Three Memories, One Recollection

“Memory has the capacity to become more elusive over time, becoming distorted every time it is recalled upon, mixing the past with the present and altering it depending on your receptive state of mind. Having spent over a decade documenting my family, I wanted to know if I was destroying this three dimensional memory in favour of its two dimensional counterpart. Is the photograph replacing what we remember, the sounds, the smells, and the experience or is it strengthening memory by working alongside what it is that we have remembered acting like a switch to trigger everything else we have etched in our minds for future recall?” (Debi Heath)

This is my opening paragraph to the critical studies essay I completed which is the foundation for my three project ideas. I have spent the last 12 months head deep in theory and research, a camera or photographic process hasn’t touched my hands and my memories are no stronger and new memories haven’t been made. I am a visual learner and for that very reason pictures and photographs are very important, they are what make the memories stick. My three ideas look at different areas of my own memory from the everyday to the surreal and by the end of it I will be choosing only one to produce a body of work.

Idea 1 – Distorted Memories

During my critical study essay I discuss the relationship that both Sally Mann and I have with a photograph of our fathers. Looking at a photograph of her father Mann talks about the way in which her father eludes her, she feels that by having this photograph of him her memory of him has evaporated and all that is left is this photograph. On the other hand my experience with the photograph of my father reinforces his physical being, one which I have forgotten over time because I don’t see him.

As a person I live in the past, I am fascinated by it and have always been drawn to its mystery. Like many artists I have found myself hoarding items I deem sentimental, from diaries, letters, poetry and stories to name but a few. These items which I have kept are the keys to my memories but some of them don’t work as well any more. I will concentrate on my memories of my past, the memory how I became the person that I am, where I am from and where I have been.

Like Mann I will be leaning towards my romantic side to produce images that are process driven. This will allow me to use historical processes to produce hauntingly romantic images, each taking on their own individuality, and representative of the past.

Idea 2 – Dreams

Intrigued by a quote by Siegfried Kracauer a writer who had many theories on memory and in particular how photography affects memory was the trigger for this idea.

“the photograph ‘remembers’ everything, whereas the memory only retains what the self deems important.” (Kracauer, S.)

I was intrigued by this quote, in many respects the photograph does remember everything, however the viewer does not remember everything within it. I found myself questioning what it is that we deem important, if we only remember that which is important then why do we remember dreams? So I wanted to explore the idea of dreams, my own dreams to be specific, those that have engraved themselves deep within my memory for decades.

Concentrating on the concept of memory I want to explore some of the dreams that I have remembered over the years and bring them to life by displaying them in a book to accompany the rest of the installation. However my thoughts on the installation would change slightly for this idea, the book would incorporate only black and white images to symbolise this idea that we dream in black and white and the rest of the installation would be in colour but in a similar style to Alice in Wonderland’s tea party. Focusing on the belief that many dreams are surreal in context this would allow me to push the boundaries of perception. There were two areas I looked at for this idea, these were surrealism and symbolism.

Idea 3 – False Memories

My idea for false memories looks at the concept of past lives. Have you ever been to a place for the first time but felt like you have been there before? This notion of recognising people, places or objects that we get a sense of or feeling that we have known or been there before can be interpreted as memories from a past life. As if we have lived a life before this one and stored the memories of it.

I am unsure at this stage of the photographic processes I will use to achieve my objective but my thoughts are pushing me towards historical processes in order to obtain a particular vintage style of image.

Watch this space!


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