September 22, 2023


Connecting Asian writers with global readers

Essay: The Photograph As a Memento mori by Harsahej Mann

2 min read

Harsahej Mann’s essay takes us behind the emotions, memories, and stories behind photographs.

A photo is passive, static and myopic, a moment turned tactile by the flash of a camera. It is the sepia story of our lives, passively relegated to the annals of our personal history by a device of our own invention. A polaroid photograph is a succinct enumeration of instantly hoarding frozen moments in piles of slick frames functioning as odes to the many yesterdays that we constantly abandon to grace the aureate pavilions of the future. Perhaps innate nostalgia coupled with the urge to reminisce a moment almost as soon as it passes, have made the quintessential photograph indispensable. Although we scarcely realise it, a photograph is both a celebration as well as an elegiac representation of a dying moment. A photo successfully captures the last vestiges of a quivering moment, tremulously fluttering on the cusp of death yet resuscitated by the glinting flash of a camera. 

We scarcely ever realise that our framed moments of Joie de vivre are also a panoply of memento moris: momentous moments doomed to die nascent deaths on walls and mantelpieces. A framed picture is a stark reminder of the ravages of time and the inevitability of its fatal passage, a visible attempt to both immortalise and salvage our waning mortality. Our Instagram handles are so many examples of dead memories kept alive by technology’s benediction. The flash of a camera encompasses a dazzling celebration, yet it also heralds silent darkness, all the more impenetrable and starkly blacker in the aftermath of the festive jubilance of the transitory flicker of the flash of our camera. 

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