Ian Talbot: Retrospective – Aide Memoire 2 :: Projections
Chapter 28 of the ongoing series Ian Talbot : Retrospective by British fine art photographer Ian Talbot.
Aide Memoire 2 :: Projections
© Ian Talbot
As a follow on from my previous post I want to clarify one or two of the points I made. I show here two family photographs. The second is of me as a baby with my parents. It evokes in me no “memory”; I was there (obviously) but can only KNOW it is me because I have been told so (I could, of course, have deduced a very high probability that it is, indeed, me but the point is still relevant), I don’t “remember” it. My parents I naturally recognise. But more than that the image evokes in me no emotion. There is nothing in it that touches me, or “pricks” me, as Barthes would have it. For me there is no “punctum” only “studium”, which is to say that I like the image, it amuses me to see myself as a baby so obviously disinterested and unaware of the fact that I am being photographed. But nothing more.
The first of the two images is of my parents on their wedding day. This image moves me in a way that the other doesn’t. I presume, safely I think, that in relation to a not particularly successful marriage, on this day at least my parents were happy. Of course, the same could probably be said of the second image but this image carries with it the extra poignancy of being a record of the beginning of an ultimately failed journey. I presume too, though one can never be sure, that at the time they would have been completely oblivious of problems and sadder times to come.
So much I may “deduce” from the image… but herein lies the problem. Even I, someone as close as possible to the two protagonists shown, have to resort to words like “deduce” and “presume”; nothing in and of the image itself could possibly indicate any of this. Of course I “remember” my parents but in this image I merely “recognise” them. Or is that all there is? I have said this image moves me and so it does but this is a function of memories, feelings and associations that I myself “project” onto this image not from anything I draw from it. And this for me is the all important distinction.
There is a further problem too. I have spoken about the “punctum” in an image, the point that most engages one’s attention, that touches one or “pricks” one, with it’s connotations of a certain sadness if not pain involved. Is it here the subsequent unfolding of a sad, if all too common, outcome to a day which promised long lasting happiness? Well, that’s maybe what it should be for someone like myself so obviously involved, but it is not. For me, the “punctum”, the fact, that most engages me is the way my father has arranged his hand in relation to my mother’s.
That single gesture speaks to me of a certain self awareness, a pose; on the one day when one could be excused for forgetting oneself in general joy and happiness my father does not. He was, at the time and subsequently for much of my childhood, in Show Business, in Variety, and in this image I see a certain flamboyance and self centred-ness that I recognise as part of his make up. It is that which most “pricks” me.
And here’s the kicker… some of those same traits I recognise in myself (how could it be otherwise?). A tendency to never entirely forget myself and give myself over to “external” stimuli. As for him, so for me, to some extent it IS always “about me”. This ultimately is what “pricks” me most of all.
Yet, for this photograph, as for any photograph really, these things aren’t in and of themselves part of the image. They can’t be “read” simply by viewing it. If they are there, they are only so because I have “projected” (I am ALMOST tempted to say “imagined”) them onto it. Personal connections and nothing more. Not so much an “aide memoire” as a vehicle for my own “associations”.
Possibly any appropriate object could serve the same purpose…