July 6th, 2010
I guess other people have photo albums.
Lined up on shelves, there are sections of everyone’s life clearly documented, maybe labeled. There are reservoirs of memories just waiting to be have their damns burst. Turn open the spigot and drown in the past.
My generation is living online. Our lives being documented in ever more disparate venues; our devices capturing every inane moment, sharing it, pushing it out and notifying everyone of what just happened, who was there, where it was. When romantic comedies are written about the next decade, endearing scenes of a hero’s family sharing his misadventures with the romantic interest will soon take place huddled around the mother’s Facebook account.
I’ve never had the stomach for it.
I don’t think we capture the right moments. The camera flashes and we pose. We pose. We create moments as artificial as the memory we want of them. We stare into lenses and lie, if only a little, so that the record shows we were there, enjoying or not enjoying ourselves, in precisely the way we’d prefer it.
But the perfect moments always allude us. The moments when we get the joke; when we decide; when we falter; the moments right before we succeed, right before we fail, before we’re sure. You can’t capture what you don’t expect, and so many of the things we should cherish are precisely the things we wouldn’t want a camera to see.
There is value to photography. Historical, candid, and artistic, they are evidence of what we’ve done, who we’ve known, where we’ve been. They are fragments we can stitch back together to form a narrative of our lives, however shallow and partial.
But I want no part in them. I don’t want to stare at some photo of me at 21 when I’m 50 and contemplate everything I was, or could have been. I don’t want to have to drown in partial truths, grasping at a falling memory to paint in details. I’d rather either remember, or not. Rather know, or forget. I’d rather be able to molt my life as it goes, letting the useless bits drop away as the important becomes more dear.
When I reach backwards into my life, I want to know what I find to have been defining. To have been something I couldn’t shake, couldn’t let go of. I want to forget the pointless birthday parties, and the group shots at the bars where so-and-so is making that face she makes, and I’m half-drunk, and look that’s what’s his face that guy who dated whoever that is. I want to reach and find the things I couldn’t photograph: the moments I knew, the moments we forgot; the street sign all lit up with sun as our car drove towards home; the view of the skyline when I left; the dodge balls as they barreled towards me; the way it felt to run in the rain, drunk and mad, screeching towards the bar like a five-year old on a sugar high.
I’d rather be able to forget, so that I can remember.