Have you ever stopped to ask yourself the question: “How do I view the past?” Before today I would have thought to answer with the saying, “Well hindsight is 20/20” or “Well, in order to get where I am I had to experience what came before,” or “my past has helped to shape my present.” But after today I will answer: “In black, white and sepia.”
In college I had a friend who was colorblind. Of course, I, as well as many of my classmates, would torture him with questions he’s heard all of his life, “what color am I? what color is this? how does blue look to you? what do you mean grey? so you know what grey looks like?” All of the questions that immediately took us back to grade school, filled with wonder and astonishment that our friend couldn’t fully take in all of the breathtaking colors around him, seem a little silly in retrospect, but questions lead to answers, new perspectives and even more questions (right?). Our sense of sight and the processes our brains go through to interpret each image before us is mind boggling to me. So when I went to The Met today with Kyla I was confronted with the answer to a question I didn’t even know I had.
I see the past in black, white and sepia.
Walking through the exhibit “Photography and the American Civil War” this epiphany came into my mind so suddenly I dug in my purse to find pen and paper to write it to down. When you think about it, it kind of makes sense doesn’t it? After all most historical archives we have are in black, white, browns, and creams because photos were not mass produced with color until the mid 20th century. But why, even with this knowledge, is it hard for me to connect the ideas that all that came before was just as vibrant, colorful and rich as it is today? In fact, wouldn’t it be more so? after all, there were fewer buildings blocking sunlight and fewer pollutants in the air pre-Industrial Revolution. But I feel that I may be going slightly off topic.
While thinking of history in black and white seems normal, it’s difficult for me to experience my own past experiences in color. When I think of my own memories, the other senses enrich the moments: what song was playing, the show on the television, the perfume or lotion on the person’s clothes, how the air felt outside that day, color rarely comes into play when remembering important moments in my life. I can’t help but wonder if this is my way of immortalizing these experiences because of my love of old black and white movies, or if my mind just works this way naturally without any influence from me? (talking in circles ahhh).
This is what I love about going to museums, by looking to the past I am able to take stock of my own life and plug into the thoughts kept silent by the urban rhythms of New York. *sigh* definitely a good day!