D is for Documentation

| May 5, 2014

As we’ve discussed at length, documentation can be as useful as it is problematic when chronicling an experience. The popular adage “pix or it didn’t happen” perfectly encapsulates this sentiment; we have a compulsory urge to record an experience, event, or memory in order to prove to ourselves and others that yes, this did happen, and someone deemed it important enough to mark its occurrence and preserve it for future consideration. However, documentation can be highly subjective and potentially misleading depending on what is being documented, by whom, and what kind of meaning the documenter attaches to it. There’s an interesting photography exhibit currently on at the Met, “Now You See It: Photography and Concealment“, which deals with this dichotomy. By featuring works in an inherently documentary medium (i.e. photographs), but deliberately focused on concealing certain elements, or revealing that which is normally undocumented, the exhibit stimulates some interesting thoughts about what a chronicler may include or omit when documenting something, and what motivates him or her to do so. (Also, there’s a “no photos” sign in that gallery, which I find rather ironically funny).