Found Photo Focus: Remember Me / Memory Snapshots

The following was written by guest contributor, Bernard Yenlouis, for Snapshot, the PROJECT B Newsletter by Barbara Levine. Bernard an artist and a snapshot collector.

This photograph beguiles me. It alludes to what I perceive as a wish factor to photography - to see what you desire, embodied. The photo, without being explicit, alludes to the preservation or veneration of a soldier, which follows that there is a conflict or war at hand and loss, temporary or permanent. Also, the hand is the hand of the photographer. The hand, the eye, & the camera act in synchronicity: As a photograph of a photograph a very direct relationship is represented between the photographer and the initial photograph. The exactness of its circumstances is not available to us, but otherwise the action of holding the photograph, as surrogate for the person in the photograph, & the photograph of that, allude to all as a vessel for very strong emotions. Also, the inexactness of the image, that there is blur, exposure "issues" and such which make the image downright abstract indicate that the image is more performative than iconic: it is a very unselfconscious action, an image of a relation between the photograph (in the photograph) and the photographer. The abstraction of the image amplifies a kind of existential sense of the tenuousness of memories and relations, a kind of ground zero of emotions, which indicates perhaps a truly great loss.

There are numerous snapshots of soldiers, on leave or leaving, as souvenirs. For many the military has been a rite of passage, and noted as such, along with graduations, marriages, and births. One could follow a thread of the conventionality of such images, which can be beautiful in the way that commemorative images can be - full of meaning and purpose. This image is related to such practices but its abstraction breaks with any social conventions and opens up a much more emotional dynamic. I am reminded of a series of recent photographs by Fazal Sheikh which were published in 1997 in The Victor Weeps, which were taken in Afghani refugee camps, of hands holding small photographs of lost family members, attached with a few sentences concerning those in the photographs. These images are part of a larger project Fazal Sheikh has done, working in refugee camps in Africa and Asia, photographing the occupants of the camps; it is also a very conscious attempt on Sheikh's part to work outside the conventions of photojournalism, of what Martha Rosler has termed "victim photography," for which the Third World has been constant fodder for Western news coverage.

How curious, with this abject, overexposed, anonymous photograph, we see a similar expressiveness and emotional dignity, in what is probably our own backyard.