̧My memory mellows with years. Edges lose their sharpness. Perspective changes. Try going back to your old grammar school or high school and see if the halls are the same as you remember. I'll bet they're much smaller than is the expanse of your memory. Memories are like that. They either become bigger than life or they hide themselves in the recesses of our psyche—as if they were bad kids smoking in the school bathrooms.
Photos are nothing like memories, regardless of what those horrid, old Kodak ads might tell you. They are much more clinically real, yet somehow detached. More often than not, what I recall of a person or place or specific experience is not what I actually see in an old photo.
Digging through old photos is like dancing with ghosts. While old photos might fade they never lose their edge. Some are like razors that can cut right through you. I can be sifting through a thousand images and one will make my heart stop. It pokes one of those lurking, bad kids that my mind had put away somewhere, usually for good reason. Photography is somehow an unnatural process. As much as I love it, at times it feels like sorcery.
Yet, dig through old photos I must. It's something I just do. And now that I can digitize old negatives, these old ghosts come out to play most every day. They've been released from their shoe box and are now synced to my digital world.
Sometimes my archeological digs reveal magic. Yesterday I scanned an old negative that brought back a flood of warm memories. We were in a ceramic factory in Provence back in 1995 when I came across a pottery painter in the corner of the factory floor. Basking in the light of several large windows she seemed lost in her art and in time itself. It was one of those moments of which a photographer dreams. I made a handful of images of her and even painted a watercolor based on the photo. Then the photo and the original experience got lost in my memory's shoebox. It was released last night. Now it is set free on the Internet.
While some memories are better off left in dark corners some should be savored and relished. I guess that's why I still sift through my ghosts and why I still love photography so very much.