography is here to stay. The era when people got one family photograph clicked every year is long gone. There will be photographs clicked every time something nice happens, so why not go ahead and join the crowd? Indulge in snap-shooting. Click lots of photographs on your mobile or camera… do not bother with the poor light, crowded backgrounds or shaky hands. After a few decades, these will be precious treasures, provided you still have them with you then!
For serious photography, I always say to click few but well composed photographs (Click Less, Create More), but here the reason is different. Let us create memories too while we are at it!
Old friends and photography
You are absolutely right, photographs along with music seem to have an uncanny way of triggering long lost memories.
The other thing I find strange is the ability to remember great detail about when and where the image was made.
The one thing I do worry about is the longevity of digital images, unlike film, will it be accessible in say 100 years.
Film and silver gelatin images have provided so much of a connection with family history that digital by its requirement for usable software may not.
Your thoughts resonate well with me. I feel these photographs will help us recall the moments. I feel prints are best because you can’t lose them to change of technology and hard disk errors/crashes.