Having read the course handbook I’m aware that I’m not expected to have a fully-formed project idea right from the outset of Level 3, but I have already begun to put some kind of rough framework around the subject I’m interested in covering.

“The Absent-Minded Photographer”

I realised recently that in the years since I took a serious interest in photography, the two things that have deteriorated noticeably for me are – ironically – my eyesight and my memory!

My main area of fascination, that I’d really like to investigate through the medium of photography, is the latter.

To narrow it down a little: I do not mean the Barthesian subject of long-term memories of departed loved ones per Camera Lucida (Barthes 1980), rather I am particularly interested in short-term or working memory: the reliability of memory, lapses in memory, how memory relates to photography, how our minds might be reacting to photography – whether photography helps or hinders the human capacity to remember.

I’m sure it’s coincidental and/or part of the natural ageing process, but my increasingly unreliable memory is a source of ongoing fascination and self-analysis (and occasionally concern).

Following are some notes and questions I’ve been jotting down on possible areas of study and practice:

  • Does photography augment or damage memory?
    • am I getting worse at remembering things as I photograph more?
    • am I outsourcing my memory to my camera?
  • To what extent is all memory a construct?
    • neurological / optical / cognitive
  • Comparisons between photography and memory
    • similarities / differences
  • Identify ways of visually depicting memory (especially unreliability thereof)
    • memory loss / lapses / forgetting / absent-mindedness

Next steps

This is just an initial brain-dump to get something down in writing. What I need to do next is:

  • Discuss with Wendy, my BoW tutor
  • Discuss with Garry, my CS tutor
  • Gather ideas on reading material and other research routes
  • Go to Arles with an open mind and get inspired

Footnote

A while after embarking on this thought process about memory, I finally realised there was some (retrospective) rationale for an ongoing personal project of mine: for the last few years I have been collecting photographs of items that people have left behind in public places.

Maybe I’ve always been fascinated with absent-mindedness…


Sources

Barthes, R. (1980) Camera Lucida. London: Vintage.