Sunday, 12 January 2014

To collect photographs is to collect the world - Susan Sontag

Wine time!
I was given a new camera yesterday by gorgeous daughter and her husband. Mine broke ages ago and I just hadn't got round to replacing it. It was a total and glorious surprise. It seems pertinent too after my previous post where I was discussing the idea of an 'Art-Track'. I love photographs. My sister has a degree in photography and has produced some truly outstanding pieces - I must get some to show you. I always admire how she can just see the perfect image.

For me photographs freeze a moment in time. A memory. A flicker of emotion. A lifetime long ago. Loves and losses. Happiness and sadness. Laughter and tears. Susan Sontag suggests that '[t]o collect photographs is to collect the world.' So true. And it is so simple now in this day and age. You take a photo with your camera, your phone or your tablet and within seconds it can be shared with the world if you wish it. Long gone are the days of taking the film in to be developed. Now it is all about the instant gratification. Social media means you can share these images with friends and family. For all the negativity which surrounds social media, it is a wonderful way to keep in touch with a family that is spread far and wide. It allows them to still feel involved and up to date.

The photo above is of my mother at my niece's wedding. Two wine glasses in hand and much laughter epitomises her. A single photo can initiate so many other memories. I have bags and boxes of family photos dating back to the late 1800s. Full of faces who no longer have names. Taken at times we can't necessarily understand. But they are all memories. All are fragments of our identities. These days the bags and boxes have been replaced with the likes of iCloud or Dropbox. All photos securely saved in the ether. That tactile moment of holding a photograph has been removed. It is all about the visual now.

With thanks to
National Geographic
Photographs are also a great source of inspiration for writers. As many of you, who read this blog, will be aware that a certain photograph was the motivation behind my PhD novel. It was the fear in the girl's eyes that got me asking the questions: 'What is she afraid of? Why is she hesitant?

When you take a photograph you appropriate the object you are photographing (again as suggested by Susan Sontag). There is an element of power and knowledge as it becomes yours. You own that image at that particular moment. With my new camera I intend to take lots of photos. Ones that I can use, or my students, for inspiration. To stir up those creative ideas. If they are any that are any good I may even share them with you. They will become part of that 'art-track' again. If you are willing you could send me some of your favourite photographs that I could use as a source of inspiration. Maybe I will try and write a short story to match each one.

In the meantime here is another memory. It is seven years since I travelled to Albuquerque for a conference even though I had only just started my PhD. Where has all that confidence gone? I ended up sleeping on the floor of Denver Airport when snow stopped our flights and didn't 'feed' for several days. It was an amazing, if exhausting, experience. Here is Neil Young singing 'Albuquerque'

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