Rephotography and Memory

Memory is ‘the faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information’ source. There are three main distinctions of memory

– Implicit vs. Explicit memory.
– Declarative vs. Procedural memory.
– Semantic vs. Episodic memory.


Until recently human memory had to rely on what was in the head, supplemented by a few photographs and stories people told each other. In the digital age this has all changed with a constant stream of digital imagery capturing events as they occur in the moment and being shared by social media mechanisms. Memory as a solid fact seems to be dissolving in to multiple interpretations all backed up by differing images.

This essay is based on a reading of the following digital article by Jason Kalin. All quotes are from this article. The article has stimulated many thoughts and ideas about the impact digital imagery has had on the idea of memory. At first rephotography did not appeal to me at all but the reading and reflecting on it now illuminates a powerful contribution to ontological representation, time and my own ideas of what memory is.

Remembering with Rephotography: A Social Practice for the Inventions of Memories. by Jason Kalin 07/2013, digital article p 168-179 referenced Tallis June 4th.

Rephotography, rather than a representation of memory, suggests a practice of actively constructing and inhabiting memories and their times and places while also incorporating them into the present as active forces

The particular photographic practice I study has been referred to as rephotography. With rephotography, a prior, often much older, photograph of a person or place is physically held up in or digitally blended into a present-day photograph of that person or place from the perspective of the prior photograph. By making the past and present appear simultaneously, rephotography brings into being multiple possibilities of people, places, and memories, of private lives and public displays. 

rephotography as a hauntological orientation to remembering that has the potential to create a con/fusion of places and times, producing, circulating, and accumulating the messiness of memory so that there is never a last image or last time or last memory, but rather only a last in a flow of images, times, and memories—illuminating not the ultimate meaning, but a meaning for the time(s).

Hauntological is a powerful evocation of what rephotography does to a memory of place. Even prior to digital imagery there has always been something haunting about photographs of people from previous generations. Life flows and never stops despite ‘now’ being all there ever is!

Photographs are not autonomous artifacts existing outside the context in which they circulate; rather, they acquire social meaning and significance through their material, rhetorical circulation.

This answers the question does there need to be context and or words to go with a photograph? The answer could be you want to let the viewer decide what the image means. Equally you may wish to guide the viewer in which case context and words become important. This is something important to reflect on in my project.

Where photographs circulate—Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter—is articulated with how photographs circulate—digital cameras, camera phones, and smartphones, along with the digital networks that connect them—is articulated with why photographs circulate—to document more extensively and intensively the ordinary moments and mundane memories of everyday life. 

Facebook has more than 1 billion active users who upload 100 million photos every day ([14]). Similarly, Flickr recorded its 6 billionth photograph in August 2011 ([17]).

What is clear from this data of 7 years ago is that a strong human need is being met. Most of these images are mundane but there is a compulsion that makes us human beings want to capture a piece of time and store it.

As memory appears in public, a public appears in memory. Or, as we invent our memory images and places, these memories build new worlds that we may inhabit.

As a mnemonic and social practice, rephotography, by layering the old and the new, expresses a style of engagement with the past, a visual style and aesthetic, that reorients the time and place of memory.

Rather than focusing on these subtle distinctions, rephotography, I argue, is most aptly described as a form of ontological montage wherein ontologically incompatible elements coexist within the same time and space. Manovich situates ontological montage within the broader category of spatial montage, the placing of two images side by side within a single frame. Spatial montage displaces traditional temporal montage, which sequences images across frames. According to Manovich, spatial montage is form of compositing that retains an aesthetic of montage—both seamless and layered. As viewers we are forced to consider both the layers of memory and the seamlessness of memory—how past secretes, and secrets, the present, and how the present accretes the past. The combination of seamlessness and layering provokes a response from viewers wherein the seamless continuity of the past to the present becomes complicated by the presence of layers: We see what has been, what is, and what could be simultaneously.

How past secretes, and secrets, the present, and how the present accretes the past. Beautifully put. In Gestalt Psychology the idea is that in any moment everything about us is present in that moment. The past has accreted to form what we are and it is all there in that moment. This will stimulate more reflection for my project.

Moxey’s paradox of perspective, notes that perspective may refer to “either one point of view among many, or the point which organizes all the others” (Moxey as cited in [ 7], p. 114)

Rephotography thus reinforces the nature of memory as a distributed rather than localized phenomenon. 

By bringing the viewer back into the perspective of the past within the present, rephotography both arrests and mobilizes memory, combining that-has-been with that-which-is.

Rephotography as a visual and social practice for remembering allows individuals to walk differently through physical place and to walk along different paths in their memories of those people and places.

There is no place that is not haunted by many different spirits hidden there in silence…. Haunted places are the only ones people can live in” ([12], p. 108). Thus, rephotography is best understood as hauntography to emphasize how any perspective upon the present is haunted by its own past. Hauntography—hauntological montage—retemporalizes memory by inventing memory images and places that mobilize perspectives and bodies to perform acts of personal and public remembering.

Rephotography as hauntography engenders a social practice for remembering best characterized as a loosely conjoined heap—memories as hypotactic layers, memories as paratactic seams of spaces and times, of images and places, enfolding and unfolding—a running style of memory. Memories always on the run.

Categories: Contextual Research, Surfaces and Strategies


I am a Photographer. As well as taking many photographs I am currently studying for an MA in Photography at Falmouth University. I will direct my attention through the lens of my camera for the next couple of years and see what shows up. I see a photograph as a little bit of magic capturing a moment in time. If successful it surprises and engages your emotions. It tells a story about the wonders of being alive or tells us what we need to change to make it a better world to live in. That is enough for me to get going and then like walking a 1000 miles, which I did across the UK in 2010, or walking 200 miles across Cyprus, which I did in November last year, it is one step at a time.

I was a writer. The title of my unpublished book was ‘You Would Have Done The Same.' It is about a successful guy in love with his wife who lets her die when he discovers her in the process of committing suicide. The title gives a clue as to what I think you would have done. The book is 200 pages long. I found it cathartic to write it but after two years of work and reviewing with agents decided it probably needed another 2000 hours to get the whole book up to the standard of some of the pages. Writing is great but it is a lot of sitting down so I decided to get out and walk, play tennis, play bridge, go birding, watch football at Nottingham Forest, Arsenal and Valencia and anywhere else if I can, meditate, cook and eat. I was a writer who has so far failed to become an author.
I was a young man who loved Mathematics and thoroughly enjoyed getting a BSc at Liverpool University. While there I went often to Anfield and the Philharmonic Hall. I was all set on doing a PhD until I went for interview practice at BP and got seduced by the excitement of an International business career. BP was a great adventure building trading teams and businesses in London, Antwerp, Cleveland Ohio and Singapore. Fabulous people and some great challenges and also very hard work, constant jet lag and lots of fun along the way. I married Karen, my stunning wife, and had the most amazing time with her and our three boys Alex, Tom and Dan. She has multiple sclerosis and we have taken on many challenges together but somehow keep creating a new normal against the horrors thrown our way. She is the love of my life.

After BP I decided to coach senior executives and quickly realized I had a lot to learn
about what makes people tick. I had a fantastic 18 months on the International Programme of the Cleveland Gestalt Institute. A great faculty and a
wonderful group of people on the programme. We studied and worked in Dingle, Singapore, Holland, Cape Town and
Lisbon. This also got me interested in the way we think and make decisions so I studied for an MSc in Psychology atUniversity College London in 2010. The
Masters was in Cognitive and Decision Sciences and I found it fascinating what
we do know but also how much we don’t know about how we think and make

I loved coaching and making a difference. I got a number of people to hear themselves, remove some of their own chains and free up the way they thought about the world. I remain fascinated by how people react to and engage with the world. My Masters thesis was why do two people given the same information make different decisions? Put simply, it is because each of us are unique in the way we are constructed.

Since returning from Singapore I found English winters tough so moved to Spain where I now live. The people are lovely, the scenery amazing, food delicious and the sun shines all the time. Almost.

All of these experiences will feed in to my time now as a Photographer. Three motivations I am lucky to have are enthusiasm, curiosity and a continuous interest in learning. All the time I look forward to meeting old friends and making new friends and experiencing this wonderful life together.