“A specter is both visible and invisible… a trace that marks the present with its absence in advance… Like the work of mourning, in a sense, which produces spectrality, and like all work produces spectrality.” Derrida
In cognitive philosophy, Clark and Chalmers (1998) assert that technologies have become extensions of human memory;[i] by association, an easy parallel can be drawn between photographs and memory. Memory has been defined in several ways, and definitions continue to proliferate. For the purpose of my investigation, I define memory as a dynamic spiritual active process of reinterpretation, which can be seen as a means for human beings to make sense of the past in present time. In this essay I consider that human memory is not static like a computer’s memory but is constantly in motion.[ii] This raises the following questions: ought photographs to be considered as photographs are material objects, and as such, they do not change, but rather, it is the human gaze that changes in relation to them?
[i] Garry, M. & Gerrie,
M.P. (2005) When Photographs Create False Memories, Current Directions in Psychological Science No. 14, P.321 . Sage: http://cdp.sagepub.com/content/14/6/321
[ii] Bergson, H. (1965)  Matière et Mémoire: Essaie sur la Relation du Corps et de l’Esprit. Paris: Les Presses universitaires de France. Augé, M. (2001)  Les Formes de l’Oubli. Paris : Petite Bibliothèque, Rivages poche Payot. See Ricoeur, P. (2006) Memory, History, Forgetting, [Translation by Kathleen Blamey and David Pellauer]. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Saltzman, A. (2006) Making Memory Matter: Strategies of Remembrance in Contemporary Art. London: University of Chicago Press.
Roland Barthes’s book “Camera Lucida” is a personal search for an ability to re-invoke the departed and to convey the notion of mortality; it also meditates on the nature of photographs. Barthes analyses pictures of his mother by referring to his memory or oblivion. It was essential for me to explore the similarities between Barthes’ book and my work. We both use the personal to speak of the general and I contrast Barthes’ argument that photographs may be seen as proof of [i] “certificates of presence”[ii], and “what has been” with my own suggestion that they are certificates of death.[iii]
[i] Barthes, R. (1993)  Camera Lucida, [Translation by Richard Howard]. London: Vintage. P.100
[ii] Barthes, R. (1993) ) Camera Lucida, [Translation by Richard Howard]. London: Vintage. P.87
[iii] I used the term “Certificate of Death” as a logical disjunction from Roland Barthes’ terms “Certificate of Presence” in Camera Lucida. A photograph reveals a death instant or moment in so doing, the term “Certificate of death” seemed to me an appropriate term to condense this definition. p.87.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged art, Art therapy, barthes, camera lucida, death, family album, family memory, family photograph, family snapshots, perception, photography, semiotics