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False Memory

Artist Statement

“The documentary nature of photography is one of its fundamental characteristics, though not its only one, for since its conception this art form has also transformed our vision of the world, leading us also into the realm of fiction.” [1]

From the description of the nature of photography above, we understand that photography does not only have the function of a documentary, it can also be a fiction. The photographer can be a liar; he/she appropriates the documentary nature of photography in their artificial photographs to construct their fake ‘realities’. The audiences may be blindfolded forever. This circumstance occurs very commonly. It is not easy to be controlled and avoided over images and communication technologies nowadays.

Indeed, not all photographers are liars. On the contrary, audiences can also be liars. How can we say in this way? We can analyse this through the attitudes of the viewers while they are looking at a photograph. The audiences may mix-up documentaries, memories and wishes; or even put the reflections of their desires onto a photograph. Their expectancies can probably be very different from reality.

Then, what is the meaning of memory? The memory means the power or process of reproducing or recalling what has been learned and retained, primarily through associative mechanisms. They are past events they have happened before. Its situation of ‘past tense’ is closed to the characteristic of photography. It is because they are also the imprints of past events. We can fabricate photograph, we can also fabricate memory. But, there are differences between them. For photography, it is no doubt that the photographed one has appeared in front of a camera. Still, the fabricated ‘memory’ may never appear. This is a False Memory, a construction that is based on the sources of wishes and desires. For the audience, in this case, the meaning of false memory may be higher than the meaning of the photographed ones.

I criticise the labyrinth between documentary and memory, through the appropriation of the characteristics of photography. I also want to arouse the question that memory can be a fake one.

Wai Kit Lam

Hong Kong


[1] Heilbrun, Francoise & Bajac, Quentin, Orsay - Photography, trans. Carmela Uranga (Paris 2000, 2003), p.9.

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