Memory Waka

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The Event Horizon: Returning “After the Fact”

Donna West Brett and Ann Shelton


“Trauma is a disorder of memory and time. This is why in his early writings Sigmund Freud used the metaphor of the camera to explain the unconscious as the place where bits of memory are stored until they are developed, like prints from black and white negatives, into consciously accessible recollections.” The relationship between the photographic impulse to record events in the landscape and how those events are viewed in the “here now” unfolds across complex
layers of meaning that engage with artistic, philosophical, and theoretical positions on photography in relation to memory, trauma, time, and history. What is the association between trauma and time, between the photographic image, the past and the present? This article examines how the photographic might relate to concepts of trauma, and how those subjects are expressed in relation to landscape from a contemporary position. Psychoanalysis advocates remembering (perhaps for the first time) an event as part of therapeutic process, and often one visits a site as an aid to memory, whether this is an individual or collective memory. Hence, this article will also explore the testimonial potential of the photographic image and reflect on how it can act as an indexical marker of past events.