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Memories and Vision

By Catherine Bates


For a sighted person, memory is strongly connected to vision and visual\ud images. Even a memory triggered by a smell or sound tends to be a visual one.\ud As a memory recedes over time, photographs can be used to refresh it,\ud restructuring it in a particularly static, almost death-like way. A person who\ud has died, for example, after time may be remembered more as their still visual\ud image, captured in a photograph, than as the sum of their personality, actions,\ud or essential human-ness. For people without vision, however, memory works in\ud a different way. The transition from visual to non-visual memories can be\ud traumatic, as shown in one recently-blind person’s account of that change. The\ud only way for a person without sight to refresh fading visual memories is by\ud description, usually from a sighted person, and this re-structures their\ud memories in a verbal rather than visual way, through community rather than in\ud isolation. For born-blind people, or people who lost their sight very early in\ud life, memory is entirely structured by the remaining four senses, and can offer\ud an insight into a more embodied, more lifelike form of recollection than the\ud paucity of the visual image constructed through photographs. This paper will\ud argue that different forms of memory can deeply affect our experience as\ud human beings, and that photographs are the least ‘human’ way of remembering\ud people. Objects and dialogue remind us of people - ourselves and others - in a\ud much more vital, life-like way. As there is surprisingly little in the literature on\ud visual culture on how visual memories are formed, I will combine my personal\ud observations on memories with those from my sources (which also eliminates\ud the risk of misinterpreting how others might read images and objects)

Topics: H1, BF
Publisher: University of Huddersfield
Year: 2002
OAI identifier:

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