Photographic Memories

How much of my memory is from the photograph or my memory or a combination of the photograph re-inforcing the memory fragment?

Dan James of 35hunter is almost always asking thought-provoking questions around photography. On one recent blog post, Jim raised the question of whether our memories are strengthened or formed by repeatedly viewing the same photograph.

I started to wonder though, how much of my memories come from experiences as they actually happened, and how much from photographs?

That's a thought-provoking question. I have vivid memories of my grandparents and parents that I'm not sure I can separate from photographs, perhaps because I was too young when the events happened. Back in the day, it was customary to sit around a photo album and look at the photographs with my mom or grandmother telling me about the who/what/where/when of the picture. Perhaps this is how most of my memories, the fragments that float into my consciousness, were formed. I don't know.

I remember that my dad took us on roads trips around the steep and winding mountain roads of St. Vincent. I remember my dad taking a very narrow road with a ravine on one side. He got to the top and realised he had no way to turn the car around. So we exited his white Volkswagen Bettle, and my dad backed the car down the hill, with us three boys and mom walking after the car. Dad drove the car backwards to a clearing where he could turn around, and we hopped back in and went home. I have seen the photo of the Volkswagen Beetle with my mom and us standing next to it. There was no space around the car. At least that's what I remember seeing in the photograph. I don't have access to it.

How much of my memory is from the photograph or my memory or a combination of the photograph re-inforcing the memory fragment?

Left to right: My mom, Helena Ollivierre with her grandfather, Harold Llewelyn Ollivierre | print scan
My brothers, Shane and Bruce, and I with Mom. | print scan

And today, with typical parents vastly more prolific with their camera phones than their grandparents ever were when they had to pay per exposure, and a roll of 35mm film lasted months, do any children have such lasting individual images of their own childhoods?

I switched to digital in 2000 just after my first child was born. I have created only a few printed albums from these digital negatives and while I do my best to revisit these old photographs, but I don't think I have done it often enough to help cement the memories. And of course, my kids have had their smartphones since they started college and are documenting their own lives. Will they have the same sort of nostalgia if/when they see an old photograph?

Shaan and I at the Bronx Zoo | Saturday 28 April, 2001 | Sony CYBERSHOT | f/4.8 | ISO 100
Bhavna and KIran | Saturday 12 May, 2001 | Sony CYBERSHOT | f/4.0 | ISO 100
Shaan waiting for the New Hope-Lahaska Train. New Hope, New Jersey. | Tuesday 2 October, 2001 | Sony CYBERSHOT | f/4.8 | ISO 100
Shaan and I out for a walk along the D&R Canal | Monday 22 October, 2001 | Sony CYBERSHOT | f/4.0 | ISO 100

Submitted for the 100DaysToOffload project.

Author: Khürt Williams

I work in application security architecture and I live in Montgomery Township, New Jersey with my wife Bhavna. Passionate about photography, you’ll find me writing about cybersecurity, tropical aquariums, terrariums, hiking, craft breweries, and capturing birds on camera. My prose is like a caffeinated squirrel—fast, unpredictable, and occasionally insightful.

2 thoughts on “Photographic Memories”

  1. Khürt, these are posts I enjoy the most on your blog and secondly those about photography trips you have made in the past and now when you take a hike through the woods with your beloved.

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