Digital Media, Memory and Personal Photography

The infiltration of everyday spaces by camera-phone
wielding individuals is a now a common phenomena.
Delivering the user with a heightened sense of immediacy
and the power to capture, share and store the minutae of
daily life, the camera-phone is reshaping the way we go
about the practice of memory making and remembrance.

Whereas once the camera would be pulled out for the
recording of significant events, the camera-phone is
always lurking, ready to capture the moment for sharing
across the globe via social software sites such as Flickr,
Youtube and Facebook.  But my concern here is not with
the possible erosion of privacy, that is a discussion for
another time, rather it is the way that we have worked
the visual language of camera-phone images into our
day-to-day communications that I find of great interest.

As a child of the 1960’s, photographic images produced
by analogue cameras took pride and place in the family
photo album, a private space where only family and close
friends were permitted to share our family’s most
intimate moments. Inside the photo album a collection
of images sat neatly on each page, each photo selected
based on its importance within the family history.
Those images deemed not important enough or poorly
photographed were relegated to the large shoebox
that sat atop of my parent’s wardrobe.

Revisiting the family album I am made aware of
all those special moments in my life, as well as the lives
of others connected to our family. These small photographs
have become the artefacts of an oft forgotten past.
Jaundice with age, their yellowing surfaces a reminder
of the passing of time. Thinking back, it was not that
often that the camera was dusted off and put into use,
except of course when there was a birthday, wedding
and the occasional Christmas day.

In some ways I am glad that some of the significant
moments have not been mediated by the eye of the
camera, for the memories that got away have a far
more abstract shape in my mind. As I stare at a picture
of myself as a small child I am mentally transported
back to that particular moment in time. The image
acts as a place-marker, a keyframe on my timeline.
I see myself as a two year old holding my mother’s
hand whilst my older sister looks back at my father
as he captures the moment on film.

This photograph is the only photographic evidence
of my childhood and seems to have aged along
with me, it’s wrinkles and faded complexion a reminder
that the event depicted was in a past where
time stood still for a fleeting moment.

The aura of memory is potent and tactile, the image
exists in the physical realm, and this in someway seems to
provide me with comfort and reinforces my own existence.
I haven’t been photo-shopped into this world, the
photograph is evidence of my belonging to a time that
is now past. Temporal boundaries are blurred as
I step into a past that I can no longer remember, so to
ease the difficulty of recollection I find myself inventing
a rational sequence of events that might fill in the gaps.
But how many of us do this, how many of us use old
family photos as a point of departure to enter
dreamworlds that allow us to deal with our often
forgotten or unremembered past?

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~ by Dean on November 24, 2010.

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