A Picture Story

When I went through my collection of photographs to find one for this week’s assignment, I found these pictures that I had almost forgotten – in fact, I only remembered taking this one photograph of my friend, and not even taking this photograph, I just remembered that this photograph existed, but nothing else about that evening.

Going through this specific folder that contains photographs of this one evening revealed many things that I hadn’t remembered. First of all, the date: this happened on July 15, 2009. This means that we had just graduated from high school a couple of weeks before, and it was the last “free” summer before we all went off to different cities to study. In addition, since I remembered only this one photograph of my friend, I had completely forgotten that another friend of mine went with us. I associate that summer mostly with this second friend who is not in the picture because I spend more time with him than ever before. I remember going to his family’s house (a really awesome house… it’s one of my favorite houses; both of his parents are teachers and quite intellectual, and their house contains an impressive collection of books and movies and random things, and they had Persian kittens), and especially driving back home late at night, through a country setting that was often very foggy; sometimes I stayed there so late that I could see the sun rising on my way back.

The setting is a castle in the town of Burghausen, about 15 minutes from my home town. I don’t remember how we got there; either my friend (the one in the first picture) or I must have been driving because my other friend didn’t have a driver’s license. We spent a couple of hours at that castle (the photos show that the light was fading as night fell), had a little picnic of peanuts and melon there (I brought a blanket), and we also took more or less random pictures of each other and our surroundings. There are pictures of me looking at a hedgehog; I now recall that we heard something rustle in the greenery, and when we tried to see what it was we found this hedgehog. I thought the fading light looked beautiful in the background, so I made my friend balance on a fence and hold ballerina-like poses. I tried using flash first, but I didn’t like the outcome so I took some blurry photos without using flash. I must have noticed how pretty the shadows looked on the castle walls, so I took pictures of that, too. We then moved on into the town center. There is a photo of a wedding dress in a shop window, but I don’t remember whether my friend or I liked it so much that we thought it was worth taking a picture of it. Actually, it may just as well have been so ugly that we thought we should photograph it. We went to a bar – more blurry pictures. And that’s where the evening ends, according to the photographic evidence.

Going through this particular folder containing photographs of this one summer night, I had a rather strange experience. I did not remember this night; nothing noteworthy happened, nothing that would give me a reason to recall it. Yet, when I look at these pictures, some memories do come up – the one about the hedgehog that I described earlier on, which cannot be found in any of the pictures. But most of what I now “remember” about this night is inextricably linked to the photographs, does not go beyond what is visible in them. Looking at them, some memories emerge, but does that mean that they are still stored in my head, just not on the surface? Or are these not actually memories but are they put into my head by the images I see? In primary school, a frequent task was to write short stories that were prompted by a small number of images – picture stories. The point was to make a connection between the pictures, to create the missing link that lead from one picture to the next. Is that what’s happening when I look at these photographs? Do I just create random links between them? But at the same time, some memories, or impressions, of a wider context (which this one evening was part of) do come up: the blurred memory of that summer. I am not sure what to make of this. Often, single photographs prompt a more extensive memory; in this case, many photographs tell a story but do not trigger memories. All I know is that in this case, memory and photography are fused into one entity, and I cannot separate them anymore.

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