There have been studies of how people use media to stir memory. I came across a paper by Richard Chalfin of Temple University’s Department of Anthropology titled, Family Photograph Appreciation, Dynamics of Medium, Interpretation and Memory because I was searching for the scene in Blade Runner where androids are provided memories though photographs even in the distant future. Chalfin’s paper discusses what happens when videotape replaces still photographs and how memory-making is affected by motion and sound. Questioning McLuen he asks, “Is the relation of medium, interpretation and memory the same?”
Also interested in family memory, Jeff Dykehouse found his calling. It’s to capture the essence of a child in hospice in a portrait for their families. And he wants other photographers to start doing it too. He started Emily’s Big Picture Project in Michigan after his 14 month old daughter died and he realized he didn’t have any photographs of her that really spoke to who she was and he wanted to spare other families the same sadness. “I sometimes get cards from families after their child has passed. These cards bring tears to my eyes just thinking about them. The families tell me how much their portrait means to them, how it’s helped them get through very difficult times, how it’s helped them heal! …This is my life’s work and can’t imagine doing anything else.” Here is a six minute documentary of him talking about his work.
Though not the same Emily, I’m somehow reminded of this lonely poem of hers. “The speakers of her poems generally live in a state of want, but her poems are also marked by the intimate recollection of inspirational moments which are decidedly life-giving and suggest the possibility of happiness.” The entire poem and commentary is available through the link.
I measure every Grief I meet
by Emily Dickinson
I measure every Grief I meet With narrow, probing, Eyes – I wonder if It weighs like Mine – Or has an Easier size.
I wonder if They bore it long – Or did it just begin – I could not tell the Date of Mine – It feels so old a pain –
I wonder if it hurts to live – And if They have to try – And whether – could They choose between – It would not be – to die –