Saturday, August 19, 2006

Photography, memory and photographic memory

Ever since the first daguerreotype, analogies have been drawn to people whose memory seems to be photographic in nature and exactitude.

Ignoring the fact that memory doesn’t work that way in general, that both still and video photographers are editors and not passive recorders, and that still and video film, or digital sensors, are less light-sensitive than the human eye — plus the eye’s own extensive editor in the brain — the analogy does still have some thought-priming spinoff value, I believe.

Here’s one part of that.

I take many pictures on a vacation, but less than one-fifth of them make it into my hardcopy photo albums.

In some cases, that’s because I’m shooting 10, 15 or 20 different versions of the same shot, varying shutter speed, depth of field, exposure level, use and amount of fill flash and so forth.

But in other cases, I’m shooting things that I know are “snapshot” level. (I don’t mean that to sound denigrating, but I consider myself a good enough photographer to know I normally shoot better than that.)

Why? Especially when there’s at least some degree of conscious intent in the shot?

I believe it’s a way of using the act of photography — and the time invested — in helping incorporate those particular times of my vacations into long-term memory.

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