The Most Precious Memory You Can Touch
There is a powerful commercial running. It is emotionally filmed with different people being asked to describe their most treasured moment. They pluck a print from a collection in front of them and begin. They are asked what they would trade it for. They hold the print even more tenderly before saying “Nothing!”
The tactile nature of the paper photograph seems to trigger deeply held memories. This ad is based on the marketer’s study of how people react to and hold photographs as memories. For a moment the viewer lives in that memory.
In another ad a little girls asks why there are no photos of her on the wall. Mom, below a wall full of her son’s images, explains she was tagged on every Facebook image of her. The young girl walks away angrily knocking large vases off their pedestals. Some studies reveal that for children wall photographs of themselves resonate deeply with a sense of family connection.
That is likely why children’s bedrooms are filled with images of being held by their parents or big happy smiles of just them rather than a collection of digital frames.
I have friends who lost all their images to a corrupted hard drive. But seemed relatively unbothered by the loss. They explained that new ones would quickly fill up a new drive.
Yet when their home fire alarm went off one of the treasures my client’s husband emerged with was the large wall portrait we created of her. While it was a false alarm she remained amazed that was a treasure he chose to save. He chuckled at her when he pointed to her nude book tucked under her arm.
Not every print deserves to be or works enlarged for the wall or even enlarged for a book. One of my early mentors talked about an image as needing a complexity to it. If it is going to be viewed many times over a long period of time it needed to be timeless. He also meant the poses and expressions should be natural to the person so they can trigger memories for the viewer. The memories might be current in spite of the age of the image.
One researcher found that family portraits taken every few years help the family to stay connected. The act of creating the photograph brought them together, the image reminded them of that. Since it was ongoing, it became a tradition event, each new image also reminded the family members of all the ones before it.
We have one client, a single mom, who always has delicate discussions with her daughter under the portrait of the two of them. It was taken during a very precious time for both. The image, years old now, is their reminder that no matter how challenging the topic or charged their emotions are, they still love each other. After all these years, it still resonates and is relevant.
Can you imagine having an image so powerful in your life? It can’t be fully realized on a 4.5 inch smart phone screen. It needs to breath.
One of my US photographer friends has created an intriguing wall décor concept. He does these very sensitive BW images of families. He also creates individual shots of each child. Their parents write a very personal, heartfelt letter that goes on the back of each print.
Their child will never see this letter until the image is gifted to them. Usually this has been when they move out to start a life of their own. His clients have described how emotional that moment is.
Sarah echoed the feelings of many of my clients. She wanted wall art to be the finishing touch to her newly decorated home. She thought, “why not make it of me?” It was not the standard portrait. It was actually nearly anonymous. It was inspired by the art she had been thinking of putting up before her brilliant idea arrived.
I know the world is embracing digital medium. We offer it too; there is an immediacy to images that flow across that tiny screen. From a photographer’s point of view digital versions have replaced the wallet filled with grandkids pictures. What I don’t want you to miss is the intimacy, the enjoyment, of a print in your hands.
Like the people in the commercial, just touching a print can bring a flood of memories that takes you back. I think it has to do with the tactile way we interact with the world.
So, tell us, what is your most precious memory from a photograph?