There was a time before my time, before the time of my sisters, my parents, my friends…
For some reason this phrase popped in to my head today. For the past few days I have been helping a friend and mentor and her husband move house. It has been an emotional and difficult time for them and I have been honored and humbled to help sort through decades of their life here on Paros, and earlier. We have been separating the wheat from the chaff–a difficult process.
Much of what they wished to save has been in the form of photographs, or more precisely, photographic archives. That is the only way to think of it. Negatives of all sizes, black and white, color, contact sheets, prints. Their time here has been documented and preserved in hard-copy. There was little digital imagery. As I worked I felt something meaningful, truly palpable, while holding a negative up to the light, perusing a contact sheet or carrying an artist’s portfolio bursting with prints. Compared to the lightweight, back-lit digital medium that takes up little space and weighs all but nothing, these items, this archive, made sense to me. Maybe those of us in the digital age have become so accustomed to the ease with which we view, and then delete, images, or page through them via myriad viewing software programs that we are beginning to forget the importance of this process.
My point is that memory, that elusive, ever-changing spirit we carry in our soul, is something that should have weight. It should take up space in our homes. We should, every once in a while, take a photo album or box of negatives off the shelf, dust them off and hold them up to the light of day. As we gaze, we smile. We remember friends long gone or vistas experienced in a way that we cannot when looking at an LED screen or something of that nature. We smile, or we cry. We tell a friend, “Look…here…this is when we…” and then hand them the fragile transparency or piece of paper. We pass on that experience.
We are all repositories of the past. This brings me back to the idea that there was once a time before my time, before the time of those who came before me. I have books as proof, books I can hold. I have folders full of negatives, unprinted. I am accumulating weight in the form of artists portfolios stuffed with prints. I have held them up to the light of day. I say, “Look…here…This is when I…