It has always amazed me how photographs can bring back a flood of memories; and not just of a scene, place or the technical aspects surrounding an image. The synapses of the mind are so intricately connected that a whole wealth of memories and feelings can be evoked by an image. Consider this image of the Val di Cogne located in Gran Paradiso Park in the Val d'Aosta of the Italian Alps. The scene was captured back in 2000 and I have always loved the image, but I recently sold a 20" x 16" print from my Etsy shop which triggered a flood of memories and inspired this blog post.
How well I remember the morning's hike. A brisk and chilly autumn morning as my wife and I began to hike up the river valley. The sun was gradually peaking from behind the mountains to the east. It warmed the western slopes and illuminated the fall colors in the valley as they stood out in contrast to the deep shadows. Thin wisps of cirrus clouds, like a gauze, veiled the blue alpine sky. It would have been hard to imagine that this peace and serenity would be transformed by raging flood waters that swept through the valley a week or two later.
And then the mind began to travel through a labyrinth of deeper memories. At first, memories of highlights from the trip flooded in. I was shooting with film in those days and lost an entire roll because the lead broke off (probably due to the cold weather). Such was the loss of recorded memories from that trip. But there were other memories that I cherish, memories of a more personal nature. This trip preceded the photography business I now operate and was a special vacation. Prior to the trip I had been researching my Italian ancestry and talking extensively about the family with my 90 year old grandmother who had lived in the ancestral town in northern Italy as a teenager. The year 2000 was in the days of letter writing and phone directories. By means of such, I had actually tracked down and established contact with my grandmother's cousin (whom she had never even met). The family was from the Piemonte region, the foothills of the mountains in this image. It was on this trip I met them and spent some time with them. They took me to visit family locations that my grandmother had talked about and her childhood memories came alive. Those memories were sparked as I looked at this image.
Still, the memories didn't stop with the trip. Yes, this trip was 17 years ago... but now my mind began to reflect on my grandmother, who has been dead for 15 years. She was so dear to me and I still miss her. Memories of my father (her son) and then my mother, both of whom I have lost in the last few of years, began to flood in. Without forethought, I began tapping into memories deep in my soul. Yes, there is beauty in this image, but also a piece of my heart that has been moved by the memories it brings.
When people buy my prints, the images often evoke feelings and memories in the buyer. I frequently hear stories at art shows and gallery events as people happily share them while viewing my work. But these same photographs that evoke memories in the viewer possess a part of the artist as well, sometimes even deeper than we ourselves realize. It was the recent sale of this image that reminded me how deeply the artist's own being is woven into a photograph.