How do we remember? | Sydney Pet Photographer

"We all look through family albums. We all hear stories at the dinner table. ... They become incorporated into what we believe we actually remember." — Scott Fraser

If you have read the “about” page, I started with a quote by “G W F Hegel” as I believe nothing in our lives is too mundane to be documented and remembered - something I’m passionate about, taking the ordinary and presenting it extraordinarily (as in my interview with Four & Sons).

How often do we all remember our simple everyday moments? The truth is, we do not. These are lost forever according to Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics, Daniel Kahnemen, in his talk at TEDx.

So what is memory? How do you keep memories? What moments are important that you should remember and pass it onto your future generations? How much of your memories can you trust that are real? How much of the details (sight, sounds, smells) from simple everyday moments can you remember or want to remember?

As Daniel Kahnemen explained:

“Memory is the storage of the past, storage of personal experiences. It’s a big deal. We tend to confuse memories with real experience that gave rise to memories.”

To understand memory, we need to understand that there are two selves:

“... experiencing self who lives in the present who’s capable of re-living the past. The remembering self who keeps score and maintains the story of our life - the storyteller.”
“We don’t only tell stories when we set out to tell stories. Our memory tells us stories - what we keep from our experiences is a story.

So back to simple everyday moments. Most of moments in our life are 3 seconds long -  600 Million seconds in a life - 600,000 seconds a month. Most of them don’t leave a trace. Most of them are completely ignored by the remembering self. Yet somehow you get the sense that they should count, that these moments are our life.

Since we don’t remember our simple everyday moments, we don’t necessarily know whether what we remember is real or not.

So, why is this important? Unless we are avid documenters of our lives, we can never remember or recall whether our parents wrote with their left hand and held the knife with their right; a simple daily moment of sitting at the same spot nearly at the same time with your pet; various stages of your pet’s life from puppyhood to senior. Don’t wait for special events like weddings, first born, near end of life of a pet, to document your story.

The thing is, we remember/ recount/ recreate fragments of our memories based on the experiences we want to actively remember. However, with time, memory fails. And these fragments became more fragmented.

Here’s something that I believe in - an except at a TEDx talk by US Memory Champion and Science Journalist Joshua Foer -

“Our lives, are the sum of our memories. How much are we willing to lose?
By not paying attention to the human beings who is sitting across from us talking to us, by being so lazy that we are not willing to process deeply.
There are incredible memorable capacities latent in all of us.
If you want to lead a memorable life, you have to be the kind of person who remembers to remember.”

Whether you keep a journal of daily accounts or visual snaps, write poems to remember your story, or hire a professional photographer to document your life, we are all responsible for keeping our memories alive so our story can be passed onto the future generations. It’s what defines who we are - gives context to our memories, our life, our relationships.

If you’re interested to hear what the experts say about memories and everyday moments,

And if you’re interested in learning more about what I can do to help you document your story visually, contact me.

The following images were taken by my Dad (© TT Koh) : 1) the family took a short holiday in Melbourne when I graduated from Monash University and horse riding was one of the activities; 2) my cousins with one of our family dogs; and 3) dogs and kids at play (guess who was in the white hot pants!)