This morning I was thinking about a portfolio I did some years ago and whether or not other photographers continuously review their past life, their past photographic forays, trying to make some sense of what it was, what they did and why. Okay, maybe other peoples past lives are not their past photographic forays. I sometimes wonder if I live more in the past than I do the present or am I actually in the present constantly reviewing the past. Conundrum.
Any way I was thinking about the portfolio Forensic Evidence of a Past Life. Most have heard the story of the portfolio, how, in my garage, I noticed a sail shackle in a Tupperware container that inspired me to removed dozens of items from my much cluttered garage to be photographed. The shackle reminded me of all the things in my garage that had been at one time an important part of my life but no longer seemed relevant. There was evidence of a past interest in bicycling, camping, sailing, wood working, diesel mechanics, even remnants of my infrequent sojourns into the world of oil painting.
The portfolio was about memories but I was wondering why I shot everything so straight forward, There was no suggestion of time past beyond the layers of dust that had accumulated over the years, no soft fuzziness indicative of warm memories—the photographs were very hard, cold and in-your-face as though I had become detached from the objects enough that I could approach them as the objects which they were rather than as the pit in my soul that prevented me from parting with them..
I could have done the photographs in a way that elicited fond memories or even simply memories. Rather it was a ‘this is what was’. This was but no longer is, almost dispassionate. In the photographs I did not give any hint as to how I felt about these past objects beyond the fact that I found them important enough to do photographs for the purpose of showing them to others. That of course is a statement within itself but is it enough of a statement. Will I one day be tempted to reprocess the photographs in a way that says how important these memories are to me. I don’t know.
I do know that these images, like much of the photography I have done in the past, keeps coming back. I am not sure whether they will not let me go or whether I will not let them go. That’s the problem with doing photographs that have a very personal connection. Why did I never learn that documenting and making pretty pictures is all that is required of being a photographer?