Susan Sontag describes photographs as being the most mysterious of all objects. They can capture a moment in time, they are souvenirs in themselves as they document nearly all of our memorable moments in life and they are treasured possessions that keep us linked to our past. They allow us, for a moment, to dip into the past, re-experience an event. Through seeing, rather than just remembering, it enables the viewer to experience a moment frozen in time, meaning that as well as the memory or story of a time past, you have tangible evidence of the event. Family photo albums are especially important as they are evidence to the passing of time. They allow us to connect to the past, allowing us to look upon the generations that have come before us. They are a part of our personal history.
Photographs are sources of documentation, “inventory of mortality” as Sontag describes them. This is because you can visibly track the life of an individual through photographs, from young to old, even death if you consider post mortem photography. They survive as evidence to our existence and become treasured possessions of loved ones. The photograph in itself doesn’t have to encapsulate a particular event or historic moment for it to be important, it just needs to be treasured. It’s the feeling that we project onto to the object that gives it its importence.“Photography came along to memorialize, to restate symbolically, the imperilled continuity and vanishing extendedness of family life. Those ghostly traces, photographs supply the token presence of the dispersed relatives. A family’s photograph album is generally about the extended family – and often all that remains of it”