Click The Shutter…

There is a program on PBS on the brain (episode 2 just aired this week) and it has been interesting. i have been thinking about a lot of things lately and since this show was on memory, I was reminded of how badly I wanted a photographic memory when I was in school.

I thought it would be the greatest thing in the world. Eliminate the need to study for tests or classes, just look at the materials and they would be available for recall upon request. I would ace all my classes, be able to spend more time doing what I wanted (rather than homework and study) and generally impressing the snot out of people.

Didn’t happen, at least not in the way I had imagined. For, while lying in bed this morning, I came to the realization that I was indeed granted a photographic memory…that of the prototypical amateur photographer. Fuzzy, blurry pictures, usually over-exposed or under developed, off-center, out of focus, with the heads of most of the people cut off. Time has caused much of the colour to fade. They are scratched and bent, some of the corners are ripped off.

Then there is the method of storage. They are stuffed in unlabeled boxes (remnants of other uses, such as shoes) and tossed in the back of the closet, where they are (at best) incredibly annoying to get to or (at worst) likely to be bumped without intent and exploding into a horrific mess, scattering all over the place and requiring extra effort to grab them and stuff them back out of the way (where this scene can and will be repeated in the future).

On the (increasingly) rare occasions when I actually sit down and attempt to review the stack, I find enough time and distance has elapsed that most of the images are filled with people I don’t know at locations I can’t remember. Sometimes there is a clue of context in the image to make a guess as to who, what, and when (holiday decorations, a birthday cake, a calendar on the edge of view), but far too often there is just the vague feeling of uncertainty¬† regarding why this image was important enough to keep. And the perverse understanding that I can’t possibly toss it away, that someday someone will either fill in the needed background or that it will be essential to solve some mystery puzzle, providing information only this exact picture holds. So it is put back in the box to gather another layer (or six) of dust until it gets drug out again.

Some people have successfully transformed their images into attractive scrapbooks, organizing related materials and adding additional text, allowing others to easily enjoy the experience of sharing the past. A great idea in concept, the closest I have come is shuffling pictures into several heaps, partially organized by geographical proximity or temporal separation. Aggregations spanning states or decades is essentially not sorted, so the work eventually gets shoveled back in the box in the closet for future archeology students to sift through.

Perhaps the weight of time will compress my memories into something useful…coal…oil… natural gas (wait, that is happening now, so perhaps an open window is required)….


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