When was the last time you held a printed photograph in your hand? Or sat in a social situation (internet based networking doesn't count!) and actually poured over photos with people who care? If I ever feel disconnected from the tactility of photography and memory, I always think of something specific..
Sat under mi abuela's bed, is a suitcase; unspectacular in appearance; the zips are bulging under the tension of it's contents, and even the plastic shell which is meant to be sturdy.. is distorted. It sits at a jaunty angle on a broken wheel under the shadow of her bed.. but unlike most things you stash under the bed, it is not covered in dust. There is barely a speck.
This suitcase is literally packed to the brim with old photographs. It is one of many which my grandparents have kept full of their collected photos, from both their families. In the absence of ample space to truly explain their histories, trust that it is no mean feat to have so MANY photos. Both of them were born in Gibraltar just before the War broke out, and were shipped off in potato sacks across the world to look for new homes. Upon returning to the rock years later, post-war life was obviously slow to start and money was tight. But somehow, the value of the photograph was that much higher- taking photographs and printing them was important stuff. This suitcase of which I speak, is proof enough.
It is often pulled out from under the bed for another stroll down memory lane. Mi abuela may have grown slower at this walk over the years, but these photos bring it back in sharp clarity every time. Holding the photographs is a super special thing; the object which has been preserved and passed down is an heirloom and a treasure;
the light hits the print in a way which brings the black and white tones to life, so different to the light emitting devices we have become accustomed to seeing our photos on.
We consume images at such a rate on multiple screen-based devices now. Our relationship with images has been mediated and filtered by the way we relate to the social networks that display them. We often make snap decisions based upon a second's judgement; 'like' or 'unlike'; and our dialogue with the photograph as a result, ends there. They are displayed often very small, and therefore lack detail. Photographs become ever more trend based, with filters and subject matters and styles that trend- ever more wedding photography just looks like an instagram filter, tilt shift to the max and over warmed sunshine.. it's all going to date so fast.
But sitting drinking tea, holding these photographs with mi abuela is utter magic, it's personal, it's classic and.. the most important thing to me in photography.. it's honest. Go and sit with your older family members and listen to their stories, and look through their photographs.. and really LOOK at them. Escape facebook, leave instagram alone, and close your laptop. These prints are the history which has so far made us up;
every dog eared corner, every out of focus photo, every black and white smiling face and crying child, has been the cement between the bricks in our family history.
The photos I have take here are my love letter to one of my best friends.. love you Abuela.