most people most of the time mostly take pictures to remember the most important moments of most of their most special travels…me too most of the time…memories

27 Responses to “Memories”

  • I’ve never been interested in photos as personal memories. I would rather my memories of people and places be filtered by the passage of time and the the distortions of remembering. Photos are too literal and memories too precious to entrust to a print, or negative or file. It’s in the remembering that the past best endures.

  • I couldn’t dis-agree more with you Jim.

  • Photos are only literal if you want them to be. They are an interpretation of the moment. The maker of the photo and the viewer of the photo are both interpreters of the shared memory. Otherwise, there would be no sharing and no collective memories …

  • “The final reason for the need to photograph everything lies in the
    very logic of consumption itself. To consume means to burn, to
    use up—and, therefore, to need to be replenished. As we make
    images and consume them, we need still more images; and still
    more. But images are not a treasure for which the world must be
    ransacked; they are precisely what is at hand wherever the eye
    falls. The possession of a camera can inspire something akin to
    lust. And like all credible forms of lust, it cannot be satisfied: first,
    because the possibilities of photography are infinite; and, second,
    because the project is finally self-devouring.”

    …just quoting, don’t hit me please :)



    if you see a photo of your wedding day, it doesn’t trigger anything?


    who are you quoting? i would not disagree with that quote, nor Jim either…for sure memory photos are simply supplementary….yet still i try ..doesn’t mean it succeeds…life rolls along no matter what…so memory photos are an attempt to capture life, but of course they cannot…yet, i cannot help but to give it a try

  • No photos of my wedding day. Married 34 years ago by a Justice of the Peace at the courthouse. Gayle and I had met 19 days before. On the day we married, there came a rare snow in SE Texas. Gayle was a teacher, school was closed because of the snow, so we decided, with nothing else to do, we would get married.

    Don’t need photos to remember that day! :)


    It is Susan Sontag, On Photography. Here’s some more…

    ‘A photograph is only a fragment, and with the passage of time its moorings come unstuck. It drifts away into a soft abstract pastness, open to any kind of reading (or matching to other photographs). A photograph could also be described as a quotation, which makes a book of photographs like a book of quotations.’

    ‘In America, the photographer is not simply the person who records the past but the one who
    invents it. As Berenice Abbott writes: “The photographer is the contemporary being par excellence; through his eyes the now becomes past.”


    terrific answer…hey my friend i know you have been married many years…all i can say is congratulations and you prove what i have always believed, love at first sight can indeed work!!

  • Photos are simply ways for remembering all the good and sometimes bad in my life. My photos are a visual diary because I’m crap at expressing myself with words.
    Maybe Jim would see photos as personal memories if he had kids…

  • Photographs are a way of keeping track of who in the family is now dead and therefore not going to pay the money they owe you back. I can look at almost any picture on my mother’s mantelpiece and tell you to a dime how much I’m out permanently.

  • Most often I too prefer my memories to photographs. Exceptions include nice photos of departed loved ones. And way back when I traveled a lot, pictures of my girlfriends I’d left behind but hadn’t quite broken up with. Like Jim, no pictures exist of my wedding and that’s a good thing. We were married in a run down little wedding chapel in Renton, Washington. A used car salesman from the lot across the street was commandeered as the witness. Afterwards we had a cheeseburger and fries at the diner next door to celebrate. Splurged for Heinekens since it was such a special occasion. Many photos exist of the little reenactment we later did for family and friends. In my recollection of the real wedding, it was like George Clooney marrying Naomi Campbell. The photos from the reenactment just show a couple more or less regular people, albeit unusually happy.

    But other than those rare exceptions, photographs are either art or information to me.

  • MW

    i think this brings up a point that affects absolutely every discussion we have here…and why often conflicts amongst ourselves arise…we all just really really all work from a different place…what photos do for you (and others) may not at all be what they do for me (and others)….right side, left side stuff…really really simple…after spending 3 weeks in a van with 5 people you really see it clearly….everyone totally tries like hell to see things from another person’s point of view but sometimes simply CANNOT…not a refusal to compromise…just really honestly cannot see it….i looked at the Hoover Dam the other day and realized i could not have been any part of that at all…totally appreciated it, but it takes an engineer’s mind…and that engineer might appreciate art to some degree but could not possibly really “get” the process of doing it…this is all elementary…what is different about many here, and about photography in general, is that photography takes in both the engineer minds AND the artists mind..egalitarian in that way because it is both technical for some and artistic for others…and the two sides often get confused about this…the camera is mechanical, and the work that comes out of it could swing either way…hence often a lot of confusion…some see the essays here as needing to back up the text for example and others just see the “work” with no need to parrot the text….we see this every day on Burn… right or wrong to it…same with this memory thread…..some feel one way about a photo as a slice of time to trigger memories and others do not..some see photos for their content only, the objects in the picture, and others see line and form as being the content…anyway, all things we know , but always good to take a look at the obvious again…

  • David,

    Do you think that this also applies as a dichotomy between “photojournalism” and “photographic art” — with one expected to be more literal, and not manipulated (even though interpretation is always involved, even in the choice of subjects, angles, lighting etc.), while in photographs tending toward art more funky manipulations are generally tolerated (such as cell phone filter effects etc.)? Or is it a sliding scale rather than an either/or?

  • David, I don’t see the issue as right or left brain. I think the dividing line is more how much skin we have in the game. And how we each see photography moving into the future. And our own perception of how much control over that future we hold. Unconstrained “progress” ultimately results in destruction.

    I have no doubt trillions more photographs will be made over the next few years. Because of always-on technology many people seem to have developed a twitch response to the shutter button on cameras and cell phones. And that will surely become worse, for a few years. And then photography will simply become irrelevant (if it already hasn’t). “Magnum photographers shooting Iphones and Instagram? Yeah, I’ve done that…big deal,” the hipsters will say. “Transcontinental Pipeline bombed by terrorists causing environmental disaster.” “Yeah, the terrorists posted 10,000 photos on FB while it was happening…check out this snap of my omelet and waffles this morning. Much cooler effects on mine. Bomb blasts are so yesterday.”

    I’m passionate in my reaction to photography because, like you, after decades of doing this, I have a lot of skin in the game. I believe photography is important. Too important for me to be a party to trivializing it and thus destroying it. There have always been snapshots, that’s for sure. But when we feel that the only way to reach the FB crowd is to become one of them, when instead of challenging them, we emulate them, we are simply sowing the seeds of our own destruction.

    Like the famous Pogo quote, where photography is concerned, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

    We are ultimately responsible for our own choices.

  • We’ve got to figure out what we are to do next as photographers. We don’t need photos of still another war, or still another dope addict. We need to look forward, not backward. Show things that are developing at a point where perhaps they can be prevented instead of documenting the outcome. Anyone with a cellphone can show us what happened or is happening. If we are going to remain relevant, we need to be smarter and use our cameras to show people what is developing. I’m tried of seeing this unending stream of eulogies.

  • Photographs give me memories of many things I did not experience. I never saw that napalm-balmed little girl, fleeing, screaming, down the road from her village in Vietnam, but I sure do remember the experience.

    I remember much of my own in photographs I have taken, even though I may not have looked at those photographs in quite some time.


    thank you for well written well thought out comments….and i agree with you 100%, with perhaps a more optimistic conclusion…i do hope you will consider my mentoring, my own work, and my efforts here on Burn at least leaning in the direction of the next moves for photography…surely i try….that is where my head is…at the same time here on Burn i can only show what is happening…now…the upper levels of the status quo? yes and no …sometimes, not every time, we get one here that really sings most likely for both of us…however i do know that you are very well educated in photography though for sure many times are tastes be it…if i did not have to run to dinner right now with my new found Mexican family i would write a bit more…but i know damned well you would not want me to miss my own “assignment”

    cheers, david

  • Hey, you all know I live a few miles away from the beach in south Brooklyn. Here’s a few photos from Hurricane Sandy, both before and after, and a little bit out into Queens.

    It’s an intermediate edit, with plenty of hard choices still to be made.

  • Thank you Michael for those photos. I’ve wanted to see more from that area, but it seems all the national media simply show the same few photos over and over.

  • Mike, you have given me some new insight and new memories on what it was like to wake up after this storm I did not experience and find your world significantly changed.

  • MW

    thanks for sharing..i sure hated to not be a part of Sandy…i have ridden out the previous two hurricanes in the Outer Banks and missed this one in both OBX and NYC….hurricanes are great to experience if in a relatively safe position, and really hard to shoot….one of those things very hard to capture in a picture….kicking myself for not assigning you and others to shoot this storm for Burn….


    just to finish the previous comment…i think where we disagree is the the assumption on your part that because everyone is using iPhones , Instagram etc that somehow this trivializes photography…i think Instagram is a serious amazing revelation….for me, along with Road Trips, my newspaper so to speak…a daily place where a certain type of reportage happens…no different than you shooting for your newspaper…..i don’t mind the fact that oftentimes someone i never heard of makes an amazing picture way better than my own….this is good….

    i think what one has to look at here is what happens to a collected body of work…i often use the golf game analogy and i cannot think of a better one….a golf game is a collected series of shots, not just one…anyone can make one great nine iron shot…yet only the best can put the game together as a whole….imo there is no such thing as everyone somehow creating a mean level of mediocrity….not human nature in any way….

    again, my authorship sensibility i think will rule…anyone COULD in theory put a body of work together…as anyone can write a correct sentence….still few can write a novel or screenplay or poem from “correct” sentences…some pro photographers, thinking a bit like you, totally freak out than now “anyone” can make a good picture technically…so what? i like this…only allows those with something special “to say” to rise above the chaos….

    where i do share your concerns is that so many do keep going back to the same wellspring…many tend to think that only certain subject are somehow worthy of documentation and the cliches you mention are by now yes cliches….and we see this with about 95% of the submissions here at Burn….

    where things are really exciting for me is in the book world and the art world….here i see the real photographers emerging…while i enjoyed being a newspaper photographer and NatGeo photographer etc etc, i knew in my heart that it was not the end game….i knew all along i was working for a company that was selling ads based on the collected content of the reporters and photographers….this content was way more tainted by this commercialization of the efforts of the photographers, the creative talent, than an Instagram which has total purity of intent….

    people shoot what they want and for no other reason that they saw something fascinating for whatever reason and just put it out there…you and i were “selected” as elitist observers by our publishing companies…made sense at the time, but makes no sense now….now only really gifted photographers will rise above….everyone is “selected”…everyone has a chance…egalitarian…since “everyone” can do it, “everyone” quickly realizes that some see better than others…not “selected” by a company trying to make a profit, but by those who see the difference and invest in their prints, their books, or simply “liking” on Instagram…..

    since you are a “selected” photographer with an assumption by your company that you somehow see your town in Texas perhaps better than others with a camera, why not throw your hat in and see what people really think of your work?

    i could just rest on my last story in NatGeo, or my Magnum membership or my last book…nobody would fault me for that…however i think in the interest of doing exactly as you say to move things forward that young photographers benefit from seeing the mistakes, the suffering, and perhaps a really bad picture coming from a so called “selected” photographer..does it make them think “hey i can do that!!” …quite the contrary i think Jim…they might think that for about 10 seconds….until they actually try it …and try it again and again and again…

    no way can “everyone” repeat it again and again and again nor compile a serious body of work…OR if they can, then we have a new real photographer and for me the greatest pleasure of all is in seeing new visions, new ways of thinking….

    your concern is real, and i get it….however, the conclusions you make don’t offer up solutions….you state a problem with no passion for resolution…this is where we differ Jim….i would love to see your Instagrams…you might find yourself really enjoying being “free”….and even “selected” in a way better than the past…

    hanging on to old tired philosophies just never works….grumble in the corner if you wish..your loss…gets you nowhere, and inspires nobody….is this what you want your legacy to be??

    you know i like you…you make many good points…we probably agree more than disagree…and i know who you are without meeting you in person…yet i would seriously wish for you just a wee bit of optimism…perhaps “devils advocate” is the only role you want to play here…fine…that is a role ….but an essay by Jim Powers, shot with any camera or by any method, would i think help to give you a cred to make your points even stronger…our door is open….

    respectfully, david

  • David…

    Thank god Alec Soth encouraged you to start blogging. I’m pretty certain I would have given up photography stuck far away from everything photographic and stuck in my creative frustration.
    Thank you

  • David, I have no interest in “cred.” I’ve nothing to prove. Just someone interested in photography, and its future. I’m not convinced that throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks is the way forward.

    As for Instagram…technology is not benign. It giveth and it taketh away. And its effects are often delayed.

    Anyway, appreciate your lengthy response.

  • PAUL

    i look forward to doing an essay of yours soonest…i think you are on it….


    oh i know you have nothing to prove Jim..did not mean it that way…i just don’t think that what many are doing now should be characterized as “throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks”

    you are younger than am i, but surely you remember all the hullabaloo when Leicas started replacing both 4×5 Speed Graphics and Rolleiflex for newspaper work?? it was considered heresy by all the “old guys” at my newspaper….the senior guys thought that the 35mm guys were shooting too many frames, wasting film, and the quality was not as good…that was surely one way to look at it..however, the access gained by going 35mm and the ability to capture the moment finally trumped the very good reasons for not going 35….most of the arguments i hear today against iPhones and Instagrams and all that is i think a refreshing boost for photography now are almost word for word what was being said back then about 35mm shooters….

    i do respect your concerns….and mostly i respect that you care…so you are not one of the “old guys”

    keep those opinions coming….

    cheers, david

  • Thanks Jim and David..really great points to think about.

    And MV..great job again and a great coverage by your own..I understand David regretting he didnt have you and others in this assignment for Burn :))

  • ps) Sorry the MV …evidently I meant MW

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