Photographic Memory: Documenting Identity

I took out an envelope stuffed with old photos that I had tucked away in a shoe box. Examining each one, I noticed that I look different in every frame. It was like looking at every piece of panel in a large, colorful mosaic. Individually they’re unique, but when constructed together to create a montage it depicts a singular form. We’re all made up of different memories, experiences, personalities and faults. We only think we are whole because all the different fragments that make up our identity work in rhythmic unison at the subconscious level. When broken down, people are really made up of stories.

Photographs function in the same way in that they capture memories in frames. When put together, they create a narrative of the self.

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There’s a photo of me with my family in San Antonio, during one of our summer road trips. In another, a snowball fight is breaking out in the parking lot of our old apartment in Queens. I’m bent down, smiling, scooping two handfuls of snow, while my dad is getting ready to throw a snowball. These are private moments that suddenly become public once they are taken out of their envelopes.

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Is this why self-portrait photography is so popular? Most selfies that I have come across offer a certain amount truth that a journal entry cannot convey. The self-portrait can mean many things to both the photographer and the viewer, but to me it represents a sort of confession. Facial expressions, demeanor and body language can say a lot about a person. Photography can be used as a vehicle for truth, as used effectively in photojournalism, but it can also reveal an inward kind of truth.

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