The earliest memories I have of growing up on the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation in central Saskatchewan are of my childhood home, a blue and white trailer that sat in a farmyard, steps away from both my grandmother’s home and the home that my father grew up in. Though I have few vivid memories of life during that time, as my family moved from the trailer into a log house when I was four, I remember the essence of the place, the layout and décor, the smells and colours. I remember looking out the picture window at the yard, the late 1970’s/early 1980’s colour pallet, the floor to ceiling mirrors, green shag carpet, relatives coming over for visits, cousins and birthday parties, the eight-track player.
The trailer was removed from the yard when the new house was built. Now the only evidence of the space exists in the memory of my family and in family photo albums. Inside these photo albums are images of nostalgic remember-whens and idealized times gone by. Flipping through the pages I am transported to the spaces I inhabited as a child and in turn I am filled with a longing to revisit my childhood home.
Unable to physically return to explore the space, I transport myself digitally – a type of photographic time travel. I am performing the act of re-visitation, imagining what it might look like to explore my home untouched by time and interact with objects that no longer exist. The presence of the image of my current self in the photographs — transparent and ghost-like — imitates the way one floats through memories momentarily pausing to reflec, similar to the way one reflects on a photograph to transport them to the past.
The details of the photograph evoke feelings of nostalgia – my mother crouching down in the mirror’s reflection, the dollhouse, stuffed toys and stereo – the relics of my childhood etched in memories, some of which have survived the years.
Photographs have a way of influencing memory – in revisiting a photograph from my past, I am replacing memory with photograph, and in doing so, I question whether that which I remember is drawn from memory of a photo or memory of experience.
1. Susan Sontag, On Photography,(Picador, 2001), pg. 9
All images copyright Joi T. Arcand © 2004-2011. All rights reserved. Do not use without permission.