Catching Memories: Reflecting on Activating our Archives

Earlier this year, Tony Lorenzo responded to our participant call out to join Activating our Archives, Modern Art Oxford’s collective digital archiving project which has evolved alongside the exhibition, Akram Zaatari: The Script. In this photo essay, Tony reflects on his experience of taking part in the project.

When I was a child I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and my answer was always the same: a writer.

A few years later I found out that I didn’t have enough words to describe feelings and realised that photography is: registering with images something that can’t be explained with words; in the same way that words are not contained unless you write them down, images are not preserved unless we capture them. We could see photography as a way of catching memories that will last much longer than the person who captured the picture or filmed it.

Through the project I developed as part of Activating our Archives, a whole new meaning of a collective archive was built. The project built a memorial of personal moments, creating a new platform which encourages audiences to connect with their own personal experiences.

I spent part of my life trying to find a person that I never met and created a whole new storyline building a common memory in between her photos from 1930 and my family album. That’s the magic of being able to register our own experiences, our own image memory will connect with someone else’s life and create something which wasn’t complete until there was an interaction.

“Memory is the faculty of the brain by which information is encoded, stored, and retrieved when needed.”

There is a constant debate about how photography has been globalised since social media appeared to eat historical memory alive. But we could see this as a new key to developing connections in an easier way than before. As part of my research I had to use social media to find out where pictures, made decades ago, were taken. What was once a physical album now is a cloud, an online archive or a website, the difference resides in between the privacy and the public expansion of it. There is beauty in a picture that belongs to a family album but unless it is shown, it will be part of a personal memory archive, a personal feeling that was taken to be remembered in case someone asks in a uncertain future.

If, in the future, someone asks me what I wanted to be when I was a child, my answer will be: a photograph.

Photographs and words by Tony Lorenzo.

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