I just completed listening to About This Life – Journeys on the Threshold of Memory by Barry Lopez, one of my favorite authors. Replacing Memory, written in 1999 or earlier, was notably topical and I keep thinking about.
Lopez explores how photography – the act of capturing photos and the practice of looking at them later to invoke memory – affects first hand experiences and memories of those experiences. The topic of this essay is something I think about a lot. I spend my share of time browsing photo posts on social media, but it bothers me how many people seem to feels that experiences are not worthwhile unless they have been capturing on “film”. A while back, I starting limiting my social media posts to knitting-related shares because it gives me a sort of freedom. I take many photos (too many?), but my No Posting rule releases me from the burden of wanting affirmation of my daily activities and allows me to focus more on the present.
Earlier this year, my mom took photos of the most important event of my life – the birth of my baby. These photos were taken with the intention of being just for me. I wrote a journal entry about my experience shortly following the birth and then waited a month to look through the images. The photographs have stuck in my mind. My memories shifted to include a view from outside myself. I haven’t looked at my birth photos a second time but am glad to have them to return to if and when I am ready. For now, I want to recall the experience through my eyes and my hands and my ears.
Do you love to take photos every day? Only of important events? Rarely? Do you think taking and reviewing photographs improves or detracts from memory?