The Proof is in the Picture…
In Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest, the following exchange takes place between the young and imaginative Cecily Cardew and her governess:
Cecily: I keep a diary in order to enter the wonderful secrets of my life. If I didn’t write them down, I should probably forget all about them.
Miss Prism: Memory, my dear Cecily, is the diary that we all carry about with us.
Miss Prism may be disapproving of the use of any aide-memoire, and her point is perhaps admirable, but sometimes I find my memory needs jogging – and photographs can be a helpful means of recording my priorities and the things I want to remember. A bunch of happy faces is proof that I experience joyful moments of celebration with friends. A picturesque view from a hilltop is a reminder of that family outing. And we all like to take a picture at Platform 9 ¾ or next to a London telephone box (ok, maybe just once). Proof that we were there.
At the end of a day out or away, I am often to be found reviewing the photos captured that day, deleting repetitive or imperfect shots, and perhaps instagramming the favourites. I enjoy editing my own collections in order to have a small number of images that reflect aspects of my experience.
I may not have a particularly high opinion of my artistic photographic ability, but for me, this isn’t really the point. Occasionally there is a scene of beauty to be caught at just the right moment. (I am especially fond of rays of sunshine which turn up as a literal ray of hope when you least expect them.)
But I am also an observer of the humorous, capturing the unintentional puns or ironic placement of signposts in the everyday. Sometimes I find myself going to the camera app out of boredom, and searching for something, anything in my vicinity to which I can add a layer of beauty with an Instagram filter, or an element of amusement with a witty comment.
And photographs of food become more than a mere diet documentary – the striking colour of a beetroot-based smoothie that cannot be described simply with words, a snap of meatballs and lingonberry jam that is synonymous with a trip to Ikea, a plate of salad or a relevant section of Scripture that both prove I do not, in fact, live on bread alone.
Of course, often the collections of photos we share are about more than just memory and experience. In today’s insta-culture, we are constantly building up an image of ourselves, consciously or not, through what we share or don’t share, the pictures we take, the words we use, and how we interact with everything else out there. Sharing images is another form of interaction, another layer of communication with friends and family, without requiring words.
But sometimes, the photos are just for me, and remain unshared, but equally meaningful. The fragmented collection of images paints a picture of the many experiences, moments and emotions of my life, ready to serve as a reminder when the reminder is needed.