by Rebecca J Gerken
Firstly, let me apologize for the quality of the following images. My scanner is far from the best, with a shallow depth of field meaning there is more frame detail than sharp photograph. Secondly, this post is all about me, a little lengthy and not in the least academic and I thought my fortnightly blog post would be. Just having returned to lectures for the beginning of my final year, plummeting headfirst into research already, I thought I could do with something a little light-hearted.
Tidying my bedroom at the end of last week, I polished the photo frames I have on show and got to thinking why exactly I had chosen to put these in frames, on my shelves, mantelpiece and those I have crudely stuck to the wall. This thought has continued to plague me for a few days now. What is it about a photograph that deems it worthy enough to be shown to anyone who happens to be in view of it? I have already come to the conclusion that, of course, it is an utterly personal choice but it still interests me as to how people choose their showpieces.
I am close to my family and wouldn’t be without a family portrait of some sort. I have one photograph of my parents, my brother and I, which I chose to print and put into an ‘18th Birthday’ frame upon receiving it for, you’ve guessed it, my 18th birthday. This photograph was taken shortly beforehand, as we hadn’t had a proper, staged portrait taken since I was about four years old (my brother no older than two years old). Recently discovering my love for photography and being given a new camera for Christmas, I put it on my new tripod and set the timer. This was the shot that was sent to all our grandparents, aunts and uncles and extended family and friends.
At the same time, we took the opportunity to get one of me and my brother. I chose to place this in another newly acquired frame. A year later, a great aunt of ours gave me a lovely bejewelled frame, similar to the one I already had, with a photograph of the two of us on my first day of school. I don’t know if she knew it was a photograph I had always loved; the garden gate the best place to photograph in our temporary home near Tesco at the time, Sam’s cute little Tigger shorts and us both so blonde. In my room, I generally place these two either next to one another at an angle or opposite each other, symmetrical, like a sort of ‘then and now’ exhibition.
Finally, and a little strangely I suppose, I have some photographs from long ago; a beautiful little photo of my mother, taken I think even before she had me, a photo of our first cat, Lucy (of whom I also still have a cuddly toy imitation of which I have had since I was born), and a photograph of myself when I was a baby as well as a larger photograph of myself at a similar age. These last few my mother found recently upon discovering a box in the attic that hadn’t been touched since we moved into our current house about 9 years ago. I found this incredibly interesting; that I had completely forgotten I had these photographs and their frames, and that I had photographs of myself as a baby in the first place.
I asked my mother why I had them at all and she said simply, “You always like pictures of you as a baby.” We just looked at each other, I think I probably grunted an ‘hmmpf’ and I carried on unpacking the box, but upon deciding what to keep and what to throw away, I realised that, yes, I do like having images of me when I was younger around. There are some on the walls at home that I adore; the fore-mentioned portrait from when we were younger and one of my brother and I in my grandad’s garden in Somerset, with me in a pair of cumbersome roller-skates and Sam holding my hand and waving with the other beside me.
The funny thing is (funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha), is that I can’t think why. It’s not because I was a good looking baby, not because they were images taken by someone who has passed away, or because they were particular events. Perhaps it has something to do with nostalgia and reminiscing, but these were times I was too young to really remember.
The final image is one of my father, brother and I when we were, I think, at a wedding. It is cut strangely because it used to be in a snow globe photo holder. I love how I have my doll on show for everyone to marvel at, how Sam and I are looking away from the camera, but still posing, as if there was another person distracting us with a camera or otherwise and how you can imagine just from this one image how I am a bit of a daddy’s girl (and I still am, in my mind at least).
I do also have plenty of photographs of friends and my cats, but there is perhaps something in the way these are cello taped to the walls suggesting that, as much as I love them, my family photographs are subconsciously more sacred. This could just be because the photographs I have of my friends were all printed in Tesco from digital files, rather than some of the older images that would have all been shot on film and specifically sent off for.
So, I think I surround myself with these images wherever I go for many more than one reason. Because I know the subjects, they have a deep meaning for me, they are aesthetically pleasing to my eye, bringing back memories. However perhaps it is more likely to be because I don’t live with my family all the time anymore, so it’s nice to see their faces every day. Truth be told, does anyone really ever put images they dislike on show? Maybe it is as simple as that…