Landscape- Exercise 3.6- The Memory of Photography

For the last exercise of the section entitled Landscape as Political Text, we were asked to read and note the key points in David Bate’s essay “The Memory of Photography”.

We were advised at the start of the exercise that the essay is quite challenging so in order for me to understand it as best I could, I began by splitting the essay into paragraphs and numbered them. I then worked through each paragraph, making notes, and only moving onto the next one after I understood the last one.

I found the essay was quite lengthy and mostly kept coming back to and expanding the same points with an easy to follow example of Talbot’s photograph of the construction of Nelson’s Column.

The key points were

  • Dispelling the myth that photos can distort our memories of events in a negative way; many believe that photographs can make us see things with rose-tinted glasses or recall events differently to how they actually happened. Bates wants us to see photographs as an important and necessary way of documentation.
  • Memory of photography as an outdated technology and photography as an aid to memory
  • artificial archives, memory and our need/want to archive things; Bates explores our fascination with archiving and storing things for future generations, from its humble beginnings to our current obsession with archiving
  • Freud’s idea that memory devices or artificial devices are based on the human body and they are to be viewed as an extension of ourselves.
  • Photography as a documentary tool for past events and for the future
  • Distortions in memory, both through photography and in our ability to remember
  • The effect “artificial memory” has on actual memory i.e. it can free up room in our minds for more information and to enable us to focus on more important things.
  • The relationship between memory and history
  • The effect images have on us i.e. can evoke voluntary and involuntary responses and social (learnt information) and personal (through our experiences) memories.
  • Bates uses quotes from Sigmund Freud, Jacques Derrida, Jacques Le Goff and Pierre Bourdieu
  • Bates also used examples of family albums to illustrate his points as it is the most relatable version of archiving which everyone does, and Henry Fox Talbot’s image of the construction of Nelson’s Column which he uses as an example of documenting for the future and how images can evoke voluntary and involuntary responses.

The points that most interested me was the notion that photos could have a negative impact on our memory ( & and Sigmund Freud’s views on artificial devices as an extension of the human body ( and about “The Mystic writing pad” ( The latter two I aim to delve into these at a later date so I can spend more time on them and gain a better understanding of them.

About kunsworthphotography

I am currently studying towards a BA (Hons) in Photography with OCA and I have 2 children, Evie(4 years old) and Connor(3 years old)
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