I don’t know if you’re reading this, but I almost killed myself over you. I smashed your painting with a hammer while the rain came sideways onto my porch. I stood in the sallow kitchen light with a Closure Ale, and reminded myself to never love another graffiti artist because their many names hang around long after the one that wrote them is gone.
You were the one leaning on history, the one inking smokestacks and empty trains, the one viewing frames from the floor. Leaving you was like shedding a skin, and I had to keep writing on the shell until it was over. My body knew before I did.
. . .
Even photographers who have the highest respect for the image sometimes take photos as an afterthought. The mobile technology of the camera is now so advanced and so common that we take them for granted, leaving them untouched to collect digital dust.
But when you leave images untouched and unseen, life goes by (as it tends to do), and these images that once seemed like waste can flare up with a singing redolence, becoming precious, and taking on a life all their own.
I call these enriched images. Like enriched foods that are useless until the nutrients are added in later, these images are charged with enhanced meaning, only discovered long after they have been created.
The mobile photograph now serves as an external memory, aiding the creation of these enriched images. The secrets of meaning hide in plain sight, recognized by only the select few that can decode them. Moments that were once disposable can tell the story of so much loss, the mundane transforming itself into something endangered, or more often, completely extinct. No other form of art does this so effortlessly, because no other art can be created so inconsequentially while still being so physically tied to memory. The beauty of the accident is added to the convenience of technology, supplied with our insatiable desire to document and share, all married to the unapologetic force of change.
Now this isn’t a new concept because photographs have always been loaded with nostalgia. They have always transported viewers back to the past. But never before has it been so personal, so rampant, and so accessible. We’re documenting our lives at a much more frequent and inconsequential rate, and this constant reminiscing somehow makes time seem faster and more infallible. Never before has the timespan of a year seemed so distant yet somehow so close. Our pasts are no further than a scroll away, and we’re left with nothing but a feed full of ghosts, and a trail of wounds we can never seem to close because all it takes is a few clicks to pry them back open.
Soon, in a way, we’ll no longer have to remember anything. Photographs will tell our lives better than we can recall, and the millions being born now will have nearly every thought, feeling, and image from the very first instances of life captured and accessible on the internet. And slowly, as time carries on, a great portion of these images will become enriched ones, bending to the shifts of change, acquiring meaning, growing and warping into a nostalgia that we didn’t know would find us.
While searching through my own images, I don’t understand how something that meant absolutely nothing to me at the time could grab me so hard and never let go. How the first look of it can make my stomach drop and my chest ache, and how it can mean absolutely nothing to somebody else. How can a throw-away image become so essential of the past that it’s painful?
But I suppose that’s the new art. The new photography. Diaries etched in light. Photographers can now wrap so much of their everyday hurt and life and love into four corners. In our pockets, our laptops, in the very airwaves above our head – we’re all sitting on land mines, just waiting to explode.
Taylor Kigar is a writer and photographer based in Brooklyn. She is currently exploring the world of marketing, is an editor of Aint-Bad Magazine, and is still desperately trying to remember that there is no open container law in the North.