I came across Pedro Meyer’s stunning I Photograph to Remember project while trying to find some useful information on conceptualisation (something that I’m struggling with at the moment). Meyer is a Mexican photographer of German heritage and similar to Briony Campbell’s The Dad Project he had created a project in 1990 that documented both his parents illnesses – cancer- and their final times. The project is extremely personal. Like Campbell, Pedro Meyer took his photographs for himself as a way for dealing with death. Meyer states:
Jean Cocteau commented once, “Photography is the only way to kill death”. After all, memory is precisely that, a way of making a moment permanent. I knew full well that my emotions at the time would not allow me to recall further on, the specifics of any given moment. The photographs have indeed allowed me to return many times to those captured slices of my experience, and flawed as those pictures inevitably are, due to the limitations inherent to the photographic medium, I do get a sense of the way it all happened.
Pedro Meyer (Some Background Thoughts)
Instead of using captions Meyer narrates his story as if he is showing friends photos from an album or photo box and his quiet, humble voice providing an authenticity and deep sense of intimacy that captions would never be able to impart. The project is intensely moving and I found myself wiping away tears at times.
In its title and in its presentation, I Photograph to Remember, brings together two ultimately irreconcilable yet always synthesized phenomena: photography and memory. Imbedded in these words are the antipodes that define all photographic production: presence and absence, perpetuity and instantaneity, solidity and ephemerality, vitality and mortality; life and death. Once taken, every photograph, particularly the snapshot, is quintessentially a memory. Every snapshot memorializes and commemorates the past. Every snapshot is a souvenir of experience. Every photograph, as Susan Sontag once remarked, is “instantly posthumous.”
Jonathan Green (2006)
Meyer’s project follows the classic linear storytelling lines. He sets the stage initially, introducing us to his parents when they became engaged, married and gives a little background history of their lives prior to them moving to Mexico. Then he proceeds to document the sorrow, strength and warmth of his parents, their suffering and obvious love for one another.
But rather than the grand indifference or distance often felt in journalistic work, the distinguishing characteristic of these images is their deep sympathy and haunting honesty. While certainly not innocent or naïve, they mirror at an essential level the honesty of the snapshots and studio portraits which began the journey. They resonate in their immediacy with the poignancy of a child looking so gently and frankly at his parents’ illnesses and deaths.
Jonathan Green (2006)
I Photograph to Remember was one of the first photographic works to be presented digitally, initially prepared for CD-ROM presentation.
The project can be seen below by clicking on the image. The viewing time is about 35 minutes and definitely well worth it.
Green, Jonathan (2006) The Art of Storytelling: Pedro Meyer’s I Photograph to Remember [online]. Available from: http://www.pedromeyer.com/galleries/i-photograph/state.html [Accessed 11 August, 2015]
Meyer, Pedro I Photograph to Remember [online] Available from: http://www.pedromeyer.com/galleries/i-photograph/pag1.html [Accessed 11 August, 2015]
Meyer, Pedro. Some background thoughts [online] Available from: http://www.pedromeyer.com/galleries/i-photograph/work.html [Accessed 11 August, 2015]