Photographing the unseen
Telling another’s story truthfully is essentially impossible. There may be a powerful sense of familiarity based on the story teller’s memories, but one cannot be certain whether they are actual recollections or confabulation due to the passage of time. Time erodes and distorts the memory. “Our memory is never fully ‘ours’, nor are the pictures ever unmediated representations of our past.” .
This assignment is very personal and poignant. It is about memories, not mine but my Mum’s. Her childhood memories are severely flawed by events in her home country, Czechoslovakia, during Hitler’s invasion. On recalling her arrival in England as a twelve year old refugee she speaks of mixed emotions and uncertainty. See A2 Planning and preparation for further detail.
Please note: This is how I would display the images on a gallery wall along with the accompanying text.
Escape was the only option. Her beloved Father had already been captured. Surviving on berries and mushrooms and if they were ‘lucky’, maybe bread and milk too, the family trudged by day and slept in barns by night. It was a big adventure for the little ones, hide and seek in the woods – hiding from the enemy. Eventually a long train journey brought them to a foreign land.
Mum still has vivid memories recalling the trepidation of fleeing to a new country, the seesaw of emotions – uncertainty, laughter, apprehension, joy, sadness. But here at Patterdale there were happier times – freedom to play again, a safe haven, new friends, kindness and support. She thrived on hope, that one day the family would return to their homeland, be reunited with Father. Sadly that was not to be.
Now I find myself occupying the same space that she occupied, connecting to her thoughts and feelings. I feel the presence of absence, brittle fragments of laughter, singing and tears. The space is the same, it cannot change. I feel the emotions of Mum’s ‘Now’ of 1940 – dread, longing, warmth and finally love.
In essence, our individual memories are woven together by stories told, family albums, documents, memoirs and trinkets. This story is framed with photographs of my postmemories.
1. Spence, J. & Holland, P. (2000). The Meanings of Domestic Photography. Virago Press Ltd. England.