Random Access Memories (2015-Ongoing)

Using my personal archive of family photos as a point of departure, Random Access Memories examines the intersection of memory, photography, and technology in an increasingly unstable media environment.

My family has kept a meticulous archive of photos, going back to 1890 (and further, had a fire in 1972 not destroyed a majority of the tintypes). The physical record of my family spans more than 100 years, but stops abruptly in the early 2000s as digital photography became increasingly popular. As I sorted through the photographs I was struck by the realization that most of the people staring back at me, my great-aunts and grandfathers, were complete strangers. Those memories only became real through my mother’s stories, which were imperfect retellings of the stories that had been told to her. Even as I looked into the eyes of my four year old self, I had no recollection of the scenes surrounding her. There was a distance from my own history that I wanted to confront.

Photographs have never been perfect translations of moments. The first iterations were sketchy, inscribed by light and revealed through a chemical process so they might resemble, as closely as possible, what was photographed. To be understood by human eyes, digital photographs require an additional layer of translation, resulting in two images: the one that is legible to the machine (a series of numbers, letters, and symbols) and the translated image that more closely mimics their analogue counterparts. These added layers make digital photography the most fragile iteration of the medium, and most similar to our own imperfect process of making and keeping memories.

My interest with this body of work rests on the malleability of our memories and the fragile methods by which we keep them. To explore this, I digitized my family’s archive, but disrupt the translation of those memories by meticulously editing the code and breaking down the structure of the digital file until it becomes incoherent to both machine and human eyes. The disruptions range from subtle to extreme, becoming more volatile with each retelling and translation of the file.