Replicating memories: or editing the image to the mind

Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria. Visited just over a month ago, but already an old memory. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015. Shot with iPhone4, edited with Pixlr Express and Pho.to Lab

Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015. Edited with Pixlr Express and Pho.to Lab

Memory-making is a fascinating process. It varies from person to person, time to time, event to event and is enormously influenced by thoughts and feelings that we do not always understand. Long-term memory consists of the stories we tell ourselves, and as with all stories, can change in the re-telling.

It’s about two and a half weeks since we returned from our holiday and already our memories are hugely divergent. The boy-child mentioned something yesterday that I’d already forgotten, and while this could (just about) be attributed to a senior moment, I think it’s more likely that we have each already written a great deal of our internal memoirs. Were someone to read these three stories, they may not even realise we took the same holiday.

Photography is often described as capturing memories, but it is really only a part of the raw material. Have you ever looked at an old photo – perhaps of yourself at a place or an event you “know” you attended – and thought “I don’t recognise this” or “I don’t remember that.”

For Sally’s Phoneography challenge I decided to edit some of my holiday photos in ways that I think convey the memories that I have constructed, and might continue to construct.

Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria (above) is completely unlike anything that we see in everyday New Zealand life. We visited on a snowy day too, which added enormously to the sense of “other.” This is a memory that will last and be preserved. Something similar is true of the Painted Hall at the old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, England. Designed by Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor, it is richly coloured and incredibly ornate. Yet I suspect that as time goes by, my memories of it will lose definition and become blurred. I can imagine in the future, remembering these places more like the old photos my mother has send me.

The Painted Hall, Greenwich Naval College, London. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015. Shot with iPhone4, edited with Pho.to Lab

The Painted Hall, Greenwich Naval College, London. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015. Edited with Pho.to Lab

Other memories also lend themselves to faded sepia; particularly those moments of togetherness where location is unimportant. Smiles and other facial expressions say enough.

The Big T and our boy-child, Michelangelo's Caffe, Columbus Avenue, San Fransisco. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015. Shot with iPhone4, edited with Pho.to Lab

The Big T and our boy-child, Michelangelo’s Caffe, Columbus Avenue, San Fransisco. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015. Edited with Pho.to Lab

"Street photography." The boy-child captured this moment of the Big T and I in San Francisco. Shot with iPhone5, edited with Pho.to Lab

“Street photography.” The boy-child captured this moment of the Big T and I in San Francisco. Edited with Pho.to Lab

While some memories fade uniformly, others are formed and retained with areas of high intensity which stand out from the background blur. While in London, we had lunch at the Camden Lock Market.  I vaguely remember the food (which was good), but the coffee was quite possibly the best I’ve ever tasted. It was made at a tiny stall where the barista was roasting beans in a little pan over a camp stove and grinding them straight from the pan.

In San Francisco, the boy-child wanted to ride his skateboard on Lombard Street, not realising that it is open to vehicle traffic. But he did so, in bursts, between the cars, taxis and SUVs. It was an unexpected bonus for tourists, but totally hair-raising for parents. I don’t remember much about Lombard Street at all — except the boy, the board, and the fear of catastrophe.

photo 3(1)

The boy-child, Camden Lock in London.  The coffee menu belongs to a stall selling truly memorable coffee. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015. Edited with Pho.to Lab

The boy-child skates San Francisco's famous Lombard Street. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015. Edited with Pixlr Express.

The boy-child skates San Francisco’s famous Lombard Street. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015. Edited with Pixlr Express.

Trafalgar Square at night, from the upper deck of a Number 23 bus. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015. Edited with Pixlr Express and Pho.to Lab

The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, from the upper deck of a Number 23 bus. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015. Edited with Pixlr Express and Pho.to Lab

I am an urban traveler; much more comfortable in a French provincial city than in remote bushland in my own country. My photography reflects this; with shots of churches, street scenes, shop windows, cemeteries. After a while, many of these images start to lose their original identity. Is that a street in Bordeaux? In which church was that stained glass window? Which city? These are the memories that begin to take on a sketch-like quality. Luckily, I found an app for that!

Cimetière de la Chartreuse, Bordeaux. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015. Edited with Pho.to Lab

Late afternoon in Cimetière de la Chartreuse, Bordeaux. Quite different to NZ cemeteries, but not from others in France. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.  Edited with Pho.to Lab

Rainy night on Rue Sainte Catherine, Bordeaux. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015. Edited with Pho.to Lab

Rainy night on Rue Sainte Catherine, Bordeaux. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015. Edited with Pho.to Lab

Basilica of St. Michel, Bordeaux. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015. Edited with Pho.to Lab

Interior of the Basilica of St. Michel, Bordeaux. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015. Edited with Pho.to Lab

Dusk on the River Thames at Richmond. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015. Edited with Pho.to Lab

Dusk on the River Thames at Richmond. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015. Edited with Pho.to Lab

This post was written for Sally’s Phoneography and non-SLR Digital Devices Photo Challenge, at Lens and Pens by Sally

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29 thoughts on “Replicating memories: or editing the image to the mind

  1. Terrific read and your images give your thoughts just the right touch. The post processing works so well with the idea of memory and its selective recall. I’ve been to Lombard Street and cannot imagine how you felt as your son had his wish fulfilled. Happy Photo Challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Phoneography: Editing and Processing (Morning Golden Hour) | Lens and Pens by Sally

  3. Hi, I saw your entry at Sally’s blog as I also join the weekly challenge.
    I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your narrative and the photos you post processed. It is stunning and enticing. Thanks for sharing these personal moments with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Raewyn. I’ve never been much good at annotating photos, so I have lots that I kind of wonder about now. I guess I should probably go through them one day and make notes, but I’m not sure when that day will be. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved this post and the photo edits and the connection to memory creation.
    I’ve also discovered that truth that we all create memories quite differently even though we are experiencing the same event.
    My favourite story is the skateboarding down Lombard Street. Brilliant! I can just imagine how nerve-wracking it was for you though!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Here is a post I except from all previous criticisms of post-production on photos !!! – these are simply wonderful, Su !!!
    I don’t believe I’ve ever laid eyes on The Big T before – have I ? Or have I just forgotten …? I don’t think so, for his face is not familiar. It’s a lot like his son’s face, though. 🙂

    Like

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