The Burden of Memory

John Trotter

"With the loss of memory the continuities of meaning and judgment are also lost to us. The camera relieves us of the burden of memory. It surveys us like God, and it surveys for us."

From About Looking by John Berger

On one of the first spring days of 1997, while I was photographing in a Sacramento, California neighborhood, a half-dozen young men beat, kicked and stomped me nearly to death. When I began to re-surface about a week later, I found myself residing in Sierra Gates, a quiet, pine-paneled brain injury treatment facility, not quite clear on how I had arrived there or even why I was there at all. In the two months that followed I would take the first unsteady steps I needed to take to rebuild my life, which would include actually re-learning how to walk. I even needed to re-learn how to remember.

Six months after my release, as an exercise with my speech therapist, I began to return to Sierra Gates to photograph. Having been attacked because I was a photographer I needed, as much as anything else, to learn to be a photographer again. But I had taken pictures there for about a year before I learned that I was trying to photograph my own completely altered experience of life.

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