New East Digital Archive

As long as we’ve had the ability to take photographs, photographers have been messing with their images: scratching the surface of negatives, making photos deliberately blurry, manipulating the subject beyond recognition in Photoshop. The reasons for doing this aren’t always to do with aesthetics.

Photography is the art of preservation. Usually, we want to savour every moment and collect these memories on our devices, so they don’t disappear from our minds.

If we photograph so we don’t forget — how can photography reveal the pains of remembering?

This photo by Nino-Ana Samkharadze is dedicated to a past relationship. It shows an ex who’s face has been delicately obscured by a flower. Samkharadze told me she’d returned to this image, the day she realised she couldn’t remember his voice. “I felt a sadness at this. At some point you are in love and remember every little detail about this other person, but then comes the day when you start to forget.”

Looking through her old things, she’d found not only this photo but a flower he’d given her. “I felt a wave of emotions — all the memories, feelings, songs from that time, suddenly came rushing back.”

She wanted to share the frustration she felt at forgetting someone she loved, without destroying the image. The tulip does not interfere with or take away from the photo. It appears, instead, as a reminder of the love and care of the relationship. The photo isn’t exactly about failure. I think it’s also about kindness and the bravery of letting go.

Some people are only meant to be in our lives temporarily. Samkharadze’s ongoing series My Love as Herbarium, is exactly about how fleeting human connection often is. “I have been working on this series for the last six years. The portraits include my ex lovers, friends, people whom I met randomly, my boyfriend (who I hope will never become an ex).”

She explains why this project is about much more than the act of forgetting. “At some point I realised, what was more important to me was what i learned from them, what memories I kept, and how they influenced my life. All these people changed me in a way, that’s the reason they have ended up in the project.”

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