I’m a picture mooch. You know the type. They never bring a camera, never take any pictures, but always ask you for yours after you get home. “Hey man, can you e-mail me those pictures? Or just post ’em on facebook.”
I can’t help it. Pictures! I love them, and I hate them. On the one hand I feel like they are grubby imagination robbers, dipping their spindly little tendrils into my memories and yanking out the more colorful truths of the experience. Back! You filthy gremlins! I mean isn’t my imagination more brilliant than Kodak’s?
Who wants to remember what a moment actually looked like, when I can remember it however I want? I was quirky in high school, not dorky. I can see it now…
On the other hand,pictures cross time and space like thoughts and memories can’t. And so while pictures involving my experiences have no value for me, they probably will for others. (Right? For those of you out there who love me?) And there is some proof that they may yet have value for me.
I have a memory, a photo in my mind, of me as a child in a photo. That is to say, I remember a photo of me as a child that my parents used to have on the wall. The picture isn’t really important to me anymore, and I have no memory of the moment the photo captured. But the memory of how I felt about seeing the picture on the wall is important.
I have a memory of the memory (with all of its enhanced internal commentary and imaginary vividness) that I would have never known if it wouldn’t have been for an old photograph. So while photos can steal imagination in the short term, I think they can foster it down the stretch.
Now that single memory (probably greatly exaggerated over the years) has become a window into understanding myself and creating the lives of believable characters in fiction. So here is to pictures! By the way, when you get the chance, can you upload me some good ones?