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Memento Luke Moran-Morris

Memento Luke Moran-Morris

Foreword by

Sophia Georgiou

“Not everything worth keeping has to be useful.� Cynthia Lord

Foreword Sophia Georgiou

Luke Moran-Morris

The development of photography in the Twentieth and Twenty First Centuries

This project came about from an interest in the idea of soldiers carrying

has enhanced the strong visual culture that we experience today. Society is

photographs of their wives or girlfriends when they were sent away to war.

laden with visual media, and as a result, those photographs that individuals

They would keep these images as close to themselves as possible, sometimes

single out, and choose to attach emotional worth to, are immediately elevated

even in their helmets. I became interested in how people carry photographs of

in the eye of the spectator. These photographs are ‘thus a type of icon, or

their loved ones around with them every day. Looking into this phenomenon

visual likeness, which bears an indexical relationship to its object’1; the

I discovered that people have always carried mementos of the ones they care

referential nature of this project is heightened by the significant presence of

about; beginning long before the invention of photography with locks of hair

layers of narrative here. Photography is generally considered truthful (to some

carried in lockets and other small keepsakes. In the 18th Century, silhouette

extent) and thus here we are offered two truths, fortifying the sentiment that

lockets became very popular. These were engravings of a loved one’s profile,

we attach to photographic souvenirs and thus magnifying the sentimentality

generally kept in a locket around the neck.

of these images. The narratives that are evident here amplify the snapshot at the centre of these pictures, the personal preservation of an ephemeral

The invention of photography allowed people to carry a much fuller

moment that one attaches to souvenirs.

representation of their chosen person; many people carrying a locket with a picture of their loved one on one side and themselves on the other. The sentiment however stayed the same; they were a token of the person, not so much photographs in themselves. These photographs eventually transported themselves from lockets into people’s wallets. With the invention of cameraphones we now see people carrying around a photograph of someone close to them as the background image on their mobile.

Krauss, Rosalind ‘Notes on the Index, Part 1’ Art in Theory 1900-2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas ed. Harrison, Cahrles and Paul Wood (Malden; Oxford; Victoria: Blackwell Publishing, 2003) 997 1

The nature of Memento dictates that not only do we experience double

The photographs in this book are ‘double portraits’. They offer both a portrayal

portraits in the images selected, but also double edits, and importantly,

of the person holding the photograph as well as the person in the photograph

narratives that appear threefold with each subject. Narrative enables

they are holding. Through this double portrait we are given indications as

individuals to attach sentimentality to the souvenir; this is exemplified within

to the relationship between these two people. The majority of photographs

this book and by our consideration of the photograph as a souvenir:

people have shown me are very much ‘snapshots’. They are not concerned with technical aspects; the image may be out of focus, red eyed, the composition

‘The silence of the photograph, its promise of visual intimacy at the expense of

may be awkward etc. It seems that perhaps these photographs are chosen

the other senses, makes the eruption of that narrative, the telling of its story,

as they hold more ‘truth’ about the person in their unpretentious roughness.

all the more poignant. For the narration of the photograph will itself become

However this does not detract from the person’s attachment to this photo as a

an object of nostalgia.’1

representation of a loved one. It doesn’t matter, as long as that image conjures up the feelings and memories associated with that person then it has achieved

The additional narratives imposed upon these photographs in the context

its purpose; being a trigger to remember that person by - just like a lock of hair

of this book therefore elevate the emotive worth of the photographs.


Furthermore, the heightened presence of narrative in this context develops our understanding of the owner of the photograph as an authorial figure; the

These photos show a wide variety of relationships. It is interesting to see whom

characters and the narratives prescribed to the photographs are an extension of

people choose to keep close to them every day.

the person in ownership. Simultaneously exposing the author and the subject in this way generates a sense of intimacy with the viewer that in the context of the layers that are present within this project provokes intrigue and appeal.

Stewart, Susan On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (1993) Duke University Press pp.138 1

The context in which we engage with the subjects of these photographs

The act of approaching complete strangers in the street and asking to see a

eliminates our sense of the ‘stranger’ somewhat, rather, the book in many

personal photograph of theirs is a disconcerting one, and many people were

respects is a memento itself. The re-presentation of these photographic

initially reluctant to listen to what I had to say. However, after I had a chance

souvenirs in photographs in a book encourages a tactile relationship with the

to explain my intentions the people that were interested were very willing to

images, not dissimilar to their original functions.


Indeed, mementos are symbolic of modern life, enabling us to ascribe

Though these strangers showing us these photographs we are offered an

individuality where ordinarily we are confined to mass culture. This sentiment

insight into their lives and personal experiences that we would never have been

is particularly flagrant in the photographic souvenir, ‘often attached to

exposed to otherwise. They allow us to see someone in the street as not just an

locations and experiences that are not for sale.’1 By allowing us access to the

object to avoid but actually as a person with a back-story of some kind.

photographic souvenirs of others, Memento magnifies the potency of the memento in our society by demonstrating the narrative potential of images

These photos show a strong human quality in the complete strangers that

that out of context dissolve into the mass of visual media available today. The

I have photographed; you don’t normally see people open up to you on the

layers of narratives here enable us to focus our attention on those individual

street. But when these people show their most intimate possessions to you and

‘chosen’ photographs, reminding us of the humanity of the souvenir and the

your camera a variety of emotions are apparent on their faces. Alongside the

personal importance of such photographs in society today.

photographs the people have explained whom this picture is of as well as the story behind it. This adds to the connection and gives you some context in which to place the images. The photographs in this book are about a memento that reminds the viewer of a stranger’s humanity.

Stewart, Susan On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (1993) Duke University Press pp.138 1

“This is my daughter Elise, she’s going on ten and she’s having a great time.”

“We’ve just moved to London and I’m documenting everything were doing. This was our first tube trip.”

“I went rummaging through the house, through all the cupboards and stuff.

cupboards died When he died when I was fourteen I kinda wanted a picture of him.�

“Taken this morning on a trip to the British Museum.”

“This little keepsake reminds me of my best friend Billy.�

“It’s a picture of my dad, It’s his driving licence. I’ve had it since 2003”

“The photo is of my husband.

Taken in the 70’s when we first met”

“I carry it about in my briefcase and look at it on trips, when I’m over-seas.”

“A lady-friend of mine who I met in um, September-ish. We took some photographs. Its nice to have a memory of when you met someone.�

“This is my daughter Holly getting her doctorate at Manchester University about two years ago.�

“They’re my two little sisters, Sophie and Keeley.

My wallet’s normally empty, so that’s the one thing that cheers me up when I look in it.”

“I’d call it a cheesy photo basically.”

“My Grandfather in WW1. My father used to carry the original around in his wallet and I’ve now acquired it.

“Well I’m Emma, and that’s Imogen, and it’s a photo of the two of us on holiday in Greece.”

“My name is Nails and I’ve carried this around since it was given to me twelve years ago when I first left the circus in Boston.”

“My daughter Ellie who is eleven and autistic.�

“The baby’s due in six weeks.”

“The photograph is of my daughter Hayley, it’s about four years old.”

“I carry a photo of my ex-girlfriend Joanna,

I mean ... I haven’t found anyone new at the moment�

“The photo is of my friend’s wife who shares the same birthday as myself. We just had a little party.”

“I’m a photographer, I mainly shoot glamour.”

“This is my cat Tao, he’s was rescued about five years ago so we’ve had him since then and love him to bits.”

“They’re both of my son, I’ve had them in my bag for about seven or eight years.”

“She’s a friend I knew from back home in Oxford. She drew it for me and wrote a little message on the back.”

“It’s from my mothers funeral service six months ago.”

“The photo’s of my best friend at our sixth form ball, she’s kind of just being a bit silly, and I’ve carried it on me for five years.”

“I always say that I don’t want to be sentimental, that the photographs shouldn’t be sentimental, and yet, I am conscious of my sentimentality.”

Robert Frank

Acknowledgements I would like to thank first and foremost all of the people that allowed me an insight into their personal lives when I stopped them in the street and photographed them for this project. Thank you for your generosity and openness.

Special thanks to Sophia Georgiou for her input and enthusiasm. Andy Shrubsole & Madeleine Moran for their suggestions and thoughts. Paul Jenkins, Charlie Murphy & Hainsley Brown for their tuition and support. Finally, to Madge Nicholson for everything.

All photographs by Luke Moran-Morris 2010-2011

An intriguing insight into the lives of strangers who through a memento reveal some personal sentiment in a public place.


The act of keeping a reminder of someone on you at all time interests me. I went out in the street and asked strangers if they carried a pho...

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