As part of tweaking the assignments for assessment submission I have made some changes to the introductory text, for a couple of reasons as explained below.
For reference: the last version, as submitted to Wendy for tutor feedback, is here.
Part of the Assignment 5 feedback from my tutor was that the introductory text could do with being expanded a little. Wendy suggested that I could add in some contextual references to the history of photographic works about memory.
In my case I think this makes sense if the point of doing so is to explain why my work differs from the majority of such photographic projects examining memory. By this I mean that most of the works I have researched look at the subject of photography and memory from a point of view of the medium’s ability to record or trigger personal memories, usually significant ones.
I am however more concerned with the memory system itself than the contents of that system. Put another way, I am interested in continual, everyday, ‘insignificant’ memory activity. So I need to get a sense of this coming through in the introduction.
My own evolving self-analysis
As time passes and I come back to the series of images after a break, I find myself still pondering what the work is ‘about’. For a long time I felt that the work was an examination of forgetting, that this was the key theme underpinning the whole thing. But the more I think about it, the more I consider the work to be a combination, or an overlapping, of two identifiably distinct aspects of memory: forgetting, and the concept of memory slippage.
One of the most interesting ideas I got from my Contextual Studies reading was the notion that the memory effect of a photograph does not need to be related to the content of the photograph itself. Key texts that enlightened me on this were Annette Kuhn’s Remembrance: The Child I Never Was (1991) and Margaret Olin’s counter-reading of Camera Lucida Touching Photographs: Roland Barthes’s “Mistaken” Identification (2002). A basic theory underpinning both texts is that seeing something in a photograph can trigger activity in the mind that connects the dots in sometimes unusual ways. Think of it as an absent punctum. In Kuhn’s case, a particular photo is of her younger self holding a budgerigar but also about parental disharmony and the unhappy childhood home.
Taking this idea up an ontological level it becomes even more self-evident: if the ‘memory object’ that one views is not a photograph of something, but a real-life scene or object, its power to trigger a seemingly unrelated memory is something that I can relate to (even if this is not a universally-experienced sensation). For example, a random shape formed by fallen leaves on the ground might bring to mind a favourite childhood pet; or passing a cooling tower on a motorway could trigger memories of a long-lost schoolfriend. These might seem like odd examples, and it might be that I have some form of memory-synesthesia, but I do make these perceptual connections.
This is partly what I want to communicate in this set of images: that Scene A can trigger Memory B (or Memory Z) – that looking at an abandoned shop doesn’t just make you think of when your local newsagent’s closed down, but maybe also about the time you lost a fiver crossing the road (another one that really happened).
Anyway – I wanted to better explain this notion of memory slippage as part of my intent.
Here follows the current draft introduction text:
I use photography to depict the unseen, the interior world, the landscape of the mind. I’m fascinated by the possibilities that images hold to provoke sensations, thoughts, feelings or memories.
Photography has always been inextricably linked to memory, and an abundance of photographic works have investigated aspects of memory. However, these generally tend to examine photography’s ability to contain or trigger significant memories; I am more interested in the continual process of everyday memory, the blend of remembering and forgetting that underpins our very existence.
With this series I use photography to investigate my own experiences of remembering and forgetting, and the interplay between the two. I aim to explore how human memory processes work – or sometimes don’t.
Remembering Forgetting emerged from a series of walks around my local area, noting memories that were triggered by what I observed. I became fascinated by the notion of memory slippage, that an abandoned chair could make me think about having missed someone’s birthday. The project evolved into a personal meditation on middle-aged memory, as I recalled the times my own memory has failed me. I became curious about the fine line between forgetting just enough and forgetting too much.
With this meander through my own remembered lapses I want to shine a light on the complexity and fragility of human memory. I’d like to encourage reflection on how a visual image or scene can trigger an unrelated memory, and of how forgetting is an invisible yet significant part of life.
Kuhn, A. (1991) Remembrance. In Wells, L. (ed) (2003) The Photography Reader. London: Routledge, pp. 395-401.
Olin, M, (2002) Touching Photographs: Roland Barthes’s “Mistaken” Identification. Representations, 80, pp. 99-118