Morphing Memory

The tree in the photograph is transparent. Standing with one’s face right next to its leaves you can literally see straight through due to the violent nature of the light that penetrates through them. It stands remarkably alone in a surprisingly deserted section of Central Park, adjacent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There are no figures in this scene, save this tree—and the light (which cannot be ignored). It is autumn.

I took this photograph on a pleasant day last year, in November I believe, after a solo visit to the Met. I was attracted to the tree due to its translucency and its brilliant color. While the weather itself was lovely, I did not mirror its blithe nature. When I look at this photo, I see the moment when the first thoughts of transferring creped into my head. I had only been attending NYU for a few months at that point, and yet, the loneliness of the city was already overwhelming me. And maybe, though I didn’t realize it at the time, another reason why I was attracted to this tree was not just for its aesthetic appeal, but also for its sense of aloofness—one that so mirrored my own. *

* Thinking back on the original memory associated with this photograph, I must add that now, over a year later, the memory has morphed into something else. Or, maybe it is not the memory itself, but rather, the emotions tied to the memory. Since I now am currently in the process of trying to transfer from Vanderbilt back to NYU, I cannot help but be affected by a profound sense of nostalgia in looking at an image of a place I hope to return to. It is this separation from a place I desire that forces me to remember the moment caught in this photograph not as one of isolation and abandonment, but rather, one of complete enjoyment and ease.

It is this transcendence of my memory that forces me to believe that memory is not consistent—it is ever changing as time progresses. While photographs remain constant—continually displaying the same image (the only change born through wear (i.e. tears, fading, etc))—memories associated with (and contradicting Barthes, “called up” by) the photograph are ever amended by time, situational changes, revolutionized emotions, etc.

(Style copied from ch. 8 in Perec)

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