Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann:
His drawling voice, his wrinkled face, the gap between the front teeth—Cy is right here. Cy, who hated to be photographed, is still vivid in my memory. I hardly have any pictures of him, although he gave me this one that Robert Rauschenberg made of him at Black Mountain College, and showed me where he wanted it placed on my desk.
I am convinced that the reason I can remember him so clearly and in such detail is because I have so few pictures of him. That’s unusual in itself, in this era of ubiquitous camera phones, but imagine a time a mere 170 years ago, when there was no mechanical way to preserve a face, an important experience, or the beauty of the natural world.
Before the invention of photography, significant moments in the flow of our lives would be like rocks placed in a stream: impediments that demonstrated but didn’t diminish the volume of the flow and around which accrued the debris of memory, rich in sight, smell, taste, and sound. No snapshot can do what the attractive mnemonic impediment can: when we outsource that work to the camera, our ability to remember is diminished and what memories we have are impoverished.