“A picture is a secret about a secret.
The more it tells you the less you know.”
Diane Arbus

Although I do think that the mystery of some images makes for a better photograph, a better story, I have been thinking about how I want less secrets; how I want more out of the “snapshot”.  You know, those images that could end up in a shoe box somewhere… the images that my dad would occasionally pull down upon the mentioning of a particular place or person. I don’t know about you but when I look back at an image from years prior, from a moment I thought I could never forget, details can become hazy, things change.  It’s amusing to me that my family and I can have a completely different (and equally assertive) recollection of what preceded the shutter and what came right after!  Because of this (and my sentimentality) I often think about how I can enhance the memory part of an image. How can I utilize photography to capture more than just a single moment?  I want an entire experience to stay as fresh as when it was captured.

I think I realized just how bad my short-term memory is when my daughter first started talking and having these amazingly imaginative conversations. It took only a few forgotten chats for me to realize I had to write them down or better yet, photograph them somehow. This image below of her holding a leaf, “Jumpy 2”, could have easily become just another few megabytes in storage. Similarly, if I read this anecdote without the image I wouldn’t remember what it was all about! “Who’s Jumpy Two?! This is crazy! What??” But by adding a simple little conversation with the image, my memory is complete. I remember her getting off of her bicycle, running back to pick up this lone leaf, placing it sweetly in her wicker basket, and taking it home to reunite it with its family. Snapshot/story turned priceless-mother’s-treasure.

Text is one way my memory is triggered.  I also like to use multiple images to make a more complete memory. Take for example this first portrait of my daughter below.  I love this portrait but without the  additions in the second image beneath it, I would not have remembered the entire moment.  I think, perhaps, that I would have remembered her posing in front of one of my favorite settings instead of remembering her frolicking about, singing and laughing in her own world, unaware of the camera.

I don’t know if years from now I would remember that this wasn’t a moment I created but instead one that was witnessed. Would I overlook the toy she held behind her back? That little stuffed animal was actually the reason for her elation. Years in the future I will be able to recount why this portrait is so funny, so dear. I will remember my mother buying this stuffed animal earlier this day then laughing as she watched Twila prance about wildly. Adding small edits like the names on the doors will further remind me that my daughter gave this Clifford {The Big Red Dog} the name “Cliffa” because it was female. Who knew Clifford could be female?! This photograph has become a catalyst for me to remember so much more than just this single moment – it’s the before and the after! With editing, secrets and questions can fade rather than my memory.

In this next example, you can see my aunt, Pachy, fluttering about collecting twigs and shells, dipping her feet into the ocean then running away. Our friend, Nolfa wanders more pensively, slowly admiring her surroundings. I can even see me and remember observing, thinking about what wonderful company I was in, soaking everything in, choosing to collect memories instead of seashells.

When I see this image I see them at their most honest. I see their personalities and then notice the beauty around them. I remember why we were there. I think about how this place was swept away just a short two years later with the tsunami. For me, it’s a priceless memory. By adding more to the image I also feel like the viewer knows more about them…can tell more about this one moment. Ohhh, how I love photography and all the undiscovered secrets it still has to whisper.

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Thanks to Urban Muser and the rest of the Muses for letting me participate in this inspiring place.  Should you care to read more from me or see some of my photos please do!  I’d love to meet you through Instagram {@anikatoro}.  And you can find me blogging at Pasando, collaborating with Urban Muser here, and selling my artwork here

Until next time, happy shooting!

~Anika Toro