When asked why do people like photographs and what are the effect of good picture, Gerry Badger, co-author of “The Photobook: A History Volume III”, said:

“They take you to places that you can’t go to, like the surface of the moon, and they also form memories, they take you to long ago. They allow you to travel through time and space…”

While I don’t fully agree with the rest of his response to this question in this interview, I think most, if not all, of us would concur with what I’ve quoted above.

I take photographs for a multitude of reasons including:

  • To record an observation or the visual aspect of an experience
  • For personal artistic expression or to capture a new perspective of something familiar
  • To share a moment with family and friends who were not with me

What about you?

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I know exactly what he meant about travelling through time and space through photographs.

Since I was around eight, I would flip through family photo albums, one after another. It was such fun and would keep me entertained at least an hour. Sometimes it felt like time stopped while I was looking at the people, observing the moments of delight/awkwardness/mischief, seeing places I’ve been to (or not). I would look through the albums again some months later and still find every single image just as intriguing.

Certain movies, music, novels and paintings also have the power to transcend time and space. Even smell. In fact, scent is the strongest memory trigger amongst the five senses.

I had written about how smell brings back memories. But because I so do love this quote in this article by Edward Readicker-Henderson on scent/smell, I’m repeating it here:

“Of the five senses, smell is the strongest memory trigger, the one that takes you back to love, to walking into a desert temple, to a fine dinner, or even to the burning ozone of a Japanese train on a winter night. Scent is the filing system of our lives. It allows us to place who and what and where we are in the world.”

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Today’s post was inspired by an exhibition in Paris featuring colour photographs that were made more than a century ago, a time when colour photography was rare. I especially enjoyed seeing those images of people at work in their ethnic costumes or uniforms – a glimpse into a past that probably no longer exists.

More to come in another post.

Meanwhile, featured here is a photograph that I took during the exhibition, as well as the digital scan of the original negative of this image from the Library of Congress.

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19 replies on “Travelling through time and space

  1. I take photographs because it reminds me to appreciate the small, everyday things in life we so often take for granted. 🙂

  2. I take photographs to make me stop and appreciate the inspiration that’s whirling around me but that if I move too fast I might not catch. I love the vibrant border colors around your negative image. Things like that are exactly what I mean 🙂

    1. Agree. After taking the photo, then one has got to enjoy the moment/beauty! Sometimes it’s in the processing of the pictures that I notice certain details that I had missed earlier.

  3. I still like to go through old family albums( on the rare occasion when I get the time) and it always brings a smile to my face..they transport me back in time..a photo album is like a book, which you can keep on re-reading…and never get bored… 🙂

    1. I think a photo album is more than a book, for me. I hardly every re-read a book partly because I would know/remember the storyline and the suspense is gone; though mostly because I’ve too many books that I want to read!

  4. I love the photographs I kept from home after my mother died. Most are family but some are people I don’t recognise and I often wonder why my parents had them. What was the connection. I take photos for enjoyment and because its the only vaguely creative streak I think I have. I want to take one memorable photograph in my lifetime.

    1. The mystery of it all. I love looking at photographs that were taken before I was born, including from my parents’ youth. What would be a memorable photograph for you?

    1. Agree with you. I wasn’t sure if I had corrected the colours wrongly in the photograph that I took as it turned out to be quite different from that of the scan image. But it probably is accurate going by the colour of the sculptures in the background 🙂

  5. I love to travel through time and space (hence my vintage Dr Who profile photo, for those in the know ;-))
    Our memories define us, help make us who we are… it’s the main reason why I like photography; it refreshes and triggers my memory. Just like smell, but visually stimulating.

    1. Ah hah, so that’s what your gravatar comes from. Andrew would know it as he watched a lot of Dr. Who when he was a kid. The first time I heard about him was last year when we happened to see an episode on TV when in the Netherlands! Sometimes I wonder how accurate my memory about certain things/events is as I’m sure it’s sometimes affected by the photographs that I’ve seen relating to those moments (and hence create a ‘false’ memory of something that I don’t actually remember)…

  6. A brilliant post with a difficult question in it. I take photo because…I like it. Because I’m not (yet?will never be?) able to draw or paint. There are many reasons pushing me to take photos but the two most true are because I like (need?) to stop the time both creating memories for the future and working projects related to my emotions. And yes, we there are many old family photo around home, some are in a magical box…
    robert
    PS: if you are curious here is a view of the magical box…http://thequietphotographer.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/a-magical-box/

    1. Like you, I can’t really draw nor paint (maybe this will change someday, on verra).

      What you wrote just gave me a thought: Photographs freeze moments in time yet it is through them that we are able to travel through time, into the past.

  7. The smell, yes it is the smell. Looking at photos I can always remember the smell, then the overall feel of the very air at that moment the photo was taken. Photos of others give me an excited tingle, maybe I feel the air and their history through time and space, even though I wasn’t anyway near when the photo was taken. Photos are just a little bit of magic 🙂

    1. I like the last sentence “photos are just a little bit of magic”. I think it is especially true with film photography, a little bit of light and developer, et voilà!

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