Accepted paper:

Mapping Berlin: Memories in the Present Moment


Holly Gilbert (The British Library)

Paper short abstract:

Photography is inextricably linked with loss and memory. The moment captured in a photograph is over as soon as the shutter closes and the enduring picture reminds us of this. My visual project uses photography to investigate how memories of the past can impact on our experience of the present.

Paper long abstract:

Photography is inextricably linked with memory, a photograph freezes a moment in time and holds it in an eternal present. The quality of photography as a trace of reality makes it a particularly good medium to mediate the relationship between memories of trauma and the generations that follow, according to theories of postmemory. In this paper I will discuss my use of photography as a method of examining how I relate to my ninety-one-year-old grandmother's childhood memories of Berlin before she was forced to leave as a Jewish teenager in 1933. My autoethnographic research uses photography as a visual methodology to investigate what happens to memories as they are passed down the generations, in particular how they affect my own relationship with the city space of Berlin in the present. Walking around the city listening to recordings of our conversations about the time my grandmother spent in Berlin allowed me to immerse myself in its past while seeing its present through the lens of my camera. Being aware of the powerful relationship between photography and memory, as a photographic practitioner I am using photography in a conscious way to confront the experiences of my own family members in the past. I hope to make visible by my photographic acts my relationship with past events of the city of Berlin and the individual and collective memories that haunt it.

panel V06
Photography as a research method