The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Forget Me Nots
From the moment we began to conceptualize the content of click!, it became obvious that we’d need to investigate photography’s relation to memory from a number of angles. The medium has always been valued for its unparalleled ability to capture details of evanescent phenomena and moments, and the reasons we make, share, save, and then look at pictures once time has passed varies. The stories we’ve collected so far remind us how vital images are in helping us shape long term memory and history itself, whether it’s personal, institutional, or national.
In the essay “Uses of Photography,” that John Berger included in About Looking (1980), he wrote: “Memory implies a certain act of redemption. What is remembered has been saved from nothingness. What is forgotten has been abandoned.” As I was working up the early lists of potential contributors to click!, I started to wonder what happened when the links that normally connect photography and memory start to break down. In particular, and given how actively a role photographs play in who we are, I started thinking about what happens when the photographs we cherish and count disappear, through loss of some kind. More specifically, and taking that question a step further, I thought it would be interesting to find out if and when photography is ever called into service in treating people who’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Through online research and in conversation with some helpful people at the Alzheimer’s Association, I tracked down Jeff Sandoz, a psychologist who, it turned out, had published a number of journal articles that touch on the relationship of photography to Alzheimer’s disease. In this piece for click!, Sandoz explains how Dr. H, a retired physician with self-diagnosed Alzheimer’s, devised a series of clever photographic strategies that helped him to function more effectively.