A moment in time is eternal and transient. Every memory is a wrinkle in my brain, a chisel to my heart and soul. I ingest them through grazing fingertips, a deep inhale of happiness, and not batting an eye to soak in every particle of perfection. But a sponge can only soak up so much.
If I can’t remember my own birthday at times, how can I remember every single fleeting moment in full capacity and magnitude? Taking photos is the perfect remedy for a forgetful person like me. In history, we learn that recording events is crucial as it reflects the points of view of the participants. The memories I experience build my character – I am a map of the journey I’ve been taking. Documenting the history of my own monumental events is so important for the retrospective reminiscence of my later years. It’s my personal maintenance of my individual and historical identity.
Going through the pictures I take allows me to recollect a finite moment that holds an infinite feeling. The “Mojave Phone Booth” episode of the podcast 99% Invisible is about the arbitrarily placed phone booth in the middle of the Mojave Desert that grew in popularity as more and more people started to call its line. The episode references an anonymous man driving out to the booth to confirm that it was actually there, and he even answered calls saying, “it’s more than real. It’s a reality.” Looking back at the photos I’ve taken transforms my past into my present, and makes it “more than real … a reality.”
In a way, taking photographs romanticizes my life. I find inspiration by purely and simply living. Blair Somerville said it perfectly in the Uber Zoo video, “Lost and Found,” when he elaborated on how beautiful being alive is: “I get asked where I get my inspiration from. It seems like such a redundant question when you’re alive. … Life’s inspiring.” When I don’t feel like living enough to inspire myself, I live vicariously through my past version of myself being alive in my photos. I am living in the moment then, and living in the exact same moment again when I look back at my photos. I will always have these memories safely tucked away in the filing cabinet in my brain, but there are so many to choose from that some start to collect dust. However, by taking pictures of them, I have a jubilant and visually appealing reminder of what beautiful things to love in life. By looking back at photographs of memorabilia, I can look forward to better days by reminding myself that they are even possible in the first place.
At times I sit and realize that my favorite childhood memories are starting to slip away, and I fear that the greatest moments of my present chapter will soon too be forgotten in a couple years’ time. According to the University of Queensland, “[Most adults have] patchy memories when it comes to things that happened to them between the ages of three and seven. … A 15-year-old will be unlikely to remember something that occurred when they were two, even though it happened only 13 years ago.” I’m always taking pictures of precious moments in time – my friends, my family, the sunrise and sunset, the pretty views, the vibrant flowers I come across – because I don’t want to miss what I have in the present. Barry Lopez, the author of Children in the Woods, commemorates this feeling of security when he describes, “I can go now, grow older, knowing it need never be lost.” My camera roll is a conglomerate of important people and places that have gracefully crossed my path. Every single one of my photos holds significance so valuable and precious to my entire being; every honorable moment of my life is worth seizing through the lens of a camera. I want to permanently capture a short-lived instance that can live on for years, and savor every last bit of it.