seascapes + memory

with No Comments

As I go through my black and white archives  from the 1980s for The Bowden Archives and Other Marginala book   I am starting to come across  some seascape images that I cannot recall making.   Nor can I recall their location,   the camera that I used, or even when they were made. Since my personal memory is unreliable my memory of these past events is going to have to be constructed.

The negatives had been stored  away in an old, red  filing cabinet  with no information other than a tab that  just says ‘Landscape Studies’.  An example:

coastal rocks
coastal rocks, Petrel Cove

Many of the pictures in  the Landscape Studies  file were done whilst I was on the road.  My best guess is that these kind of seascape images are different,  in that they were probably made along the southern  coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula, even though I don’t immediately recognise these rocks. But I have no memory of making them. I haven’t looked at the negatives or the contact since these were processed  and printed. I cannot even recall who processed the negatives or printed the contact sheets. Was it me or a commercial laboratory?

In 2016 I  am reading these photographs  differently,  and the reason that I was  drawn to this location becomes irrelevant. It now becomes an interpretation of an image, influenced by a contextual memory of  the situation.  The boundaries become blurry as we step into the realm of fiction.


However, looking at  some of the other negatives from this particular shoot gives me a clue to the location. They are around  the south western tip of Rosetta Head  which  frames Petrel Cove.I do  recall that on my first visit to Victor Harbor as a day tourist I wasn’t impressed with the coastal  area.  Since there are a number of images from this  particular photoshoot I was drawn to this location.

They would have been made after 1993, which is when I was doing a PhD at Flinders University,   I’d started visiting Victor Harbor regularly with Suzanne,   and we stayed at Suzanne’s mothers house in Encounter Bay.

Rosetta head, Petrel Cove
Rosetta Head, Petrel Cove

Sadly, I cannot recall what I was thinking when I made these  seascape photos,   or even the actual year after 1993  in which  they were made.  I can, however,  recall  the camera that I used was an old  Linhof Technika 70 and that these  seascapes  were taken before I switched to using colour negative film.

Maybe the proposed book, The Bowden Archive and Other Marginalia,  ought to have  a section   that is concerned with the landscape pictures?  The landscape studies  would have been made  in the early to mid-1990s.  The pictures would have been  taken after I’d moved to  living in Ovingham,  the Bowden project had come to an end,  and I was in process of  giving up my  studio in Bowden. The studio  had been given up  by 1993. So the section of landscape pictures would come after the Bowden section in the book.

The landscape section could be a narrative of my past–me trying to find a new photographic project after  the Bowden one had finished.  Since  my memory of these events is unreliable these photographs would shape my memories of these photo trips. Such a narrative would constitute a partly fictional narrative based on reality.

Memory is selective, and it is widely acknowledged  that  we most often choose to remember the good times and mourn their passing. In photographing  our lives, we similarly become our own editors, selecting certain images and situations that will help us remember the past, as it should have been. Photographs mould our memories from a sometimes painful truth into an acceptable reality.

Selective memory loss   numbs the pain of emotional trauma–in my case two broken relationships. The numbing is long term repression. Throughout our lives, our minds take snapshots of events and store them in an archive. Years later our memories become foggy or fade completely like old photographs, yet we can still fish them out of a hiding place when we want to remember something. In this way, both memory and photography are subjective modes of representing  the past.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *