Our post-lecture discussion of the everyday led, circuitously, to everyday images. At one point I mentioned my sense of loss resulting from the disappearance, in the midst of one of life’s traumatic upheavals, of most of my collection of 35mm colour transparencies, which dated back as far as my teens and included my undergraduate days, much of my archaeology career, a handful of exes, some travels and much besides.

I have clear memories of many of the images on those transparencies, memories which of course include not only the “frozen moment” captured on Agfacolor or Ektachrome but different snatches of time either side of that fossilised 60th of a second at f8. Are those memories different to the image? Better than the image? An extension of the image? Or are they somehow lessened by the lack of something tangible to which to anchor them?

Bob told of a photograph, an only print now destroyed, of his father holding him when he was a child. He feels that his memory of the image is so strong and clear that he doesn’t need the snapshot to recall it and the importance of what it depicted.

Yet I, despite being able to describe to you many of those lost-for-ever photographs, nevertheless continue to mourn their destruction. Perhaps as an over-reaction I now keep my last 20 years-worth of photographic negatives in a safety deposit box, and back up my digital images not just once but thrice, with one hard drive locked away in the same deposit box!

The importance of the physicality of photographs is surely demonstrated by people’s defacement of them, by the almost violent excision of a no-longer-loved one, the scratching or obliteration of a despised face, the almost-ritual tearing up of ¬†photographs of an ended relationship, the turning of a photograph to the wall…

This ramble is all very shallow, and I know many have thought hard and written copiously about what photography is and does. So I have to look much more deeply into the relationship between memory and memento, and remembered and tangible images, for the three-dimensional objects I am researching were often called “images” in the nineteenth century. They were also referred to as “figures,” echoing perhaps the use of the word to describe two-dimensional book illustrations as well as three dimensional human bodies.