The last time you saw Paris will live in your mind forever. Don’t feel good about that – it will take up brain space that could usefully host better tenants . Far better it should live somewhere else but come visiting occasionally. And bring a bottle of wine when it does…
We all have memories that are vital to us. Vital to our identity and existence. Our family memories. Our school memories. Our experiences in traumatic times. Even our old possessions need secure brain space that a casual tourist trip does not. That is why we have cameras and photo albums.
A well-taken picture can not merely evoke a flood of memories – it can actually re-introduce them. The common phrase ” I had forgotten that old car/street/person etc ” is absolutely real – so you had. And the picture seen 30 years on will re-introduce the information. In many cases with careful observation, it will add more than you noticed at the first time.
And here is the good bit – you need not sit there in daily exercise to pound the memory of the Champs Élysées into yourself as you did with the times tables or the periodic table – you can commit a dozen photographs to a paper album or a digital disc and draw them to you whenever you wish. If you took the pictures you have all you ever remember visually. Smells – well you’ll have to go smell a French person to get that but there are many of them available and some of them smell nice.
Choose your camera well, make the pictures as arty or as plain as you wish, but do give consideration to several things:
a. Take a wide view of things as well as a concentrated one. There are more things going on around the subject that caught your eye than you know. Your eye was caught, and therefore it missed out on other things. Let the camera do what you did not.
b. Take the picture in colour. I know you are an artist, and wish to depict the gritty reality of contemporary angst…but one day you will be sitting there in comfort and the colours that were there will make it more real for you. If you want it monochrome then, convert the image in the computer and add extra angst – but don’t lose the original colour image.
c. Take the picture from several angles. This flows on from a. above. You did not see everything the first time and you will be amazed how useful seeing it differently in the future will be.
d. Picture the little things – the mundane things – the things that no-one ever takes pictures of. The penny packets of your experiences. The things that get crumpled up and thrown away. You will desire these later with a passion that you cannot know.
e. By all means take a selfie but do not take it in front of the Tour Eiffel. Take it somewhere else. And when you have taken the image…take that somewhere else too.
f. Make a spare copy of your pictures and give it to someone to hold for you.
g. Write down what you are seeing, or speak it into a small recorder, or into the video section of the camera – it just takes a minute and it supplies far more than you would think. Say the names of the people in the picture. The EXIF data will tell you all the technical details and a GPS will fix it on a map, but the names are for you to say.
h. You don’t need to be in Paris to do this. You can do it in Dubbo.
But don’t go around singing about the last time you saw Dubbo. The ghost of Oscar Hammerstein will be onto you in a flash. He still gets royalties…