Is this the early 2000s? Haha, I know it’s not. Having a blog might sound a bit like something from past decades. With all these social media platforms, it might seem like I get to share my thoughts and what I am doing, but in reality, it doesn't quite hit the mark. None of it feels like my own or, for a lack of a better word, 'comfortable' enough for me to have the confidence to truly be myself and share what I'd like to. I've reached a point where, even though a blog might sound anachronistic, it feels like a necessary outlet for me.
There's so much I want to express and share, from the most basic things like the behind-the-scenes of a photoshoot to a review of a piece of gear that I've been using for years and absolutely love. I would very much like to delve into why I even take photographs and the challenges of living a creative life in a place that can often feel hostile to creativity, always ready to drain it out of you and make you conform to its ‘norms’.
I'm not entirely sure who will be reading this blog, or if anyone will, but one thing I'm certain of, for those few of you who do read this, is that I'll strive to convey my experiences and thoughts as truthfully as possible. In this space, I aim to not only share my thoughts, experiences, and technical insights but also engage in discussions with other creatives or people I collaborate with. So please, watch this space for more to come, starting with:
The ‘Memory box’
If I were ever to ask myself which of the images I took are the most important to me, my favourites, it would definitely be images from my life, my friends, my family, my experiences.
Growing up in the 80s and 90s, perhaps a shared experience for many, we used to become intimately acquainted with our family photo albums, sometimes knowing them by heart. At a time when perhaps not everyone had a camera, or not one at hand all the time in any case, people took photographs with more deliberate thought. They were aware of the limitations of film, making the photograph worth their while, and then diligently printed and preserved these photos and carefully arranged them in albums found in almost every household. Today, we find ourselves in the digital age, where nearly everyone has a 'camera', usually in the form of a mobile phone, and social media platforms encourage us to snap thousands of photos each year. We send them to one another, share them in texts or on social media, and keep them stored on our devices or in the cloud, making them subject to the whims of technology, trends and companies that may one day vanish.
Where will all these images be when our grandchildren reach our age? Will they forge the same deep connection with their grandparents' photographs as I did with mine? Do people take all these images with a sense of purpose? Do they ever actually sit and enjoy them? Or are they just ephemeral tools of communication, fleeting as they get exchanged in a message and then forgotten?
Throughout the history of humanity, long before photography came along, there existed tangible ways to pass down memories. Moments were preserved in time through items, artworks, letters and diaries. Photography, a relatively recent development in human history, actually brought the ability to freeze a moment in time forever, yet we are still managing to lose it.
In my conversations with people, I often hear a shared sentiment, that they’d like to create albums, like the ones we created in older times, or to have photos hang on their walls, but the either don’t find the time to do it or they feel they don’t possess meaningful photographs of their families and themselves to fill these, even though we live in times where virtually everyone carries a ‘camera’ in their pockets. It is a curious conundrum - how a century ago, with limited resources, people managed to have photographs that held profound meaning for them, while today, despite all this technology that surrounds us, so many people struggle to do the same.
A ‘Memory box’ may be a figure of speech, but in my case, it quite literally started with a green, wooden, empty ammunition box I stumbled upon during my teenage years goofing about near the UN-controlled buffer zone in old-town Nicosia. This box, that I took home, started feeling up with photos, notes, cinema tickets, and an assortment of knick-knacks, that today I am grateful I saved. As I grew a bit older, I started taking photographs, at about the age of 16, my subjects being my friends, my family, my hobbies. Over the years I’ve made it a point to carry my camera with me wherever I go, trying not to miss life’s moments. This commitment, however, comes with its own expectations from others sometimes, but the rewards far outweigh any burdens especially when I take a retrospective look. So this is how the literal ‘Memory box’ slowly became a digital one, and I am now circling it back by trying to print real albums that I can hold - much like I used to hold my grandmother’s albums.
I now witness the impact that this ‘Memory box’ album tradition has on my three-year-old daughter. She loves the moments when she gets to pull these albums out, asking about the people she sees, recognising even those friends who live far away and whom she rarely gets to see in person, all thanks to our albums. I have no clue how this shapes her, but I can only imagine positively.
By the same token, albums are also a confrontation. Some of these images in our albums may stir up emotions that me or other friends or family looking at them may have wished to have kept buried, as people don’t tend to look at images from the past that often anymore. Some images force us to remember relocations, breakups, relationships that drifted apart, the passage of our youth marked by greying hair and wrinkling skin and the sombre reality of faces of people who are no longer among us. Witnessing the passing of time through these pages is both a curse and a blessing.
Funnily enough, this isn’t a new revelation. It brings to mind my grandmother’s wedding album, where certain individuals were literally “deleted” from it, their images scratched away with a pen (an act I hope to explore further in a future blog post). I’ve heard similar tales from friends whose relatives, in their own way, cut people out from photographs. There's something to be said in the act of editing the past to align it with one's current state of being, a testament to how a frozen moment in time can be reflected against the backdrop of the present.
For me, the essence of documenting our lives lies not in resting picture-perfect postcards from our travels, the kind you can buy at a souvenir shop. It’s about capturing the unique way in which we personally experience these moments. After all, you can’t buy memories, but you can certainly preserve them, in the highs and the lows, whether we would like to revisit them in the future or not - even in an old ammunition box.
"Storing Light" is my personal blog, where I share my photography insights, thoughts, experiences, and gear choices. Join me on this captivating journey into the world of visual storytelling, where I'll also feature guest contributors discussing their thoughts and ideas.