Our Digital Legacies

Now that so much of our lives are "lived" online. What, if anything, will be left behind of our physical existence? 

If you haven't already watched filmmaker Gemma Green-Hope's touching tribute to her recently deceased grandmother, take a moment to do so, you won't regret it. In it, Green-Hope uses an emotional compendium of the physical remnants of her grandmother's existence to give us an idea of the type of person she was and the kind of life she lived.

Books, photographs, letters, journals, a blue bike, a pretty knife... 

It's beautiful. 

We will all, inevitably, leave behind random and not-so-random items one day. And after watching Green-Hope's tribute, I couldn't help but wonder how different this inevitably  heartbreaking "sorting" of possessions will look for my generation now that so much of our lives are "lived" online.  What, exactly, will our loved ones sort through? And will it even come close to recreating an accurate representation of our lives? 

Take myself, for example. One of my passions is photography. I have tens of thousands of photos that I've taken so far over the years, but take a guess at how many of my photographs I have hanging on the walls in my home?

Five. And they aren't even my favorites (or my best). 

Granted, I've printed perhaps a dozen more that I've never gotten around to framing, and I honestly do intend to print and hang more, but for the sake of argument, let's round out that number to about twenty hard copies of my personal photos currently in my home.

So, if I were to die tomorrow (God forbid), there would only be twenty photos to physically "sort" through. Twenty. Out of thousands.

Now, I would like to think that by the time I die (which will hopefully not be for many, many years), there will be people I leave behind who would like very much to have the ability, as well as the opportunity, to "sort" through the tens of thousands of photos I took over my lifetime. After all, my photography is a big part of my life. It's how I choose to express myself. It could (in theory) tell someone a lot about the type of person I was.

Take. for example, the American nanny/street photographer Vivian Maier, who left behind over 100,000 negatives of her work. She never married and had no children or close friends. But based solely on the personal accounts of the few that did know her as well as intense review of her immense body of work, she is described thusly:

She was eccentric, strong, heavily opinionated, highly intellectual, and intensely private. She wore a floppy hat, a long dress, wool coat, and men’s shoes and walked with a powerful stride. With a camera around her neck whenever she left the house, she would obsessively take pictures, but never showed her photos to anyone. An unabashed and unapologetic original.

Unlike Maier (with whom I am in no way equating myself), all of my photographic "negatives" as well as those of most modern photographers, exist almost exclusively in the digital realm.

Let's assume that digital remnants such as photos are accessible and that loved ones will be able to "sift" through them, will the fact that there is nothing to hold or touch change how we think about and grieve for the deceased? Will our lives seem somehow less real? Will the sorting experience seem less emotionally visceral? And if so, what impact will that have on the grieving process in general? 

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Source: http://twistedsifter.com/videos/tribute-to...

The Ancients II

This is the second photo in my "Ancients" series. The vision of the first photo was that of an Ancient Assyrian goddess, long forgotten by the humans from which she drew her power, wandering the streets of the Middle East. Given the oft-cited belief that immortal power is drawn from mortal faith, I questioned what would become of her. 

Here, we come across her a little while later. Still present but less ethereal, having witnessed the harsh realities of the modern age. Gone is the sadness at having been forgotten by man, woman and child. She no longer mourns their lack of faith, for she is far too busy trying to keep pace with the frenetic world in which she’s found herself. 

She gapes at humanity’s seeming inability to be still. Both man and machine are in a constant state of motion, and she cannot gather her thoughts. Though it is not in her nature, this inability to center has shrouded her in a veil of anxious suspicion from which she is desperately trying to break through. And because she cannot yet be seen, she cannot ask where she might find sanctuary from the unyielding commotion that is modern humanity.

Adventures in Infrared

"Go then, there are other worlds than these..."

I loved infrared photography from the moment I saw my first photo. I had no idea what it was or how it was done, but I immediately thought "I have to learn how to do that!" I have hundreds of unprocessed photos that I've started wading through looking for some goodies. Here are two that I processed yesterday. They were taken at the Scioto Audubon Metro Park just outside of Downtown Columbus, Ohio. 

The Bizarre Reality of Dreams

Maybe it was the chili...

Do you ever wake up immediately from a dream and think "what the heck was that?" Like the rest of humanity, I am fascinated by my dreams. What they mean, what they don't mean. I can think of no other experience (aside from an illicit drug trip) where time can feel both infinite and fleeting at the same time.  Where floating seems perfectly normal and random happenings perfectly in sync. Where a passage read in the book on my nightstand flows seamlessly with a scene from the movie I watched the day before.  Where it makes perfect sense to be both indoors and outdoors at the very same time. 

Some dreams are so vivid. They aren't simply an experience, but a feeling.  Sometimes we won't remember the specifics of a dream, but we will remember how we felt while dreaming it, and that feeling stays with us, for better or for worse. Sometimes, we want our dreams to mean something so badly that we spend hours agonizing over every frame, trying desperately to make sense of the seemingly random symbology. 

Perhaps our dreams are an indulgent glimpse into our inner psyche permitted by some higher being, or maybe it's just the chili...

Gypsy

The Stranger & the Gypsy

I'm calling this photo "Gypsy." This scarf was a gift from one of my aunts at my sister's wedding a few years ago. These beautiful scarves are traditionally used in Assyrian dances and at Assyrian weddings and other celebrations but I couldn't help but conjure up images in my head of the dancing gypsy archetype so often portrayed in popular culture as I was editing. The somewhat mysterious and distrustful look in her decorated eye also played into that because of the historical persecution and forced assimilation of the Romani people.  

I imagined a young Romani woman, largely insulated from the outside world and traveling safe among her people, suddenly approached by a stranger; Someone who looks different from anyone she has ever seen.  What would she do? Would she run and hide? No. Her people do not run. They do not hide. What she doesn't realize is that she too looks unlike any other person this stranger has ever met. 

So they both just stand there, quietly assessing each other with mild suspicion on the one hand, and abject fascination on the other. 

 

The Ancients

This is called "The Ancients." I've been playing around recently with the ancient symbols and iconography of my ancestors, the Assyrians. My father (on whose side I carry this ancestory) didn't like the photo because he said I looked sad, not realizing that the evocation of sadness was intentional. 

It is sometimes said that immortal power is drawn from mortal faith and belief. I envisioned an ancient Assyrian goddess that was worshipped by thousands in centuries past, but whose name and image have now been completely forgotten. 

I tried to imagine how it would feel for her to walk along the modern streets of the Middle East, once littered with idols meant to garner her good will, and be completely ignored, her ancient divinity hidden from mortal sight. What would she do? Where would she go? Would she simply fade away?