photo memory

Photographs are a way of sharing a point of view, and of providing an aid to our physical and emotional past. I need these reminders, and have done since ancient times when a young woman from Corinth named Dibutade supposedly invented the art of drawing when her lover was about to embark on a long journey. But our memories cannot be trusted, and one of the many things that Bingham is missing out on is the undoubted pleasure of being able to look at tangible evidence of a place once visited.

As picture editors will attest, we recall photographs imprecisely. Often we are convinced we have seen certain things in a picture, perhaps even one that is familiar, and yet when we look at it again, it is not exactly as we remembered it.So a photograph can be an important corrective,even to the memory of a photograph itself.

The great adventurers — Darwin, Humboldt, Hedin, and most early travel photographers — made their important journeys while they were young, and they used the memories of these adventures in later life, perhaps to write memoirs or entertain their friends, or to return to the darkroom to reprint favourite negatives. Today, there is still a good deal of adventuring in early life, and inexpensive air travel can keep us regularly on the move. But there is also a rapidly increasing band of pension-age seniors on the road with cameras. Photography and computers offer endless stimulation for retirement, and some believe that older people may achieve better results than youngsters, as they might more easily win their subjects’ confidence.