Myself These Years in Retrospect, A Notetaking

It seemed like a remindful aphorism to me that though years could have passed unnoticed, some memories were still as vivid as ever when being reminisced about thanks to the photographs taken before.

Photography itself is like a partially immortalized and visualized bit of time, which as a collective concept is itself hardly an accurate conceptualization; and if taken in the light of personal significance, it’s also an concept invented for the societal convenience as whole in the use of reinforcing a socio-historical consciousness to us. Time as well as history could be seen as an necessary invention that was flawed at the first place; history in general as we know it today is the history of a selected few with many critical memories and recounts of the powerless unseen, unheard, and forgotten. Thus, the impossibility of being neutral and impartial becomes almost a feature in conceptualization of time and history. It is of course a standard that could hardly be achieved but what is the most rattlingly worrying is the false perception of this notion of history and time being just and fair when it is actually not. To historicize is both to emphasize and exclude.

Though living in the same time, a senior’s feeling about time is different with that of a younger person. Because time is basically something needing to be felt, the objective concept of time is ultimately incompatible with a personal one. That’s because we simply cannot feel the same way that any other does. Moreover, with the help of photography preserving our moments, we further individualized our interpretation of our lives, liberating our being and existence from other’s interpretations because of the assumption that only we ourselves could recount about our personal experiences uncritically. Though our memories could be involuntarily distorted by the passing of time, we still have a fond impression about what had happened then. Our own personal history thus becomes our own understanding about life, yet, the one unlike any other. We need to safeguard our own rights to interpret our lives and this is made possible with the almost universal access to cameras and other photography generating machines because to remember our time is to remember the scenes and the mass availability of cameras helps democratize the ways we interpret our own memory.

Whether a year is defined as significant or not depends on the preferential interpretation by the powerful. And for so long, people define a time or a era’s signification with the help of photographical works deemed representative that we forgot so easily that without our own personal memories, there will be no collective ones at all. Ours is a visual memory that has been unseen for so long that history has almost in turn become a kind of re-constructed imagination forced by the powerful. Time is an incomplete concept, and, yet, could hardly not be. There, our preserved moments are collectively a recollection of our own imagination unlike any other.

Home, Qianjiang
It was the first summer I stayed in my hometown after entering my early twenties. Summers in one’s youth seemed to be imaginative, passionate yet filled with constant worrying about the lastingness of a season that is characterized by its hot-to-kill heat, symbolizing the ardency of man’s life in general.
Because I used to take self-portrait by camera alone, a habit I developed during years of living in Wuhan after a acquaintance took several photos of me, arousing my interest in preserving my own life in photography. ‘How precious are our living moments,’ I murmured to myself while looking at a photo of me taken years ago showing me standing between fields near a lake; In that photograph, I wore a dark-pinked shirt which I still like to wear and my eyes looking straight at the lens with a air of benignity. What was I thinking?

I took the photo with a sense of nostalgia about my previous life in the city when looking on the phone screen trying to control the camera remotely, I wore a white vest then, sitting on a bed, focusing on capturing the ephemerality of summertime. It’s a summer filled with these montaged scenes, yet, a unforgettable one.

I used to joke to myself that young people should go for bigger places because nowadays small cities have turned to be deserts of love. There were not many young people in small cities but with the rising rent prices, I, who was from a small city, could not afford the rent in a bigger one, thus, having moved back home.
I remembered I was recovering from a teeth-related condition and had contemplated solitude. Solitude, for awhile it seemed to me, is the source of kind self-regarding and self-reconstruction.

In Provincial Museum of Fine Art of Hubei.
After revisiting Chang Yu, my college classmate, in Wuhan, I headed with Chang for the Hubei Museum of Fine Art where I had toured with other friends before and found it very fit for lonely wanders like us, a kind of spiritual shelter.
Strolling in the streets of Wuhan, one could not help feeling a sense of hollowness due to the road-reconstruction plans. Yet, with a protesting banner hung before piles of dirt and noisy trucks passing by, no person walking here would not be aware of the rawness of the city life here, a brutal beauty mixed with an anticlimactic flush of noise.
Several paintings exhibited there then were about half-naked bodies of different females. He, Chang, was interested and borrowed my camera to try to capture some of those paintings. Other spectators mostly middle and senior aged were not disturbed and the museum was as elegant and quiet as ever.

Last Year before Heading for My Postgraduate Studies.

That was the first teacher’s day gift I received after working in a second language teaching facility and it was unexpected because of the naughtiness of the students I was teaching and tried hard to tame, reading educational psychology to try to find solutions but mostly in vain. The flowers were from a parent of the student who looked and behaved very fondly. I thanked the parent for the gift and it was a bit hard for me to walk in the streets back home so that I waited till very late in the night to bike home.

The black scribbles on the card she wrote wished me to be happy daily. She is kind of parent who smiles heartedly when encountering teachers; and that kind of smile of her was something I hadn’t encountered for years, and something that reminded me of my own self in earlier years after graduation, ‘the sincerity found in your smile is so powerful that it speaks a lot of who you truly are without sounds.’H.L. had said to me, referring the way I smiled. Sincerity, sure; but innocence, also. And innocence is something too fragile to preserve, let alone hold firm. It’s simply too hard.

So pitiful is that flowers could hardly be preserved forever that I had stared at the petals for about a half hour. Still it was too short a time for flower-viewing and too precious a gift I’ve received that I took a photo to try to remember this moment a bit longer.

“Why taking photos recording bare hollowness?” someone had asked questions alike.
Perhaps, I thought, it’s for the life itself. The objects in the frame were dark, doomed, looked at with a narrow angle. Under the shabby roofs in that Spring festival holiday were people living. They were not rich materially, yet, though their new year imagination might be different with that of the abundant, their lives are no smaller than any.
Beside houses were trees growing, year by year.