Photography: The Preservation of Memories

in Culture

Wagner FarmWinds of change sweep over our lives, slowly sweeping up grains of sand, covering bits and pieces with every gust. If we do not pay attention to the ever changing winds, our memories could be forever lost in time.

Last summer I embarked on a journey. This journey began by taking me from Niagara Falls, New York to Destin, Florida where I said, “I do” to a wonderful man. New memories were made and history was written. But this was not the end of my journey. It had in fact just begun.

On my trip home I took the time to stop in Bristol, a small city on the Virginia/Tennessee state line. My grandparents have lived in Bristol and the surrounding area for their entire lives. It has always been a place that I enjoy returning to.

On this particular occasion, 5 years had past since I had last stood with one foot in Tennessee and the other foot in Virginia. It was great to be back, though I felt the sting of bitter sweet reality.

My grandparents had changed so much during those 5 years and I was struck with how swift and inconsiderate time can be. Time does not promote preservation but instead can be quite destructive to the physical legacy that is life.

I felt this never more as strong as I did when I visited our family farm, where my grandfather worked from the age of 5 until he was 72 years old. Since then, the land had been partially sold to the nearby airport, and what was left behind felt neglected yet strangely preserved, considering the time that had past.

[pullquote]…photographic representation will continue to spark and revive those memories that time alone would have surely destroyed.[/pullquote]

My Great-Uncles continue to stop by weekly, arriving in their flannel shirts and overalls, but somehow it just wasn’t the same. Everyone was older and the younger generation didn’t seem to have interest in continuing the farming business. It just wasn’t as profitable as it used to be, though from my perspective it was a priceless treasure. It was a physical representation of life. It was historic. It was memorable. And it had been discarded.

I felt saddened and I felt loss. There was an innate desire and sense of duty that came over me.  I took out my camera and snapped some pictures. I continued for what felt like hours. I photographed until my camera ran out of battery power. I captured as much life and as much memory as I could and would have continued if not for my camera’s lack of function.

The lighting of the day was so horrible; the sun was so bright and it was incredibly hazy, but it didn’t matter. It was my only opportunity and I was not about to pass it by because of the less-then-ideal conditions.

That occasion was most likely the last chance that I had to see the farm, as it is now entirely owned by the airport. As unkempt as it was, I could still walk upon the ground, I could see a few bulls in the distant fields and I could dodge the abandoned tractor, ancient Chevy pick-up truck and the plethora of tools and parts in and around the garage.  The refrigerator was out of commission, but it was still there. The popcicles it provided each summer were sadly gone… but the memories remained. And now the photographic representation will continue to spark and revive those memories that time alone would have surely destroyed.

In sharing this story, I want to inspire each of you to photograph life. Keep your history and your memories alive through this fantastic medium. And if photography is not for you, then write it, paint it, sing it, dance it… just keep it alive. ~

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redkathy March 13, 2011 at 11:59 am

Your visit reminds me of my hubby. Like you he is saddened by the time changes of his birthplace and speaks of it frequently.

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