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An Evening with the Photograph Album

Looking through my rectangulated life in photographs, at the attempts to record something significant about who I have become, I recall many experiments and many failures! Yet, emerging from all of these snapshots, I realise that there is no definitive description of the photographer.

I changed as the light changed, my moods as variable as the weather. There were times when I photographed the weather: a startling sunrise, an odd-shaped cloud, or con-trails reticulating the sky. But there was no way in which these reflected my mood at the time; dark moods did not lead to dark photographs. More outward looking, I sought an understanding of the unnoticed. I would focus on a detail not spotted before, or an odd juxtaposition would catch my eye, and my camera would catch one small part of that.

The photographs have left a trail, and I can see where I have been at different times. Other countries, and frequently the same places at different times. All have the effect of drawing me back to those locations. Memories that have been shut away for years suddenly take flight and overlay my current reality. “Oh yes, I remember …” or “I’d forgotten about that” as I notice a unrecognised face or relationship tickling or niggling at the back of my mind. I guess that each changed me in some fractional way, building layer upon layer, adding to ‘experience’ – from which might emerge some notion of identity. Instead, I see a persona lost in the busyness of catching the light or attending a decisive moment – which, truth be told, probably had little effect on what followed, but left me wondering about the decisions I was yet to make.

The impossibility of deciding who I am lies revealed in these photographs, because I have been all those people in my album, sometimes pretending, sometimes serious. It’s only looking back that I can see any kind of story, and a garbled one at that. Best not to bother; let the photographs speak for themselves. Let me marvel at those ‘little did I know’ occasions which have grown into meaningful action, but at the time were probably more about alleviating boredom, looking for excitement, or just plain getting on with life.

In trying to pin down a narrative, I see that I have been engaged in constructing a composite picture of a life that at first sight seems to centre around me as the hero, but more honestly gives me the sense of being one of the cast of thousands, an extra brought in for a specific scene, then sent off to wait for the next walk-on part in another scene.

Peel back each layer, let your imagination loose – and it will want to know, want to find a meaning, interpret that event and those people. But searching for some definition it soon becomes tedious: a visible jumble of good intent but of ignorant bumbling. So time to put the photographs away and set off on the journey that starts from here and now, remembering to keep my eyes open and take more pictures of the infinite complexity of the texture of life.

© 2017 Peter Young



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