Photographs are memory. Most of us take “snapshots” to record moments we want to remember. Facebook, Snapchat, and most other social media exists on snapshots.
I have a whole image library of family and friend pictures. They are very important to me personally, even though I do not share them on social media (I’m one of the last remaining holdouts in the world).
My images are my memories
I also have a large library of my professional images. These are just as much my memories as the pictures of my grandkids. In some ways these are even more important.
I have a terrible memory for dates, which is weird, because as an engineer, I have a better chance of remembering your phone number than I do your name. My wife can ask me when we went on a certain trip and I might guess a date that is 10 years off.
But when I see one of my images, the whole context immediately comes back as a well formed memory (except for the date ☺). Without hesitation I can tell you where it was, what time of the year, what the weather was like, what trip it was on, who we were with, and what the circumstances of the picture were. And if it was a trip, what we were driving.
Is this relevant to you? Probably not. It definitely is to me. These are my memories. Sometime in the future, if I start loosing my memory, I hope these will still bring back these contexts for a long time.
But I want you to hang my images on your wall. Why should you want my memories? You don’t. I hope to bring other things that are of value to you.
If I tell you that when making a certain image the temperature was -10F and the wind was blowing and my hands were freezing even with gloves on, that might give you some greater sense of the situation. Kind of like the image at the top of this post. This brings a notion of place to the appreciation of an image. You didn’t experience it directly, but you can empathize.
Even better, though, is if I can bring this sense of place into the image. So you can feel the bone chilling conditions by looking at it. If I am sufficiently skilled and if my story telling skill is up to it, it can often be done. I try.
This example isn’t necessarily a place many of us would want to be. I’m weird that way. But I think it illustrates that an image doesn’t have to be about puppies and beaches and sunsets to tell a worthwhile story. And a story can be compelling enough to make you want to have it to look at, even if you’ve never been there and don’t want to. It brings more of the world to us.
More powerful even than a strong sense of place is the connection it can bring you. I believe most of us long for more connection to nature, to the real world. It feels like home.
Unfortunately, most people these days live in cities. Even if they are not directly in a city, most people are so busy with everyday life that they lose touch with the real world. When you are so busy, you forget.
Images, on your wall, where your can meditate and reflect on them, are a powerful antidote to this disconnection. Especially if the images are places or things that symbolize where you want to be, that make you feel whole. Even if they are just of something that makes you stop to look and think.
Some ask me why my landscape images almost never have people in them. This is part of my value system. I feel that if people are there, that is their place, their memories. If no one else is there, it is pristine, unclaimed in a sense. It can be your place, your memory. Even if you have never been there, you feel that it is someplace you would like to be. You can visualize yourself in the scene. It becomes a connection for you to that world.
The knowledge that such places exist, even if we do not see them ourselves, is powerful and centering. Pablo Picasso said “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” I believe this is one of the things that makes art worthwhile.
I hope you will adopt some of my memories to bring more peace to your day.
Is this true for you? Let me know what you think. And check out my online gallery at photos.schlotzcreate.com. Contact me if you find something you connect to and would like to have.