I have often wondered why so many people take so many photographs and digital images.  It’s as if they’re obsessed with the recording and the creation of false memory.


We live in a liar’s world where fibs become fact and outright lies set national policy — and the social effect of that public expression of deception is that nobody believes anything anybody says anymore. 

We now demand proof.  Honor in the word and value in the handshake are gone.  We want to see it with our own eyes.  We want third-party verification.

Taking photographs offers proof of being and ownership of a specific moment in time.  We record our bodies next to friends, in front of famous places, and at one-off events just so we can publicly declare in person, and online:  

“I was there.” 

“My life has meaning.”

“I have proof.”

Life through a viewfinder is safe, convenient, and distant — and it is terrible for the future perfection of the human core.  Ourselves in images cannot not make us immortal; getting caught in photographs makes us fatally mortal in the folly.  The moment the shutter speaks for us, we are rendered mute and ignorant.  

I never take photographs of anything.  I refuse to pose for photographs.  I prefer, instead, to rely on my memory muscle to reveal the facts of my moments in time.  I know where I’ve been.  I know who I’ve stood with and smiled against.  I don’t need independent verification of who I am and what I was. 

When you give your memory over to a digital
image or to aging paper stock for safekeeping, you fall prey to the
notion that
the moment will always remembered.  However, once the moment is
preserved beyond your mind, your mind will release the intimate, living,
details of that
memorialized event to make room for new experiences for analysis. 

Images
without direct meaning become abstractions of reality and not real
moments.  We give definition and context to our preserved totems and,
without us to frame the experience, they lose all meaning in the
internal and only exist because of the false imprints of others — who
may
believe they have divined the meaning of an instant that never belonged
to them.

7 Comments

  1. David, I will give you an example.
    It was in my first semester, a 30 below zero, clear midnight in Wisconsin. I stepped out of the library to go back to my apartment and noticed a peculiar green and purple tinge in the sky. Then one/ two light green streak started dancing. Perplexed, I stood there for a couple of seconds…watching it and thinking – I was probably hallucinating because of cold. Then I realized I was witnessing the famous “Aurora Borealis”, which I read about in the geography book when I was in school. It took me couple of seconds more to get back to my senses which prompted me to take a snap of the same. I shared it with my Mom next day through e mail.
    I would never forget her overwhelming expression of happiness.
    May be it’s nothing those who watch “aurora borealis” every winter…but without my camera I couldn’t capture the moment and at that particular moment it was nothing but sheer ecstasy of witnessing a gift of nature.
    At the same time, I understand your point – photography came down to a mere level of showing-off these days.

  2. I haven’t seen your image, but your description here is so much better and emotionally engaged than “showing me a picture” could ever hope to match.
    Did you send your mother the image because you felt she wouldn’t believe you?

  3. No way! I wanted to share the moment with her along with the image — I wanted her to feel the way I felt — witnessing something that I never thought I would!
    I think texts become more vibrant with the help of images…

  4. I think I’m a bit simplistic in that I like to occasionally look back at photos from yesteryears. There’s a great photo of my brother, my parents and I standing in front of the Twin Towers. I honestly have no memory of that day, nor did I know that the photo was taken until my mother showed me the photo recently. It was nice to see it, anyway. 🙂