Photos from Another Life

By Ioana Moldoveanu

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.

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