Monday, February 04, 2008

Mirrors in the Tide

Photographs capture slivers of existence.

Photographs are comfort--windows through the light of the present to reach buried, lost times.

But photos have a dark side. An uncomfortable mirror.

The moment, once captured, instantly dies.

So real in the frame, it exists nowhere else.

Places change. People age and die. But the photo remains.

Preservation against torment.

Nostalgia against melancholy.

Do we treasure the phantom moment, or mourn the real one's loss?

Someone else is in the pictures of me. But I still know him well.

The rivers of meaning reverse with the tides of time.

I look back with nostalgia. Someday it may be melancholy.

(Inspired by the walls of a local restaurant covered with pictures of people from the 30's, 40's, and 50's. It struck me that even if any of those people are alive today, they are not the people in those photos. Maybe it was the weight of them all, but for the first time, I felt the counterbalance of a darker side.)


Bernita said...

I especially like the top photo.
Plot bunny crypt.

SzélsőFa said...

The top photo's my favourite, too.
Did anyone notice that when you make a lot of photographs at an event and try to remember the event years later, you first recall the photos, and not actual events?
Our image of events are bound by photographs.
More often than not I say myself 'you should NOT make photos', you should be remembering the whole, not just fragments.
But I like making photos, so each time I do make photos....
(I hope I was clear )

Jaye Wells said...

There's something so hauntingly beautiful about verdigris, no?

This reminds me of the Aboriginal belief that photos steal a part of your soul. Maybe they're on to something.

Aine said...

Szelsofa, I have the same issue with remembering photos more strongly than the actual event. In fact, I've been known to invent memories because my recall of the actual event is so poor-- I recreate the event based on snapshots (Jason is probably nodding his head and cracking up right now....)

Interestingly, Jason and I specifically requested that our wedding not be videotaped (naturally, our family didn't comply... ugh!), because we wanted to remember the day as we experienced it, not as the camera captured it. As a result, I put extra effort into reliving the memory in my mind through the years so that I wouldn't lose it. It worked so well that I wonder if photos and videos have become a crutch which has resulted in some loss of brain power/potential.

Vesper said...

Jason, your poetic words struck a deep chord within my soul. How right you are...
"The moment, once captured, instantly dies." Yes, but it also forever remains in that picture. It reminds me of some thoughts I expressed about movies in a posting from May 26, 2007.

Beautiful, haunting photos...

The Anti-Wife said...

Very thoughtful post. Loved the images.

Admin said...

i love photos for their dark side...

mermaid said...

Transience. Such is life. There is a hint of sadness, but also a hint of acceptance?

Anonymous said...

Bernita, I caught several good scenes at that cemetery that day. That one depended on the wide angle nature of my new lens. I liked the sense perspective and space it created.

Szelsofa, so true. The photos become strong surrogates for memory.

Jaye, yes, a beautiful color and effect. **Stealing a piece of soul might be nice if the photograph stays with someone you love. I guess what I was struggling with is the fact that a photo is also proof of change and decay. By seeing exactly what was, we see what is not here today.

Aine, yes, I was cracking up. :D That's a great point to tie in about not wanting our wedding taped.

Vesper, I have to go back and read that post. Your current one was also an inspiration for this post. Thank you for sparking these thoughts.

Anti-Wife, thanks, my friend. :)

Vesper, maybe it's because I'm getting older too. I think about how professionals, authors, etc. can let their pictures get out of date. It can be a shock to realize that your image of them is from another time.

Mermaid, a tension leading to acceptance. I first have to grieve for what I'm realizing is lost.

Sarah Hina said...

That need to capture time slipping away is universal, but can be unfortunate. I've had to dial back my picture-taking at family events, because it can become all about freezing that river of memory, instead of just enjoying the ride.

That said, photographs offer a window into a distant, if still beloved, world. And when those people are no longer with us, or when they've altered beyond recognition, they can feel like a very bittersweet gift.

WH said...

Very thoughtful post, Jason. I often look at b&w news footage from the early 1900s--bustling streets from the turn of the century--and it always knocks me cold that the small nameless people had entire lives and histories that hide behind the grainy film.

Yolanda said...

I like this post a lot. Thanks for visiting me and come back anytime.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

Interesting post. I adore photos of nature because they evoke emotion from me. Pictures of people elicit completely different emotions married to time, place, what has happened and the memories we choose to remember. There is something sad about looking at old pictures - even when it is of our children - thinking we can never recapture that moment.

Lovely post.

david mcmahon said...

Came her from Julie's blog. Interesting thoughts you have here. I reckon photographs are comfort, but thank you for a great perspective.

Anonymous said...

Sarah, I have the opposite problem. I should take more family pictures. I'm usually too immersed in the moment.

Billy, it always knocks me cold that the small nameless people had entire lives and histories that hide behind the grainy film...yes!! Thats exactly what I was thinking. Very well put.

Yolanda, thanks so much for the visit! I will definitely be back. You do the same.

David, I'm honored and grateful for the visit. Usually, I'm very comforted by photos and their little lifelines to a treasured moment, or color, or turn of the weather. This time, though, I was hit by the fact that they undeniably prove the decay of things. Our memories would be more kind in the perception of these changes. Photographs allow no opportunity for optimism or romance. The changes are stark and sharp.


Awesome poem! I know exactly what you mean.

Chris Eldin said...

I really really like this one.
The house we just bought in the country has a few very old cemetaries within a couple of miles. I can't wait to walk around, reading the stones.

Anonymous said...

Eating Poetry, great to see you! The emotions behind photographs can certainly be curious.

Christine, when you get back there, I want to see some photos! Deal?

Chris Eldin said...