When I look through the lens of memory, it can be as sharp and clear as if it was yesterday instead of 20 years ago. Pictures preserve an instant in time, that’s why I have taken so many. When my memory becomes vague, I look at the pictures I have taken and they bring those moments into sharp focus again.
I have a big chest full of memory segments. It is a record of a life lived and of the souls that came into being during that time, namely children, then their children and now even one of their children. It’s been a long but very enjoyable trip. A lot of ups and downs, there were very good times and others that weren’t as good. The darker times make the lighter times even more bright.
I watched as one of my granddaughters married last week. My other granddaughter was Maid of Honor. They did have a photographer, a friend of the bride, taking pictures, but even though I was in the front row, I took my own as my son walked her up the aisle. I switched to video for parts of the service and the reception afterwards. The moments were special because my son has MS and had trouble even walking up the aisle, but he managed well. Plus, the father/daughter dance at the reception. I fear that his walking and dancing days are numbered, so I wanted to preserve those moments for everyone. These are the images his family will put in their chest of memories to be retrieved years later.
All is changing so quickly yet the events we preserve in our memories seem to be the same. The special events, the births, marriages and deaths are very much the same. It is what that falls between these events that seem different, yet, are they really.
I am an artist, and before the camera was, the artists preserved the memories of how they saw the world during their time. As a wedding present, we gave the couple three of my paintings, framed and ready to hang on their walls. These paintings were special times I spent preserving what I saw at the particular time. The events are preserved in brushstrokes. But I gave her a painting years ago of when she was a child gathering vegetables out of our garden. It was a special time and I didn’t think she could be more beautiful and innocent and I preserved that memory in a painting and presented it to her. It is how I saw her at that time, a memory captured in paint on canvas.
Paintings are special gifts, part of the artist’s life is recorded in the brushstrokes. The colors selected are that of his or her reality. Maybe not as real as a camera because it has been modified by their own internal perceptions that can be very different from what a camera might capture.
When I paint, I try to feel emotionally the essence of the image and my hand translates that to the image on the canvas. While images are important, the colors selected by the emotions of the artist may at times be even more important. These are the essential parts of who the artist actually is.
The camera helps preserve details but paint records the emotional response. The act of the hand is the visual interpretation that others may experience.
Harry Croghan is an artist, photographer, writer and teacher. He can be reached at (740) 852-4906 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.