A storyteller’s view of the family archive


When formal documentation is void, unobtainable, where does one look for clues on their heritage? Family stories; dusty boxes of family photographs; speculation? I think it’s all of the above. The story of us, the story of our family is not one way of storytelling, rather an amalgamation of different methods of; communication, memory, and post-memory. The idea of post-memory was coined by Marianne Hirsch in her book Family frames (2002), an insight into the reading of the family album - with the anxieties and tension that go with it.


“Postmemory is a powerful and very particular form of memory precisely because its connection to its object or source is meditated not through recollection but through an imaginative investment and creation.”

 
                        - Marianne Hirsch. 2002.


There will always be subjectivity when thinking about the past. Whom upset whom, the uncle we don’t talk about, the rose tint of nostalgia always making an appearance. We cannot understand our past unless we understand embracing the unknown and speculative thinking. In what way does thinking about the past change how you see the present. How do certain stories alter the remembrance of the past?

If we think in a linear pattern, the aging process of the family album becomes devoid of making sense. Family member A takes out certain images, curates them into their view of the past - While Family member B scratches out their face and throws away photographs that unflatter their image. Take Annette Kuhn for example. In her Remembrance essay, she writes about the confusion that her mother had of a certain image of Kuhn. Her mother remembers one thing, while Annette (the subject) of the photograph remembers another. On the back of the image a conflict of interest with the caption. Her mother's Caption states the date and location that she believes it was, while a correction from the subject tells a different story. The conflict on the back of an image, altered on more than one occasion. Did this happen over years, or at the time of development?

I’m not so much interested in conflict, rather the beauty of a chaotic story. One with no beginning or an end. Just interpretation. Interpretation that can change if one key image is removed, or 50 being cataloged in a photo album. The context changes, therefore the meaning changes. When there are no facts, no concrete evidence, just hearsay, and folklore; the beauty lies in the not knowing.





[1] Hirsh, M. 2002. Family Frames: Photography, Narrative and Postmemory [2] Kuhn, A. 1991. Remembrance. Family snaps: The meanings of domestic photography, pp.17-25.


01/05/19

Copyright © Tom Roche