Photos from Another Life
Oct 11 2012
Sometimes pictures can change how we see the world and the people in it. This happened to me a few days ago, when I received a link for an amateur photography blog called Almostmemories. It features pictures of family moments and vacations from 1960 to 2011. I obsessively scrolled through the site for hours, engaged and enthralled by all of these private scenes caught on film. Curious to find out where these pictures came from, I talked to the creator of the blog, a Romanian man who insisted on remaining anonymous.
VICE: Hi, why do you insist on being anonymous?
Almostmemories: I want you to focus on the pictures, not on the people behind them. My name or the names of the people in the pictures don’t really matter, that’s why I only post them with the location and date. The selections aren’t chosen to be negative or derogatory towards the subjects. I hope the people who sometimes recognize themselves in the pictures will understand.
How did you get these photos?
I found a box filled with negatives and photos in front of my apartment building five or six years ago. Since then, I began collecting snapshots, though it felt more like I was gathering them for something specific. The way I get them is very different from how a collector would do it; it involves more serendipity and happenstance. I find them on the street or sometimes strangers will give them to me. Even when the photos are a gift, I consider that I found them by accident, because I never really searched for them to begin with. Since I started the blog, I have also received a lot of submissions that I have added to my personal archive and to the site.
So how do you decide what photos to include on your site?
I wanted to find some visual artifacts of daily life and of our common history. With the intention of highlighting the recent past, I used images taken between the 60s to today, using strictly amateur, personal photos of families and friends. I used those kinds of pictures that we keep in boxes and drawers, that we forget about, or that we often unfortunately lose or stop taking. I didn’t search for explicitly artistic works.
Are you a voyeur?
Voyeurism is a given, inevitable and partially assumed. But I wouldn’t say this is a defining feature of such an archive, because I see the lives of others in the way they consciously chose to capture and show it. Years ago, I realized that my family rarely took pictures, once every five years or so. For a long time, I selfishly “needed” these pictures; I tried to use them as surrogates for periods of my life that I hadn’t documented myself. The commonality, the simplicity, and the sincerity of the moments captured allowed me to feel as if I were present when the picture was taken.
Why didn’t you share them untill now?
I made them public when I stopped using them as substitutes for my own absent personal photographs. I realized their potential and wished to keep their individual sincerity while also incorporating them in a personal project for myself. After a while, I realized that conceptualizing them into a personal “project” was boring and didn’t work. I told myself that, if I loved these images so much, I should just pass them on to others the same way that I received them, with no pretense or trace of my artistic hand.
What’s so special about amateur pictures?
Fine art photography is always aiming for a distinct end result and the desire to achieve that result can sometimes become a burden. Amateur images lack an artistic approach and method; it finds its strengths and successes in its pure democratic functionality. Amateur photography allows you to objectively document how the world is.
Do you intend to do more with them than a blog?
Maybe at some point I will make some of them in postcards that I can send out. That way I can sort of continue them on their way.
See more photos at Almostmemories.
The Real: The Real 'True Detective'?
We Asked Three Doctors How Illegal Drugs Affect Your Sperm
OK, So I Have a Drinking Problem
Photos of Beer, Beards, and Broken Heroes at Oktoberfest
The Story Behind Nas's 'Illmatic' Is Almost as Great as the Album Itself
We Met the World's Leading Authority on Bootleg Bart Simpson T-Shirts
The Story of Dakota Joe, a Jailbird on the Appalachian Trail
The US Prison System Is Shrinking, but Very, Very Slowly
Meeting the Man Who Cared for Survivors of Anders Behring Breivik's Killing Spree in Oslo
The Alternative Miss World Beauty Pageant Prefers Bitchy Quips to Bikinis