Friday, March 4, 2011

Photographic Memories

When I finally obtained photographs of my parents, many years after they had died, I couldn’t take my eyes off the images. Not only did I stare at their faces looking for features similar to my own, I also scrutinized the background images. I checked out the setting, be it a kitchen or in front of a Christmas tree; I sought out the familiar things that make up a life: photos on a mantle, leavings of an eaten meal; it was evidence of a life lived that I guess I was searching for.
My mom with brother, Joey. I think she is at her mother's home

My dad in front of the house we lived in, playing ball with my brothers

My parents on the right, maybe getting ready for an evening out
My dad in the middle, his brother, Dick on right and a friend.  Going fishing.
My mom holding Joey, with brother Mike to the right. Maybe this is in the yard of our home in Batavia

Since then I have become a photograph hunter. I love to collect old photographs and they don’t even have to be of people I know.

I remember one of my history professors once asked the class what we looked for in old photographs and how they affected us. My response, “I see myself in the photo” took her aback. She couldn’t understand what I was saying. It’s not like I see an image of myself in the picture; it’s hard to describe but I become so immersed in the scene that I can almost feel a part of it. The best I can do to relate how it feels is what the book character, Harry Potter, feels when he falls into the pensive, a magical bowl of liquid memory.

Some time ago I found a great film on the Documentary Channel called, “Other Peoples’ Pictures.” It showcased several individuals who scour flea markets and yard sales looking for photographs. They each had particular themes in mind in their searches, seeking out pictures of strangers, buying and displaying them. I knew exactly why they were obsessed because I do the same thing. In antique stores I head to the section that has photographs. I especially like daguerreotypes, the early method of photography. The dour faces of the individuals who are no longer on earth fascinate me.

I am as much a photograph hound taking pictures as I am collecting them. Knowing how significant the found pictures of my mom and dad are to me I can’t help but feel I’m doing a service for my descendents by chronicling life as I live it. I hope they appreciate the effort. One of the things I find disgraceful is seeing contemporary photographs discarded: children’s school pictures, an unknown family portrait. I think it is sad no one cherishes the pictures enough to pass them down in the family. I hope the appreciation I, and others like me have, will suffice in honoring the images of those looking out from the place where they are frozen in time.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

I so understand getting lost in the pensive. I am a history fanatic anyway so the pictures always capture me. The saddest experience I've had was seeing a Victorian baby death photo hung in a Cracker Barrel Rest. above a dining booth. Someone loved that baby and now it's lost to the family. You should check out