Memory Keeping in Jeffersonville, NY

Memory Keeping in Jeffersonville, NY

Sometimes when I’m doing something other than riding around looking at stuff and taking pictures – I wonder what riding around looking at stuff and taking pictures is really all about. Why are there 4,000 photos on my iPhone? Why do I take pictures of inanimate objects like buildings, wall murals, old barns, fiberglass dragons? What’s the point of it all? It’s a one way relationship, there is no exchange. This “thing,” whatever it is, gives something to me and then I go on my way.

Jeff Bowling Alleys – Velvet Ice Cream, Soft Drinks, Lunch, Beer

Recently I was in Jeffersonville, New York. While there, I snapped a photo of a barely legible sign. I can’t tell you specifically what it was that made me swing a U-ey to get a better look at the building. In the course of a day, you can pass dozens of similar places. But something about it’s red, white and blue facade and the whisper of lettering said come back, come and see me.

When I got home, I wasn’t quite sure of the town name that the building was in but I knew roughly the area. And so I pulled it up on Google Maps. The current streetview is from May 2009 and shows a much bolder sign. The letters were clearly visible. One day, even the Google streetview will be updated and the way things were will be one step closer to being erased from our minds.


What I realized this morning is that maybe one of my jobs is to be a witness. To be a witness to time, to carry memories, to say I saw this, or I saw you, or maybe this is how things once were. I like the idea that I can be a bank of memories. I love giving myself permission to think that what I do isn’t entirely frivolous or silly after all. I am a memory keeper. Now that is an important job.


14 Replies to “Memory Keeping in Jeffersonville, NY”

  1. Thanks, Rachel, for this post, for I have been wondering about my own travels, writing and photography. I’ve been trying to find purpose in what I do. I have been feeling more like a robot rather than a creative.

  2. Interesting places from the past don’t have to have great historical significance. Places where everyday folks lived, worked, played, and socialized are interesting too. Please keep posting buildings and places of interest.

  3. Memory keeper. I like that. Having just gone through a major purge of old Kodachrome slides I often found myself wondering, “Why on earth did I take this photo? What was I thinking?”. But just the fact that I was looking at the image some 40 or 50 years later proved its value in a way. It was a memory I kept and the photo just helped to resurrect it.

  4. Thank you for posting this. I was wondering about the same. Why do we even bother riding to places unknown and known? Why take hundreds and thousands of pictures? Why even share them?

    Just to gratify ourselves? Or is there more to it?

    This post answers it in at least one way.

  5. Photos, blogs, etc. are like bookmarks for the brain. They can serve to trigger memories that have been dormant for an amount of time, be it long or short. Modern technology has made it easy to share our thoughts and images with the world, striking a chord with like minded souls. Thanks for sharing.

  6. But, Fuzzy, it isn’t a one way relationship when you share your photos and your interpretations of your experiences…

    Maybe it’s the wine doing the thinking, but this seems related:

    “After the bare requisites to living and reproducing, man wants most to leave some record of himself, a proof, perhaps, that he has really existed. He leaves his proof on wood, on stone, or on the lives of other people. This deep desire exists in everyone, from the boy who writes dirty words in a public toilet to the Buddha who etches his image in the race mind. Life is so unreal. I think that we seriously doubt that we exist and go about trying to prove that we do.”

    ~ written by Miss Morgan in The Pastures Of Heaven by John Steinbeck

    Fuzz, maybe your photographing (and sharing) is one of your ways of coming to terms with the unrealness of life, of trying to prove that you exist because you seriously doubt that you do. (Shit, join the club!)

    And, no, it ain’t a three way relationship either, because there are tons more people involved…

    (Yep, the wine’s doing the thinking…)

  7. Things exist only because we give them meaning. You actively do that. And, as you note, things dissolve and disappear over time. Your observations are a record of the meaning you created. None of us needs more justification for living than that.

  8. There was a comment that Ewan McGregor made in there Long Way Down ride that he has thousands of photos of his bike and the only difference is the backdrop. I guess it’s the selfie equivalent for bike riders and lots of us do it.
    I recently started to use Google Panaramio to map all the locations my bike as been photographed. I really love these photos as they are a reminder of place I’ve been and trips I’ve taken.

    1. I guess it’s the selfie equivalent for bike riders and lots of us do it
      Interesting. I always see the bike as a stand-in form me. It almost acts as evidence – that no one else is asking for – that I occupied some space.

  9. Hi Fuzz!

    Speaking as a consumer of your (and others’) special talents, these posts provide a window of sorts. On the surface, it may appear that you are capturing roadside oddities and fading relics of a bygone era, but I think it is actually a catalog of the most basic human experience – unrelenting change. How much of ourselves remain year after year? People, places, jobs and relationships constantly changing. It would be debilitating were it not for the fact that we can’t wait to see what is around the next corner.

    The older I get, the more I’m convinced that when I reach the end my only real regret will be not having been able to “see it all”. What you do, Rachael, allows each of us to experience just a little bit more. Thank you!

    1. Boy. Now there’s a name I haven’t seen in a while. Hope life has been kind to you 🙂

      Yeah, i find myself often stuck in a limbo of wanting things to change and yet being comforted by the familiarity of other things. It’s fun to keep chasing my tail over the mysteries of living.

  10. I’ve got to add to all the excellent comments on the excellent post! Photographs are more than any single image, they have the most meaning when they are seen as a series and a body of work. I encourage you to print out all your photos, look at them, move them around, and see if they start revealing even more. Each sequence and juxtoposition to arrange begins to tell a different story.

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