I’ve been thinking about the idea of “recollection” for awhile now, specifically because of my design school thesis work. I created a series of nonlinear stories and, later, when I looked at what I had made, I realized they were about how we remember and how we situate our own stories in our own contexts. I’ve been revisiting it lately — trying to parse nostalgia and recollection, trying to see how recollection fits into my life and work while still moving forward.
I’m curious though, for you, outside of art or design, do you feel recollection, with its accuracies and inaccuracies, shapes your day-to-day life? Are nostalgia and recollection the same thing? What do you feel you’re still recollecting?
I love your thesis. I think about it often! I appreciated how it waltzed between how we tell stories, how we carry them, and how we consume them. To answer your question; I have been thinking about recollection in the context of how I spend time with the people I love, I am trying to Recollect and also Re-collect all the time. I have found that my life is just a series of interactions and reactions. I think recollection is an action and nostalgia is the emotional response to that action. We collect, we recollect when triggered and nostalgia results. That cycle happens to me in micro-moments every day and also in huge life shifting seasons of my life. This current season of my life has been a series of big life changes all while living in my hometown for a few months. Being in this little town while surging forward into a new time in my life has forced me to organize my identity into who I am, who I want to be, what I am trying to learn, and what I have learned. Every interaction is a practice session for that organization and every reaction is a chance for me to reinforce and support what I am hoping to become and the work I want to put out into the world.
You and I had dinner a couple weeks ago where we were talking about our favorite memories together. That dinner was huge for me because I realized that we were all marking time by telling stories of memories that feel so far away. Do you think we recollect for a reason? Do you think we can only recollect things in the past? Do you recollect moments that haven’t yet happened in your life, but the idea of them feels so powerful it feels like it has already happened? Do you curate your own personal recollections?
That dinner was so good because it was illuminating to see what each of us remembered and recollected as notable moments in our friendship — some of them were similar, but others were things I don’t remember as anything more than a normal day. Maybe that’s why they were so good, so many of them were normal days spent growing up with each other.
I don’t know if I’m recollecting moments that have haven’t yet happened, as much as I am trying to recollect how I used to think my current experiences would be happening, or how they would feel, so I can compare them with the current. You know, like when your friend describes their new home, and your conjure how the rooms look, and you organize how they live there, and then later when you see it for real, you have to recontextualize how they live in that space with the new information? They keep their bananas on the counter, instead of the top of the frig. I do that every time I move homes, but I also do it with the more grand fantasies of the directions my life could have gone, or people that would have loved me back, or the choices I would have had access to. It’s not so much me still wanting those fantasies, but me constantly trying to remember what I wanted and questioning why I wanted it in the first place — and to see if I learned anything. I think I must have. So yes, I think if we recollect for a reason, we recollect to make sense.
Is recording for recollection ever a conscious goal with your photography? Do you use your older personal photography to recollect, or to make sense of the past? You and I have talked about taking photos of and for bad days too, like leaving flags for the future, do you feel that process is still beneficial or healthy for you?
Whoa. Your description of how expectation morphs into reality is really beautiful. That recontextualizing is sometimes so jarring! I think recollecting to make sense is a pretty important function of recollecting. I would agree with that function.
Hmm. My photos. I think for my own personal photography I document for recollection. I think I collect and if the later version of looking through those is to recollect, then, yep. I do. But when I take people out on a shoot or they hire me, my goal is to give them an experience they will remember. Maybe that is curating their future recollection?
Taking photos on bad days is still so important to me and a driver in my work. Life is moving, stories are being built, time is passing, and it’s our job to bare witness to that. If we cannot in that moment because it’s too heavy or too much, that is okay. But when we can handle it, I believe we should look it straight in the face and carry it with us. I have thought for a long time that it is important to see people in their happiest and lightest moments so when the dark water sets in and they are at their worst we can see them there. I think having my good days reflected back to me and my bad days documented is part of my fabric.
Who recollects in a way you admire? What are your thoughts on recollecting people? You carry your grandmother in so many of the things you do, how do you recollect her? How do you want to be recollected? Do you even want that? Do I get to recollect you? (don’t answer that, I think that was just me having a mini freak out that I will be without you some day and that freaked me out. Okay. I’m back now…whew). Do you think there is a drawback to recollecting?
I like that you said “having my good days reflected back to me and my bad days documented,” you and I have talked about the weird preoccupation with authenticity online where the bad days should be shared in detail, or otherwise you’re fake and inauthentic, but like we don’t owe anyone beyond maybe a private documentation for ourselves.
When it comes to recollecting other people, I struggle between wanting to honor and always wanting to move on — to constantly cut ties with anyone who doesn’t move me forward. I’m not sure if that’s self-preservation or selfishness. There are people I love that I lost (like my grandmother) but others I’ve loved and lost and am still unsure of where to put the messy parts. There is danger in recollecting hurt and I never know where the line is between indulging and healing. Or are they the same thing?
Do you think of grief as an act of recollection? Is there ever a point where you make yourself stop remembering and recollecting? Do you think you ever choose to look at things with the rose-colored glasses, in the context of grief and loss?
This is such a powerful conversation to have with you. May is my month of recollection; I have a couple pretty big death anniversaries this month. Usually this month is tough and I look around at all the people I have walking around in my life and I feel a constant sense of anxiety that they will all die this month. BUT I’m trying to embrace the recollection this year, trying to get it be heavy but also let it wrap me up and let me miss the people I miss.
Your shedding of people or cutting ties hits close to home for me. I get that. I think we are all in the process of collecting, movement and recollecting. In my opinion, one of the biggest holes humanity falls into is thinking that letting go is failure to succeed.
The line between indulging and healing. Mmmmhm. Yep! Totally. I would love to hear if you think that line is important to self-growth or if it just makes us aware. Maybe we cover that over coffee next week? Xo.
One thing I think recollecting brings out of people is the connection that it fosters when we recollect together or ‘outloud’. You do such a good job of asking me questions and letting me find my ground while recollecting, I always feel lighter and more empowered after my recollecting happens as breath and words. Whew.
I love you K. Thank you for letting me do this with you. I’m endlessly proud of you.