Sunday, February 11, 2007

Photo Project.

You wish you had photographs to match some of your memories--people and times now irretrievably gone.

So take photographs to replace the missing times.

You are not replacing photographs you once had, photographs now missing.

You are taking virtual snapshots, snapshots you might have taken, had you thought to at the time. (But why didn't you? Doesn't this then falsify their very existence? Isn't the point about those images that they were not recorded?)

This would involve, it seems, hiring actors to play the roles of people now changed or gone.

But what would these unrecorded moments be?
  • You and M. at one of your favorite restaurants?
  • Sitting on L.'s couch watching a movie?
  • Or sitting at L.'s kitchen table having tea and learning about the great love of his life?
(The only thing worse, it seems, than those people who endlessly document their own private existence is those who fail to.)

In theory, any snapshot would do, since most snapshots are interchangeable, except of course for the people in them. Aren't most snapshots of birthdays and social gatherings pretty much identical?

It is not a question of taking 'artistic' pictures, since these kinds of documents are not generally characterized by their artistry, which tends to be accidental at best.

Indeed, many such virtual memories could be out-of-focus, poorly-exposed, etc.--the better to hide the fact that they are false and to make them resemble those documents we actually produce to remember ourselves, touched as they are by accident, chance, contingency.

The truth is: other people's memories would serve just as well as yours. The only thing that makes them your memories is that they are (happen to be?) yours. (Contingency enters in. How did these people come to be your friends? How do certain moments end up being or not being recorded? How were certain acquaintances lost to time, disease, circumstance?)

You could buy old snapshots on ebay. But those tend to be of more remote time periods.

A difficult problem to solve. No virtual memory would be entirely satisfactory. Which is perhaps why none are in the end better.

--E. R. O'Neill

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