On a daily basis I'm checking emails like anyone else does. Normally I'm finding that it's a bunch of junk from websites I've ordered things from, sites I've used to submit work through, or just plain spam. On occasion, though, I'll get an email that has importance, and even more rarely, substance. Today was one of those days that brought a message that had more to it than normal.
I've been working the past week on a talk I'm going to be doing for the youth program at the local art museum. In my typical fashion of being a little disjointed, I checked my email. The first one in the list was the only one that didn't continue the unending stream of emails to go straight to the trash. It was from my Dad, the subject was "Memories". I won't get too deep into the context of the message, but it was in regards to a bike trip we took in 2016 from D.C. to Pittsburgh. The trip ended in Point State Park, the place where the triangle that is the downtown area of Pittsburgh is formed by the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meeting to form the Ohio River. My Dad mentioned in the email how he can't look at an image of the park anymore without remembering that trip. His statement made me start to think about the images in my own head and how I've remembered this trip. The more I sat and thought about these memories, the more I began to think about how memories and photographs are linked. It also helped that I had spent the past few hours going over my own process of working in an attempt to make it accessible to a crowd that I'm continually becoming more distant from: Teenagers.
I can't speak for certain about how others remember things, but for me it has almost always been visually. We are very much a species that reacts to the visual. Even when words are involved through books, music, a conversation, the memories that we have tend to be visual. My memories are always still images, pieces of a whole that was generally filled with motion in the original instance. The memories that I have of the bike trip are much the same, still images of a ride that was very much in full motion. Ironically, I have very few actual images of the ride. The memory that I value the most, personally, is just an image in my head, but its there, seared in where it will stay until my mind starts to go.
What this made me start to think about, though, as I went back to working on my talk, was how this related to my own work and the process that has driven it.
We are, as I mentioned before, a very visual animal. Photographs evoke emotion, no matter what they are. A photograph is the recording of a very short moment in time, but as humans who are driven by the visual, we put context to these visual recordings. Henry Rollins, in a talk I saw a week ago, mentioned this multiple time about how we as humans will impart our own feelings on images. It's the amazing magic of a photograph. I can take a picture of something and show it to ten people and ask them to describe what they see and what feeling it gives them, and I will get back ten very distinct reactions.
As a photographer and "artist", I hope that every photograph I produce can evoke some sort of response. I have been working over the past year or so on a project that stems very much from a bit of personal nostalgia. These images are as much a memory of what isn't in the frame as they are a representation of a memory the viewer never knew they had. Be it a generic setting, a common everyday scene, or something very specific, my goal has been to produce a feeling that is just as nostalgic for my audience as it was for me when I found whatever scene is captured in camera.
Memories drive me to produce images. These images, in turn, hopefully, produce more memories and dig up forgotten ones. In the end, these memories are shared. What Eggleston referred to as the "Democratic Forrest" is the world around us; A shared world that we remember with our own visions, spurred on by the images we see from others and their relations to the ones that are in our own heads.