I am fascinated by the use of photography. Now, that’s not to say I enjoy taking pictures myself. I really don’t, painting is more my thing. It’s not that I don’t have an “eye” for it, or that I don’t enjoy very well done photos, or even not so well done photos of things I want to remember, I have a hard time setting down the moment to physically remember “take a picture of this”.
Hence, I have tons of slightly exaggerated, mostly true memories that clamour in the back of my mind whether they actually occurred or not. For instance, when I was a kid (maybe 8 or 9) I remember my family taking a small motorboat ride down a dark and deep river. A road ran along side of it above it, there was dense foliage on either side.. and I can so acutely smell the river water in my mind. I can remember the feel of the water on my fingertips, and my fear of water surges.. and I can remember being terrified of how dark that water was. Who knew what was in that water, beneath the surface? I remember the discomfort of the life jacket, and how I wished desperately I didn’t have to wear it; My mother squeezing my arm, bruising it to remind me that I best not misbehave.
This is a very vivid and formative memory in my mind.
And one my mother swears never happened.
My father, he’s not so sure.. and his versions go back and forth depending on what sort of mood my mother is in that day.
My point being, there’s no photograph of that day. No documentation it ever happened, nothing physical and tangible that I can put my finger on it and say “THAT happened”. Not even an old faded 1970’s esque photo with grainy dust motes and faded edges of a boat, a river, a life jacket nor me and my family in any sort of vicinity of it. I don’t know what river (granted, we passed by a lot of rivers in the North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee roads), nor the circumstance.
“A-ha”, you say.. “there’s the grand and glorious point she’s making. We should take photos to remember events and prove to our children that we were or weren’t there.”.
Not so fast, bucko.
Let’s say that event happened. If I saw a photo of particulars of that day, seeing the photos would fashion my memories, bend them to meet a set of events that obviously were the truth of the matter. I would shape the smell of the river, the feel of the life jacket, the look of the boat.. heck, even the shade of the water, to match the faded photograph that was placed back in front of me. As it is, I have a pure memory that is shaped by the way I perceived it, making it a unique and ultimately personal experience that I get much more out of by trying to describe it to you, make you feel what I felt, share with you just how personal and intimate it was to me.
Let’s say it didn’t happen. Then I have this strange imaginary boat ride that still somewhere in the back of my head was a personal and intimate moment, and without a photograph there, you can’t prove it didn’t happen.
At least, that’s the way I’ve always looked at it... But my thoughts are changing now.
I have a friend who takes a lot of photographs. He’s rather good at it, has an eye for it, captures some really brilliant and interesting moments.. and I’m beginning to learn that sometimes, you CAN show the personality and uniqueness of what’s being captured, how you intimately perceived the events that transpired in front of those lenses. It’s a joy to see his photos because there’s always something vaguely personal to his perspective in them. So maybe that’s the way the event went down, and maybe it’s not.. But he’s managed to capture his own perspective in a way.
So, the flower photo at the top of the page.. I stepped out of the moment and took a picture because I wanted to share something vividly personal. The feel of the wind on my skin that day, the movement of the petals, the bright contrast of colors in the center of a city that is mostly asphalt and concrete.. this little haven of vines and a weed, brilliant orange against the green.
Heavens, I’ve lost the thread of what I was trying to say.. but the point was never really the point. Neither is the picture. :)