Some brief notes about Memory , Photography , Ireland by Timothy O’Grady , suggested by my tutor.
O’Grady compares photography to a conjuring trick : it allows us to see things we cannot usually see and halts time.
‘Both memory and photography in their way defy how we usually experience time and space–time as inexorable , space as irreducible ‘ (O’Grady, p.g 255 )
A photograph can evoke a range of responses , feelings and impressions:
An image and the intuitions one gets looking at it are linked to memory.
The combination of photograph and impression form a memory but even though memory is capable of merging past and present , it can re-enact these impressions , because of the nature of memory and how it functions , these reconstructions may be flawed.
(NB : See Bate’s essay The Memory of Photography –memory traces / screen memory / photographs as artificial memories + Freud -memory -although we have the ability to recollect what is remembered may not be totally accurate ) https://judybachdocumentary.wordpress.com/2015/11/22/david-bate-the-memory-of-photography/
Photographs are objects , mementos , tokens , memorials , testimonies.
Photographs are believed to verify events but ‘they can instantaneously upend long-held certainties ‘ O’Grady describes three photographs of his father and realises he knowns nothing about the man in the images ‘ they suggest a life I cannot know’ (O’Grady , 2006 , p.g 255) . I have many photographs of my dad , I too realise I know so little about his earlier life this is something I might investigate in my final assignment.
The essay continues to discuss Irish culture and politics , how ideas are passed on , the formation of national identity and memory .
O’Grady considers the use of words and images , how it is ‘generally intended that one will provide what the other is lacking’ . Words are meant to make an image transparent , a photograph embellish and enrich the text , but as O’Grady comments ‘the result can be a lie’ (O’Grady , 2006 , p.g 260) .
He proceeds with a description of his book , made in collaboration with photographer Steven Pyke , I Could Reach the Sky . A novel about migration and memory ( personal and national ) , a life remembered in words and pictures both of which are unique yet work together , like ‘memory and forgetting’ (O’Grady , 2006 , p.g 261) . I have ordered a copy of the book tonight to add to my ever growing pile of books to read ! It will interesting to see the connotations of the images and how they relate to the prose. I shall do a write up when I have read the book , it’s only a slim volume so hopefully won’t take me too long.
References / Bibliography
Timothy O’Grady (2006) Memory, Photography, Ireland, Irish Studies Review, 14:2, 255-262, DOI: 10.1080/09670880600603729