Without a photograph how do you remember and how do you prove you were there

Life, once you are twenty, appears to speed on by. Before that age, each day takes forever while eagerly awaiting the arrival of holidays and birthdays. The perception of time ebbs and flows with the passing of time.

We make lists of places to go, see and experience before our time on this earth ends.  We travel taking in the sights believing each place and each moment is something we will remember forever. However, how many times have you looked over old photos to only be reminded of a sight or a moment that you had completely forgotten about? I am sure it happens all the time. Memories are fickle. We only have a certain amount of memory space, just like a computer.  Photos exist as a way to enhance our brain’s memory capacity.

Look what happened in the George Zimmerman case today. Yes, I had the day off and I succumbed to the lure of the trial coverage. And, although I watched for a few minutes, I cannot understand why the cable news channels are televising this. I suppose the trial coverage must be bringing in the ratings and CNN most definitely needs those ratings to rise. Anyway, the assistant medical examiner was testifying and acknowledged that he didn’t remember Trayvon Martin’s autopsy itself and was relying on his notes.  People gasped. What- they seemed to ask.   I ask why would the fact that the person who did the autopsy was using notes surprise the people following the trial? Who remembers every day of their lives? Can you tell someone what you did March 12, 2012? When I am in a meeting, I take notes and I date them. But somehow the medical examiner’s use of notes is blasphemous? Of course, the fact that his personal notes were never shared with the state or the defense was kind of odd. But I have majorly veered off on a tangent.  Anyway, back to one of my main points. Notes and photos help document our lives; while also jogging and at times shaping and re-shaping our memories.  Are notes and photos more accurate than our own memories or do they just put them in a different shade of truth?

While we are concerned with remembering events, moments and emotions, we are also concerned with being remembered. We worry that once we have passed on we will be forgotten. We all swear we will remember our loved ones when they are gone. And yes, I think of my mother quite often, but there are many moments when I do not. Little by little the memory recall lessens. We are all aware of this occurrence.  Which is why we want to leave an imprint. We want to leave a sign that we were here and we were there.

So besides taking photos we leave a signed note or scribble on a wall.

At the Accademia Gallery in Florence, Italy, where the David by Michelangelo is housed, no one is allowed to take photos. This ban on photographs is clearly explained at the outset. The roaming guards constantly remind you of the photo ban. It reminded me of how the guards continuously insured that no one could talk at the Sistine Chapel.  At said place you cannot immediately share or express your awe but you can photograph inside the chapel.

Back to the Gallery. You could see people literally itching to snap that camera button. I saw people pulling their cell phones slowly out from under their jackets trying to take a photo of the glorious statue. Others stood around frozen in place seemingly trying to memorize every curve and every perfectly sculpted finger. I saw people close their eyes and try to breathe in David’s essence. Then I saw the school children. They were seated about the room itching, itching to text or Facebook. They held on tightly, fondly, to their cell phones. You could see the bubble above their heads saying “without a photo that I can tweet, post on Facebook or Instagram, what’s the point of being here?”  Kids and tweens were ansy, teens were bored. Everyone seemed vexed by the inability to capture the moment technologically. If we cannot photograph it, does it not exist? If we cannot photograph it, do we (the adults) try even harder to remember it? A few months later, I can remember the crowd, the scene around David, fairly well still.  But some of the statue specifics are starting to fade. Luckily, it is in every art history book on the planet.

That day at the Accademia, after I breathed in David’s essence, I ran to the restroom in the basement. Of course, the women’s restroom line was outside the door spilling into the extremely narrow hallway. When I finally get a bathroom stall, I lock the door behind me, I sit. I stare at the massive amounts of scribbles on the door. There were odes to Canada and affirmations that others came from Russia with love.  There were declarations of love. Before I left the restroom, after washing my hands, I quickly looked at other bathroom stall doors. They all had drawings, testaments and declarations. Well, I knew what I had to do.  I went, I saw David, I stared intently at the statue, and then I captured on “film” a part of my experience. I took a photo of the bathroom graffiti for you all to see. Therefore, I was there.

15 replies »

  1. I am amazed at how my memory faults me now. It used to be crystal clear, but now places and experiences change and recall is altered. On the other hand there is something about not having to feel like you should take a photo of David, and of course a great photo, that is refreshing.


    • You know i totally agree with you. While “startling” -not being able to photograph David- it was kind of cool as well. Instead of showing people the pic, which is truly everywhere, i have to rely on my other senses to convey what it was like there. Its a way to engage in storytelling. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!


  2. For my 5th birthday, I recall all my adult relatives sitting around our living room while I opened my gifts. This one gift was a large yellow cat bank. I kept that thing for years. I remember walking around the room and everybody gave me some change to put in it. All my life I thought this was my earliest memory. Then the other day I was searching the photo albums for photos for a display at an upcoming family gathering and ran across a photo of that day. It was marked, not 5 years old, but 4, and not my birthday, but Easter Day. Memories do jumble over time, eh?


  3. I have several pictures in my phone that wouldn’t mean anything but I remember the moment I took it and why, haha.
    This last Friday I met someone new and went on a crazy adventure. The only concrete proof I have is a receipt or 2 and a horrible picture of the beach/rocks we were on.
    It must’ve been amazing to see David! I’ve always wanted to!


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