Friday, June 7, 2013


Memories of Trips Past
  Today, when we think of "souvenirs" we think of objects...souvenir as a pure noun.  The origin of the word is more complex however and more food for thought for the contemplative photographer.

   Originally from the Latin word subverire,  it means "to come to mind".  It made its journey into the English language through Old French in a word which came to mean "to re-call". A far cry from the trinkets we bring back from our travels, a true souvenir is a recollection, a specific memory of experience.

   As contemplative photographers we are able to collect our own, personalized souvenirs in the photographs we make on our travels.  Photographs that don't merely say, "I was here and I saw this..." but "I experienced this...", "I was impressed by that...", "I was moved (changed, inspired, overwhelmed, etc.) by this..."  They needn't be the "big" things either for true revelation is in the tiny details of a place...what most tourists over look.

   Now, as you can see by this photograph of my sitting room mantle, I am not immune to bringing back objects from my travels...a ivory figure from China, a crystal Faberge egg from St. Petersburg, Russia. (You can also see the little leather scallop shell I use to carry my tokens which I mentioned yesterday.) Some of my favorite souvenirs, however, are little found objects I bring back...a snail shell from my first escargot in France and the twin pine cones from the front porch of Thomas Merton's hermitage.  The ivory and crystal will be kept by my heirs after I'm gone I'm sure...the snail shell and the pine cones will most likely be thrown away.

   As for my photographs, those same heirs will probably puzzle about why I have no pictures they can recognize of the places I traveled Eiffel towers and no Red Square "postcards".  Ah well, perhaps they will stumble onto this blog someday and then they'll know why....


Andy Ilachinski said...

I am reminded of a well known tale about Brett Weston (to those who followed Brett's life and work) when a friend once took Brett on a 3 week trip to London. After the first and second weeks went with Brett not even taking his camera out of its case, his freind grew concerned. He waited a few more days, finally asked the obvious question (to which the obvious reply was "I have'nt seen anything.") Then, as the story goes anyway, on the next to last day, Brett "sees" some rust on the London bridge. He dashes to the hotel to retrieve his case and tripod, spends an hhour or two taking a few exposure, and contentedly and with a smile, pronounces, "I've seen London now!"
The great Brett Weston returned home to Carmel with five images of a rust on the London bridge - quite a souvenir :-)

Patricia Turner said...

Great story Andy! I would call that photograph he made of the rust on the London bridge as his "icon of the experience"!