The Color of Memory

The photos I have posted this week bring up a dialog between my perception of a place, which is Nashville and Vanderbilt, and Pamuk’s perception of Istanbul. A couple of weeks ago, I was leaving class right around sunset. It had been one of those common Nashville days, seeing both torrents of rain and dazzling rays of sunshine. I’ve always thought that there was something strange and unpredictable about the weather in Nashville, and this thought has become a rather important fixture in my memories of school, with the various floods and tornado threats. Something about it has always been so extreme, so “apocalyptic”, as I referred to it, and part of the reason for this is the odd, otherworldly coloring of the sky here. The colors that I’ve seen during my four years here just in the sky, whether its a sunrise, sunset, after a storm, or in the middle of a sunny day, have had a startlingly wide range. I’ve seen bright, blazing oranges, dismal greys, blues and purples, and a plethora of other colors, all that have had a huge impact on my memory of Nashville. As you can see from the pictures I’ve included, the colors can seem unnatural, especially when juxtaposed next to the earthen brick and grass of Vanderbilt’s Branscomb dorms. It seems photoshopped, almost too beautiful to be real, but this sunset is one of many that have shocked me with their colors.

Of course my relationship with these photos must be contrasted to Pamuk’s narration and his photos in the “Black and White” chapter of Istanbul. As he describes one of the earlier photos in the chapter, “a photograph by AraGuler perfectly captures the lonely back streets of my childhood, where concrete apartment buildings stand beside old wooden houses, the streetlamps illuminate nothing, and the chiaroscuro of twilight–the thing that for me defines the city–has descended”(35). Pamuk insists that his memory of the city is in black and white, not only because of the images he has included, but because of the ambiance of loneliness and decline of the city. I found it fascinating that he could associate his memory with such a narrow visual characteristic, and wondered if that could be true for me as well. And judging from these photos, I believe I could. I cannot escape the memory of those many sunsets I have witnessed, the vibrancy of the color of this city. And more broadly, I can’t help but associate these bright, vibrant colors with a general hopefulness for Nashville and Vanderbilt’s future, the positivity and energy that I have found so apparent in this community.

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