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Sunday, 21 October 2012

“ You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” - Ansel Adams


I read an interesting quote on snapshots last night.  “We take photographs not so we can remember, but so we can flesh them out with the rest of our lives. That’s why there are snapshots that are true, that hit the mark directly, and snapshots that aren’t, that don’t. Snapshots are images that time sets in their right place, giving significance to some and denying it to others, which fade on their own, like colors over time.” I can't think of any of these photos that I’ve taken,  off the top of my head, but I know when a friend of a friend died in an untimely fashion, everyone looked at the photos of her at a recent wedding, where she’d worn black, not remarked on at the time, but seen as an omen in hindsight. Can you look back at a photo and see the future that unfolded caught in time?
Which then, of course, got me thinking on memory, and how sometimes our memories are not really the memory of the actual event but the image a photo taken at the time has captured - it's really the photo we remember, but we think it’s the event we remember...
This in turn, leads me to wedding photos. The amount we spend, both financial and in time is completely out of proportion the event itself. We get false poses, or photos with family we hardly ever see, in a dress most of us never wear again, and in my case with a hairstyle I'd never worn before or since. So what exactly are we documenting?  Are we trying to create memories, in case the actual day is not up to our standards? Or do we want a lot of photos of when we are looking fabulous, for some of us at a level we will never repeat? Originally wedding photography was to capture the day, now it’s more like portraiture – and often called such. It’s just the done thing, so we do it.
A woman I worked with,  had her wedding overseas but didn’t like her photos, so got someone else to take more on her return. She actually said “I’m busy this weekend, I’m having my wedding photos redone.” Not judging that she did that, but I do wonder how you explain that to people. ‘That’s not my actual wedding, it’s us in our wedding clothes’. It’s no different to people that get married in one location then drive elsewhere for photos, which is common enough, just not normally two weeks later.
When our second child was born, we had a photographer come to the house – I looked fat & with rings under my eyes, and barely had time to put on make up. Our eldest refused to not hold up Bruce the shark in every photo, no matter how much we coaxed. In the end, the photographer did a great job, I looked great and the shark was missing in all but one photo. But the photo that makes me smile, and seems the most real to me, is the one with the shark The glam family is not us, the stubborn boy with the shark in his fist and the laughing parents is the real us.
My husband said if the house burnt down he’d grab the passports and some photos. I used to always say that, but now I think I’d just grab the kids – let’s face it, getting three kids out of the house from a deep sleep is going to take some time and effort, and realistically, we don’t look at our photos much after we take them. If we have the kids, can just take new ones, and then not look at those either…We dug out our wedding photos to show the kids on our tenth anniversary. We’d not looked at them for nine years. After an initial interest, the kids got bored and wandered off. My husband and I continued looking at them that morning but then they were packed away and not looked at again in the last two years.
My eldest son has a million baby photos not looked at since, the second has less but equally ignored after being put in the album, and the third has so few printed off, that there’s not even a specific album for her.
I love seeing them when they were little, when I stumble across a photo of them, and I love being reminded of the fun we had together on a holiday or at a museum, because how I ‘remember’ them is as they are now. The snapshot is almost of another time and person, when I was another person.  But I don’t actively put aside time to look at the photos. I’m usually hunting for a particular photo of a place or country to show someone. The flipping through the album is a by product.
Yet I keep taking them. I document the kids and our adventures together, but I’m not sure to what end. I like to take them, I like to email them to my husband at work, and I like to show people if it’s particularly interesting. But then the photos are stuffed into digital file oblivion.
As the photographer of the family, I’ve only just insisted I be in some of the photos – I don’t really like photos of myself (because in my head I’m much better looking than I am in reality, so the photo always jars with my perception of myself) but a recent death made me realise the importance. I was looking for photos for the funeral, and I realised how absent I was from the frame. I guess I think the kids won't remember I was around, or what I looked like, if they don't have an image to hold onto.
I guess I think it’s important to take photos, and I like to take photos but I don’t really know to what end? I suspect I’m not one to dwell on the past, and perhaps that’s why I’m not as attached to the images as I used to be.  .  As Imogen Cunningham said “ Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow. “

I don’t know what I make of all this, still pondering on it, but I am curious as to what others think and feel on the subject.
Feel free to disagree or even add a different aspect that I’ve overlooked.

Linking with #ArchiveLove



18 comments:

  1. I think every photo tells a story. Of the day, an event, a moment, a secret, a hope, a tantrum...

    I take photos ALL of the time. Can't help myself. My kids just think its completely normal to have a camera pointed at them constantly.

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    1. I agree, they tell a story - sometimes not the story you want them to tell. My friend showed me photos of her family trip to France when she was 16, and in every photo she's sullen and cranky. It's hilarious, and she'd never really looked at them as an adult, til she showed me. She said "I remember being annoyed a lot on that trip but I didn't realise I was being such a pain!"

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  2. Photos are very important to me, because memories are. But I also believe that creating our tomorrows is more important than being bogged down in our past. Every day is the first day of the rest of our life! I think photos are a way of celebrating what we've achieved and being grateful for those who have walked before us. While the present is our focus, it's good to reflect and remember. (Despite the many photo albums taking up space in my linen cupboard and the thousands on my hard drive killing my computer memory. Perhaps a cleanse may be in order ....)

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  3. Now that's something to think about - could you really do a cleanse? And how would you choose which to turf? I probably should do a cleanse but I'd never be able to select any to go...

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  4. I really enjoyed this post - it definitely made me think a lot more, and yes, I agree a little more living, little less photos!!
    #teamIBOT

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    1. thanks - I am still unclear what I think (or why I think it) so it's great to get others ideas and opinions...

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  5. I love photos, they bring back a million memories. My kids love looking through the album I made after 5 years travelling, I love looking through the shoebox full of photos that never made it to the album. The silly ones, the crazy ones, the ones out of focus. I still print a lot of photos, we have a photo wall on our fridge, people look at the pictures for hours. I now try to print photos into books as they are neat and easy to keep organised.

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    1. Interesting point on the out of focus ones - with film, you had no idea what you got until you printed it, so we do all have a box of out of focus ones, that were the only ones of a place or a person we got, so can't bear to turf them. Digital cameras, rightly or wrongly will have stopped all that...and good for you with the photobooks. I have a friend who does it once a year religiously. I say I will but it's yet to happen.

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  6. I love the photos I have, mostly the important ones to me are of the faces of loved ones, more than those of places we've been. I love looking back and seeing them at certain times in their lives, they are so much more reliable and permanent than my memory of their faces at that time.

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    1. With you on the unreliable memory with faces, especially of at certain times in their lives. It's interesting to see the reality some times.

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  7. I adore looking at my daughter's baby photos - i get lost in them and they remind me of what my memory has forgotten. Even posed pictures tell a personal story for me but it's usually the events around them that I remember most, like you, the real stories hold up.

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    1. "i get lost in them and they remind me of what my memory has forgotten" That's really lovely turn of phrase, sort of ephemeral, like memory itself.

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  8. I was exactly the same as you, in that I never had photos taken of myself, because I HATED myself in photos! I was always behind the camera, and the photos were always of everyone else. But like you, one day I realised that if anything was to ever happen to me, my boys would have absolutely no photos of me, or of me with them. They would have nothing to treasure, except for memories. So from that day, I started taking lots of self portraits, and getting other people to take photos of us as a family together. I still hate them of me, but they're not for me. They're for my boys.
    I love looking back at the old photos. I actually look at them often. My problem is I don't print them and have them out on display often enough! :)
    xx

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  9. I love photos cause they help you remember. Little things like favourite baby shoes, or a cute expression.
    But I think you're right. We often do remember the photo, not the event.

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  10. I read something recently that said that we don't remember the event but our last memory of the event. I guess that's how we all end up with different memories of the same thing.

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  11. P.s thanks for linking up with The Lounge and sorry it took me so long to comment.

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  12. I really enjoy looking back through my blog and looking at photos of the kids. They enjoy it too.
    I also love documenting events with photos. People who were at the event enjoy seeing someone elses aspect, and seeing the bits they might have missed.
    I think it's important to capture photos for history's sake too. We have a facebook memories group for our town, people really get a kick out of seeing photos from yesteryear.

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  13. I worked as a photo editor at a chain baby/kid photo store in a mall during uni. I was always 'in trouble' for putting the candid photos into the sales presentations - I love the ones where the kids were doing the 'wrong' thing the props, not the 'perfect' photo with them sitting and smiling. I guess my style wasn't what they wanted to sell...

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