LeipGlo contributor Indigo reflects on the subject of photographs and their place in our world. The many emotions and actions that these preserved images can generate from us.
Having just recently moved into our new apartment, I had been unpacking one of the many boxes and trying to figure out just where to put things when I came across some of my old photo albums. I opened one up.
It was not for the first time that I found myself staring at the images and thinking about how strange, magical and at times disturbing it is that a camera can capture a moment and then freeze it forever. Like layers of a serpent’s skin, I could see all the cast-off moments of my life staring back at me from the album – the cast-off identities that I had morphed in and out of while still trying to figure out who I was while trying to become comfortable in my own skin; the teenage rocker, the punk, the hippie, the student. I looked so different. All those changing hopes, dreams, and desires. I suppose that it took a little fragment of each former me to make me the person I am today.
Old boyfriends who had once meant the world to the ‘me’ in one photo were replaced by a different boyfriend a little later in that same album. School friends faded away the more pages that I turned, homes, bedsits, apartments, cities, and even countries disappeared.
People walked into my life in one photo and walked out of my life in the next.
I began to wonder as I looked searchingly at some of the forgotten faces in the album, if there was perhaps sat on some other sofa somewhere, some distant acquaintance of mine, staring down at my image in their own album and desperately trying to recall who on earth I was.
Photographs – they are like witnesses on the stand giving their evidence.
They capture something in time, a moment, and then display them like preserved butterflies pinned to velvet. It will never alter that captured image; the door won’t open, the decor won’t change, the person won’t grow old. A photograph instantly captures that moment of time and prevents it from going forward. It stops that photographed clock from ticking, or the hour from growing late. The smiles of the people never fade.
A photograph can forever hold those people that have gone from your life, either through death or distance, though you may not do the same.
Those memories that you want and that you don’t want; the hope, the sorrow and the joy, the ghosts of your former self, will haunt these images and watch you with their vacant eyes. Impenetrable, the photo captures each moment clearly, though you can never rejoin in that time again.
It is undeniably before you, your eyes recognise its truth, but it is also forever irretrievably behind you, close yet distant. Though it is a captured moment, perhaps a treasure, there remains an emptiness. A sense of a time, a youth lost, of the world moving on. Yes, it could drive you quite mad looking through old photographs at times. I put down the album.